If there is one thing Nintendo has done well in this generation, it is sell hardware for handhelds and bring casual gamers into the fold. This latest title
continues Nintendo's push into the casual world with a game that combines Japanese anime, lateral thinking and adventure all into one. Professor Layton's may
not have had the biggest marketing push in the world but that has possibly helped the game as it did truly surprise us. It is a game which will have you
tearing your hair out at times as some of the puzzles are truly mind bending, but there is something about it which makes you keep coming back for more and
more. Nintendo is pushing gaming into a brave new world and this game is no doubt part of it.
This game revolves around the mysterious town of St Mystere - a small town in what we can only guess is the French country side which has a number of secrets
surrounding it. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this town is that to get information out of people you need to solve lateral thinking puzzles first. For
those who don't know what a lateral thinking puzzle is, it is the type that makes you think about the words in the puzzle to get the answer. Example - if a
man rides in on Friday and stays three days and leaves Wednesday, how is this possible? The answer of course is the horse the man was riding on was named
Friday (Ed - er, yeah, of course! I got that one right away .). If you like puzzles of this nature then you are going to love this game, which has over 100
of them on offer.
And that really is all there is to it. You have to solve a mysterious puzzle with many twists and turns by getting more information and solving puzzles. The
puzzles were designed by a famous Japanese psychologist, Akira Tago, who has many best selling books of brainteasers. The game uses a point and click stylus
interface as you would expect with the Nintendo DS and is extremely easy to control. The puzzles range from incredibly easy through to the most mind ending
and hair tearing puzzles around. Chances are before the game is finished you will want a guide or two, although to help you along the game does offer a hint
system. This is done by coins hidden throughout the game which you can use to buy hints. Also, if you get a puzzle wrong, you can try it again but get
reduced points for solving it. In some cases this means you can solve the puzzle quite easily, but there are puzzles where the answer truly could be anything
so it's not a 'guess and check game' all the way through. One warning though, there will be many times where you will spend a long time on a puzzle only to
figure it out and want to bash your head against a brick wall because it was so obvious all along.
There are quite a few things Nintendo and Level-5 do right with this game. It is a very interesting premise and something new, but we do have some concerns
that the longevity of this series may be one game. There are only so many puzzles you can solve before you want a break. It is because of this that the game
has the potential to last you a few months. You may get stuck, go away, think of the puzzle, and come back and solve it. Even when you are on a roll the game
is best suited to short play because there is a point where you just want to do something else and if there is one thing Professor Layton's is, it is
One thing that this game does suffer from is 'too much text' syndrome. The developers have tried to flesh out the story so much that you will just get over
it and continue to press the stylus without reading the story. It is fairly easy to follow along without reading any of the story either
because the cut scenes do such a good job of conveying it. It is something that almost was fatal to Hotel Dusk and the same scenario applies here. In
fact, it has so much text it becomes frustrating because you just want to move on to the next puzzle. While the game would have been no where near as
interesting if it was 100 puzzles in a row with no background story, it certainly would have helped with this problem.
However, it is hard to criticise too much when the storyline has been crafted so well. There are twists and turns with one massive event you won't see coming
until the final cut scenes are rolling. The cut scenes are some of the best seen on the Nintendo DS to date. Not only do they have a Japanese anime style
which suits the game very well, but they are voice acted as well and the characters really come to life because of this. It is something which the Nintendo
DS has suffered from for a long time but hopefully this is the first of many with voice acting. Something which games across all platforms can learn from is
that when you load a saved game, a re-cap of the story so far is provided much like a TV show. It is a small touch but adds so much to the game especially
when you consider this is a game you might put down for a while stuck, and come back to with a fresh outlook some time later.
Replay value is a concern as once you complete the main quest there isn't all that much to do. Of course you can solve the puzzles again and there is some
replay value here. The reason that's true is because some puzzles are based on moving blocks around to get a ball out. The game tells you the least amount of
moves possible so until you crack that you can keep coming back for more. Also, Nintendo is promising downloadable puzzles each week for the game via the
WiFi connection and there are some bonus hidden puzzles which could keep the going for some time. However one aspect of the game is not available until you
buy the sequel which, as of the time of writing this review, is not available. Having to buy another game to see all of which this one has to offer is a very
hard pill to swallow and hopefully Nintendo steers away from this in the future.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a very easy game to recommend for puzzle fans and those who like to challenge their brain. On one hand, it is a
game that can have you stuck for days on end close to tearing your hair out which isn't overly enjoyable, but on the other hand for those who can look past
that and are fans of lateral thinking puzzles, this really is a game that takes the best of the gaming world and combines it with the best of the puzzle
world. The Nintendo DS has allowed a lot of innovation and has brought a lot of casual gamers into the fold, and if we continue to get new and fresh games
like Professor Layton's and the Curious Village, then gaming will be better for it.
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