reviewed on NDS
The Japanese game studio Level-5 has become quite well-known among the JRPG community over the last few years. They’ve continually pumped out quality RPG’s across a variety of systems, including Dragon Quest VIII and Dark Cloud on the PS2, Jeanne D’Arc for the PSP, as well as the upcoming DS exclusive Dragon Quest IX. But while the games may vary in title and story elements, they’ve all been alike in their anime-influenced artistic direction and their traditional RPG gameplay.
But both these elements have been completely cast aside in their latest, Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS. Level-5’s decided to try something completely different by mixing adventure and puzzle game elements with a decidedly European art style and story. There’s no denying that the studio’s got something unique on their hands. The question is, have they got a winner?
Pretty much the best aspect of Professor Layton is the story and characters, which will keep you engaged throughout like any adventure game should. Professor Layton, a level-headed puzzle master, gets invited to the aptly named St. Mystere to help the family of the late Baron Reinhold. The recently deceased baron had left behind clues to a treasure called the Golden Apple, and declared whoever found it would inherit his entire estate. Naturally, the town’s residents are all seeking the elusive treasure, and have allowed rather sinister happenings to take place in their usually sleepy town. A member of the Reinhold household is murdered shortly after Professor Layton arrives, and kidnappings have become something of a daily occurrence. The townspeople believe that the foreboding Tower in the village’s centre is somehow the cause of all this, but they’re all too frightened to investigate it. Mysteries seem to pop up at every corner, and the game’s finale will leave you, quite simply, wowed.
While the story, on its own, is more than compelling enough to keep you playing, it’s the many unique characters that make Professor Layton such a joy. The numerous denizens of St. Mystere all have their own distinctive personalities, no matter how small a part they may play. The cool and collected Layton, for example, is a great contrast of his hot-headed and quick tempered apprentice, Luke. It’s pretty much guaranteed that with this many unique characters, you’ll find one you can relate with before too long.
Gameplay in Professor Layton is an interesting affair. The bulk of the gameplay is made up of mind-warping brainteasers, although it’s presented in an old-school point-and-click fashion that makes it the perfect game for gamers and non-gamers alike. The game’s 120 puzzles are based off of Akira Tago’s Mental Gymnastics series of puzzle books, which are extremely popular in Japan and have sold over twelve million copies to date. The puzzles can get quite difficult, sometimes intentionally throwing you off the right track, but the game never feels frustrating thanks to a hint system that’ll point you towards the right answer but still leave you feeling like you’ve accomplished something when you solve it. There’s a load of variety here, too; you get sliding puzzles, riddles, probability and simple math problems, picture puzzles, and (my old nemesis!) water pitcher puzzles, to name but a few. The only time you’ll ever feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again is when you choose too pursue a certain puzzle type.
No Pros and Cons at this time