|Release: February 28, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Violence, Use of Alcohol|
by Sean Engemann
Fans and critics alike cannot deny that the Professor Layton series has had an incredible run. Quirky storylines and oddball characters compelled to stump our protagonist with mind-boggling brain teasers? But it has worked now for six years, and though each new entry struggles with originality, the overall package is simply too charming to dismiss. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the final game of the prequel trilogy, and the last title with our titular top hat wearing hero. Though not as emotionally wrenching a finale as we have seen from past adventures, it is still ripe with plot twists and gotcha moments.
After receiving an intriguing letter from a Professor Sycamore, Layton and his two assistants Emmy and Luke are escorted via airship to a lavish winter resort town called Froenberg to assist with a mystery involving a "living mummy". New characters carve their way into our hearts and ire, with plenty of cameos from past performers. Of course, the locals in all the venues are rife with oddities, and always seem to be stumped on a puzzle that our team cannot ignore.
After a few chapters, the story dispenses with some of the linearity we have come to expect in the series. With your airborne vehicle called the Bostonius, mysteries surrounding five "keys" needed to unlock the secrets of the Azran civilization can be tackled in any order you choose. You also have the luxury to return to any previously visited location to scavenge for puzzle helping Hint Coins and other collectibles. This flexibility doesn't affect the flow of the story, but it's nice to have the freedom to change vistas at your convenience. Also, travelling to jungles, deserts, coastal resorts, and even London, gives Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy a breadth we hadn't seen in previous titles.
An interesting storyline and whimsical cast is only half of the appeal of any Professor Layton game. It's still a puzzler first and foremost. Likely not being the first game of the series that a new player will pick up, you'll find that of the 150 puzzles in the campaign and nearly 400 expected through the course of a year afterwards, plenty of concepts will feel familiar. Also, the game still doesn't use the 3D feature or motion controls to a degree that would be considered revolutionary. That said, though I've tackled far more challenging puzzles in previous entries, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy has riddles laced with layers. Multiple factors are integrated into each which give them more girth. So instead of simply 2 + 2 = 4, it feels more like 2 x (9 + 5) ÷ 4 – 3, which of course still equals 4.
I was less impressed with the trio of minigames to unlock and build throughout the adventure. Dress Up has the most inclusion within the story, as characters enlist your secondary skill as a fashion guru to complete a top to bottom look for them. Success will have them don the new duds for the rest of the game. It feels more like a dating sim than anything, tugging at people's vanity. Nutty Roller and Bloom Burst are self-contained minigames, with the former tasking you to deal with obstacles to allow a walnut to reach the goal tent, and the latter asking you to turn a neglected garden into a flowery paradise by arranging flowers in a precise pattern. New boards are unlocked as you progress through the main story, but unlike some past minigames, the excitement of earning a new piece to the progressive puzzles just isn't there, and the practical use of your side quest skills has no significance in the campaign.
The Daily Puzzles accessed through the Bonuses section of the main menu are far more enticing. You get twenty freebies to start, and can download a new puzzle every day for one year. These puzzles are paired with achievements that award you set pieces to place in various mini dioramas. It's an endearing little extra that is complete with satisfaction.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is also the first game of the series to make use of the StreetPass feature. Each destination has some "not-so-hidden" objects that can be added to your folder. You can then choose three for a scavenger hunt to send to anybody you pass, and you'll receive theirs. If StreetPass is a seldom used feature for you, Play Coins can be spent instead to fill up you quest log. You earn points for successful finds which can then be spent on practical gifts such as Hint Coins, and more superficial curios to add to your collection.