|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Level-5||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 10, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a unique game that managed to break the mold, once and for all. I'm sure by now lots of people have had enough with all the brain games available for the DS. They just make you repeat exercises over and over with the only goal of improving your thinking. Professor Layton, on the other hand, is not focused on improving your brain function, but on testing it. If you thought the other brain games were challenging, wait until you get your hands on this one!
The land of the rising sun has embraced this title with open arms, due to its original approach. The game already has a sequel in Japan, and Level-5 is working on a third title for the series! This will be good news for those of you who learn to love this title, as the adventure won't just end here.
Professor Layton is an adventure / puzzle game. The latter genre is more prevalent throughout the game, but there's a story that links everything together and makes the title that much more engaging. A wealthy baron from the British town of St. Mystere passed away, leaving a rather mysterious will: his fortune will belong to whoever finds "The Golden Apple." There's no further explanation, and no one had even heard of such item; that's why the baron's family decides to contact the famous puzzle-solver Professor Layton. He accepts the challenge and brings his apprentice Luke along with him. The two of them will have to figure things out, which won't be easy. It's not just about the apple; St. Mystere is more mysterious than we thought, and its citizens communicate with each other through riddles and brainteasers. To top it off, access to some areas is only granted after solving a puzzle! What got into these people?
Almost every time you talk to a character, you'll have to solve some kind of puzzle. The difficulty is indicated by the number of "picarats" you could win. Every time you submit the wrong answer, the amount of picarats the puzzle is worth will be reduced. Throughout the game you'll investigate different areas of the village, the baron's mansion, and other villagers' homes. By clicking on different elements of your surroundings, you will find other puzzles, objects, and coins. Coins won't make you rich; instead, they are the exchange currency to obtain hints. Most puzzles have three hints; in order to unlock one, you'll have to give up one of your coins. The first hint of each puzzle doesn't seem very useful, but the second and the third one are better. However, the goal is to solve the enigmas on your own, and that may be why the hints are not entirely helpful. If you get stuck in a puzzle, most hints won't get you out of it. You'll have the option of quitting and coming back to it later, but that's about it. In many occasions, solving a puzzle will be imperative in order to continue with the story, so make sure to use all your brain juice or find a walkthrough!
Professor Layton carries a trunk with him. He saves everything in it, from his journal, which summarizes the events as they happen, to mysterious gizmos, clues, puzzle pieces, and more. The trunk is also the menu screen where you'll save your game. The puzzles you've already solved will be unlocked and available in that menu as well, so you can redo your favorite puzzles or challenge a friend with them. Layton and Luke walk around town when you tap the shoe icon within the game. A couple of arrows (sometimes just one) will show up so you can select the direction you're taking. It may be the weakest control system of the game, as the controls within the actual mind-benders couldn't be easier. It's not too bad though. Everything works with tapping, dragging, and drawing on the screen. I thought the ability to scribble on the screen while solving certain puzzles was nice. Otherwise you might find yourself grabbing pen and paper on the side, which is not as practical.
Level-5 managed to bring enchanting visuals to the DS. The outstanding presentation is what sets this game aside from others. The carefully hand-drawn characters and scenarios will pique the players' curiosity to start, slowly drawing them into the story and the unique gameplay. Before you know it, you'll be solving mountains of puzzles that come up after every few steps. The simple animations remind me of old cartoons. There aren't a whole lot of cutscenes, but they're well made and help to tie everything together.