reviewed on NDS
Mental Gymnastics (cont.)
Tying these puzzles together is a simple point-and-click interface merged seamlessly into the rest of the game. Like in PC classics of old, you’ll be running around a large hub area, talking to NPC’s to gather information on the mystery at hand. The difference here is that most villagers won’t cough up what they know straight away. All of St. Mystere’s inhabitants have a strange fetish for puzzles, and will more than likely throw one your way before telling you anything they know. It’s a welcome change from the usual point-and-click puzzles where you must try every item you have on every item in the environment, resulting in much less frustrating experiences than the norm. The only real complaint here is that it’s far too easy to cheat. Before facing a tough puzzle you could save, check out all the hints, and then turn it off to save hint coins; or guess the answer and then reset the system to get a perfect score on the puzzle. There’s no penalty for either of these ‘techniques’, which is rather disappointing for us honest folk.
Plenty to see
One thing Professor Layton delivers in spades is content. The substantial single-player quest will last most gamers eight to ten hours depending on skill level, and finding and solving all the hidden puzzles could take another ten on top of that. But it doesn’t end there! Finishing all the main game’s puzzles will unlock two massive puzzles that take much more time and thought than the bite-sized brainteasers. In one you’ll have to furnish Layton and Luke’s hotel rooms using clues they’ll give you, and another massive jigsaw puzzle could easily take hours to complete. On top of this, free puzzles are available for weekly download off of Nintendo WFC, super-difficult challenges are unlocked after completing certain requirements, and bonuses such as an art gallery and a sound test will tide you over until the second game comes to the US (hopefully) later this year.
Along with the top-notch story, gameplay, and extras, Professor Layton sports an absolutely wonderful look. Much like the gameplay, the artistic design is radically different from anything Level-5’s done previously, eschewing their usual anime-influenced, cell-shaded look for a more European aesthetic that will likely remind some of the French animated movie ‘The Triplets of Belleville’. Key story moments are told through fully-voiced full motion videos that look simply incredible, and each character design is as distinctive as their personality (if not always easy on the eyes). The sound, for the most part, also fairs well; the voice work is top-notch for a DS game and the music is simple but memorable... If only the puzzle-solving song changed as the game moved along.
When all is said and done, Professor Layton is the year’s first must-have DS title. Taken alone, the puzzle and adventure elements may not seem like much but together they make for something unique that ought to be experienced by gamers everywhere. Don’t pass up on what’s sure to be one of the freshest gaming experiences of 2008.
No Pros and Cons at this time