Review: Saving the world, one puzzle at a time.
Ten years ago, the PC gaming landscape was completely different than it is now. Before the arrival of World of Warcraft and shooters like Call of Duty, a different genre attracted thousands of gamers to the whimsical world of adventure gaming. Beyond simple-pointing-and-clicking these games brought gamers on a magical adventure through the world of music, art, and storytelling. At the height of it's prime, games like Monkey Island and Myst enchanted players everywhere. Who could forget LucasArt's greatest adventure game ever, Sam and Max: Hit the Road. The genre was at it's height and then it disappeared. Fortunately for many gamers, the adventure genre has found its way onto Nintendo's little handheld in the means of the Ace Attorney Series, Hotel Dusk, and now Professor Layton.
Published by Level 5, of Dragon Quest VIII fame, Professor Layton tells the story of a detective who goes around solving mysteries through completing puzzles. As the first part of a planned trilogy, Professor Layton and the Curious Village brings players to the land of St. Mystre where Layton attempts to solve the mystery of the Golden Apple. As a heavy story-based game, there are plenty of twists and turns to be expected and it's this storyline that helps bring the gameplay to the forefront.
People who grew up with puzzle books like Brain Quest or other similar types of games will feel right at home with the gameplay presented here. The wide variety of puzzles in the game makes the player use different parts of the brain from creative problem solving to logical thinking. For example, one puzzle may have you finding hidden shapes on a peg board while another might ask you to do extremely difficult mathematical problems. Gamers be forewarned, Professor Layton is not a game that you can pass by randomly guessing. Sure there are hints, but these are limited as the player purchases them by using special coins. In addition to the in-game puzzles, there are weekly downloads and updates which helps to give the game tons of replayability once you get through the main storyline. Unlike the in-game ones however, you won't receive any hints leaving it up to the player's creative thinking and logic to solve them.
Gameplay aside, the game's visual and audio presentation is amazing. Inspired by Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle) the anime-style art of the French town in the game has some of the prettiest art direction I've personally seen on the DS or elsewhere. The simplistic character designs also adds a great deal of charm to the game. While you aren't going to find 3D models or anything of the sort, it's easily one of the best looking DS games to date.
Audio-wise, the game is a hit or miss according to the player's personal tastes. You'll be hearing the same exact track every time you encounter one of the game's one-hundred twenty or so puzzles which may have some players going insane from the whimsical music. In addition, the European voice actors give a breath of life to the characters and a sense of authenticity not found in most dubs.