Note: This review was originally published on February 10, 2009
Genre: Puzzle RPG
Release Date: February 10, 2008
Last year’s Puzzle Quest showed what riches could be mined by combining the traditional high-fantasy RPG genre with a simple but addictive puzzle game. In that same tradition, the talented team at Level 5 Games have concocted an irresistible combination of adventure and puzzle game.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS takes place in the very mysterious little town of St. Mystere. The professor and his precocious young assistant are there to solve a problem about a tricky will, but soon they get drawn into an ever-deepening well of mysteries including kidnapping and murder.
The gimmick is that everywhere they go, they have to solve puzzles. Every person they talk to has a puzzle they need help with. The game has about 160 puzzles, and they run the gamut of classic puzzling from moving matchsticks to sliding block puzzles to traditional sliders to math to . . . well. . . you name it. To play Professor Layton and the Curious Village is to spend about twenty hours in puzzle heaven.
Of course there’s a story, too, and it’s a wild one. The deeper you delve into it, the odder it becomes.
Graphically, the game is very attractive and has lots of well-produced cut-scenes.
The sound and voice work are solid. The score, while nice, can get a bit repetitive an annoying during a puzzle you’re having to spend a bit of time figuring out. You’ll likely find yourself turning down the volume sometimes so you can concentrate.
Navigating the game and working on the puzzles couldn’t be easier, thanks to the handy DS stylus. In fact, this is the most stylus-driven DS game I’ve so far played. The simplicity of the interface means you can focus all of your energy on the puzzles at hand.
In addition to solving the town’s mysteries and puzzles, there are several bonus challenges that involve putting together a torn up oil painting, assembling a bunch of gadgets and even arranging the characters’ hotel rooms. Completing these objectives results in rewards of, yes, more puzzles!
There’s even a free puzzle to be downloaded weekly using the DS’s handy WiFi capabilities.
The game has a built-in, three-tiered hint system. Each hint costs a “hint coin,” which you collect by carefully exploring the town. The puzzles have a wide range in difficulty, which is reflected by the possible points which are awarded for solving them.
The strength of this title should come as no surprise, considering developer Level 5’s track record. They developed Dark Cloud, Dark Cloud 2, Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy for the PS2, as well as the superb Jeanne d’Arc for the PSP.
I’m happy to report that a sequel has already been released in Japan, and a third Professor Layton game is on its way.
Professor Layton, like many of those other titles, has a level of polish and confidence that simply draws you in. It’s diverting in every way a video game should be. If you own a DS, you owe it to yourself to grab this title.
If you liked this game, then
Play: Pandora’s Box (PC) and Safecracker (PC, either version)
Watch: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Read: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois