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Puzzles and Plot Twists – Professor Layton Leaves No Puzzle Unsolved

The charming gentleman that is Hershel Layton and his trusty side-kick Luke Triton enticed us on our first brain-teasing adventure almost four years ago. The Professor Layton franchise has grown in popularity as we have been swept up by these delightful adventure puzzle games, developed by Level 5.  From polished graphics that show what the DS is capable of to the challenging yet oh so rewarding puzzles there is so much that this franchise has done right.

If you are unfamiliar with the games, the premise of every game involves a mystery that needs to be solved by Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke. The game immerses you in a captivating point and click adventure where you must solve a number of puzzles that quirky town folk throw at you in order to retrieve useful information from them. With this information a number of other mysteries pop up that need to be solved too. And as Professor Layton so eloquently puts it “a true gentleman leaves no puzzle unsolved.”   Puzzles range from mathematical conundrums, such as working out the ages between two siblings, from moving blocks in order to set a ball free, to working out where a cog needs to go to get something operational again. What is often so enjoyable about these puzzles is that they are integrated very smoothly into the storyline. If you click on a vase then there is no doubt that this will remind Professor Layton of a vase related puzzle, or if a lock needs opening then this is achieved via a puzzle.

There have been four releases for the West to sink our teeth into. We’ll take a look at the first three; Curious Village, Diabolical Box and the Unwound Future.  The fourth instalment The Last Specter will receive its own review shortly!  Let’s check out some memorable moments they have provided us with:

  • The frustrating tea set mini game must get a mention for it was certainly memorable, just not in the ‘I hope this is in the next game’ kind of way.  All the mini games I quite enjoyed, except for brewing tea because apparently everyone in this town are incapable of making their own. Collecting the ingredients – no problem. But coming up with the correct concoction was excruciating as I tried unsuccessfully at countless attempts.
  • The moment you realise this game has you hooked!  I remember it like it was yesterday. For me it happened after twenty or so puzzles and I found the rush of solving those juicy puzzles so rewarding and satisfying. How I still feel that thrill when I see the animation of either Layton or Luke pointing right at me exclaiming I am correct!
  • That bombshell moment in every game where all the shrouded mysteries fall into place. I’ll refrain from spoiling them because they simply must be experienced firsthand! These moments are so monumental that it will have you blabbing to whoever will listen to you because you just need to share the elation one feels when all is revealed!
  • That one puzzle that angers you, taunts you, clouds your normal reasoning and then you must succumb to using the dreaded third hint coin. Okay so this happened to me more than once. Those darn guess-my-age questions “If I’m half your age and your sister is half my age and you father is two years younger than me”… or whatever they were.

With our reflection out of the way, it begs the question: where to now for Professor Layton? There are a number of games in the works with a highly anticipated release on the 3DS where Layton joins Phoenix Wright for a cross-over adventure. I’m excited to see how this game plays out. I just hope they can capture the two very distinct and strong characters into the one fluid game.  There are also two more releases in the series that should be brought out here soon…fingers crossed.

Specifically, Index fingers

But what must Level 5 do to keep us salivating for more puzzles and more mystery solving? As much as I thought the Unwound Future had the best plot of all the games, I finished wanting more but wanting something a little different. It’s difficult to say exactly what must be done differently when their recipe for a great puzzle adventure game has worked so well. Perhaps the addition of Phoenix Wright will give a new spark to the franchise but I don’t think it is the plot of the games that necessarily needs work. It’s more the puzzles and game mechanics that have been exactly the same for all three instalments. Even if the puzzles have been illustrated differently, their core riddles remain unchanged.  They just felt a little stale towards the end.  I’d like to see some puzzles that we have not previously experienced in any of the games thus far. You know they’re scrapping the barrel when a puzzle involves you swiping the stylus around like a flashlight searching for goons.

As previously mentioned it’s the storyline of the games that have hooked many. In the future, they need to keep developing the characters, their personalities, their biographies. That’s what worked so well in the third instalment. We got to feel a strong bond with the characters as we discovered more about their pasts. As baffling as the twist was, it was unpredictable, enjoyable, moving and I’d better stop before I need to get the tissues out again. But the stories need to keep being exactly this and prevent us from putting down our DS as we convince ourselves we need to talk to just one more person.

I would also love to see some form of multi-player. I found myself sitting in a room playing with friends and we needed each other’s help on numerous occasions which was irritating when I had not reached that puzzle. A co-op Professor Layton game would be so much fun! Not everyone’s cup of tea I understand but to have the option would at least see the game mechanics make a refreshing change. Or even a bit of competitive puzzle solving against friends would sure to be a hit.

In essence Level 5 do need to be commended for developing a DS game that has set the benchmark for all Nintendo DS puzzle adventure games in the future. The series has been beautifully created from the luscious graphics, to the absorbing story and plot bombshells to the delightful puzzles. Here’s hoping we have many more late nights sipping our tea, with our minds receiving a work out as we lose ourselves in the wonderfully addictive series that is Professor Layton.

Stay tuned for the Professor Layton and the Last Specter Review



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