I decided to try to get back into Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box and it seems to be working. When I stopped playing earlier this year, I was a shade over halfway through, and now I'm at about 70 percent of the way. You know how they do the sliding-block puzzles? There was one that took me almost an hour to solve, trying to move the trash from the pile to the can. Ugh. Most of the puzzles haven't been that bad, though. It does seem to me that the story of Curious Village was better.
A description of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box will probably read a lot like a description of its predecessor, Professor Layton and the Curious Village. And that should be no surprise for two reasons: First, that both games are designed around puzzles as the path to progress; second, that both games are awesome.
When we last saw Professor Hershel Layton and his youthful apprentice Luke, they had just finished solving the case of the curious village of St Mystere. It was a game that one could not simply put down at a whim, as the puzzles happened so frequently and took so little time on their own that an attitude of "Just one more" easily set in. Well, surprise! It's happening again here. In a game that should take an experienced puzzler around 10–15 hours, the impulse to keep going, it'll only take a couple of minutes, is very powerful. I found that I frequently had to force myself to put it down because life was calling.
The puzzles, as before, are a melange of brain teasers, logic puzzles, and more than a few visual games — and there's even one that I found that requires the use of the Nintendo DS microphone. I don't think I'd used that since I had to blow bubbles in Super Princess Peach! All games take place on the touch screen and use the stylus, per usual. Amongst the game's 138 standard puzzles, there are plenty for novice puzzlers to simply advance in the game, while some of the puzzles are very tough and take a while to solve. One in particular, a (sadly required) sliding-block puzzle, took me nearly an hour, but most needed a handful of minutes to find the solution.
What I found very interesting and fun was that many of the answers ended up staring me straight in the face, and I had to be smart enough to see the obvious answer and not outthink myself. There were also a couple of puzzles which were awkwardly worded and required some experimentation not to find the answer, exactly, but to see what the question actually was. On the occasions I had difficulty figuring out the answer (or the question), I was fortunate enough to have found hint coins along the way, hidden in every stage, so that I could let the game point me in the right direction.
Also thrown in for added value are a few minigames which were very effective. One involves training a hamster to reduce its weight; once done, he, like the mechanical dog in the first game, will help track down hint coins. Another uses a strange camera to find "what's wrong with this picture" puzzles, which in turn unlock additional hidden puzzles. There's a ton of content packed into the game, with extras after you've reached the end for a total of 153 puzzles. I found 126 and felt a bit baffled that I'd missed some.
Anyway, the point of finding and completing all of these puzzles is to guide Professor Layton and Luke through the mystery of the Elysian Box, which takes our heroes from London to a hidden town called Folsense. Returning from the first game, Inspector Chelmey makes a pig's ear of his investigation and arrests the wrong guy; Flora Reinhold tags along with our intrepid heroes; and a sadly under-used Don Paolo makes a surprise appearance. But the story centers around new characters Katia, Beluga, and Anton. What's the connection between these three? Between all of them and the Box? (I got it completely wrong, but at the end the story straightened me out.)
Augmenting the story is a whole bunch of animated full-motion video courtesy of Production IG, which looks excellent. One scene in particular near the end must have taken up half the animation budget, it was so well executed. Also returning are several of the voice actors from the first game; Layton again sounds excellent, Luke is still annoying as all hell, and the guy who did Anton apparently didn't get the memo about this game being in England. The music is decent but can get on one's nerves after a while. I found that I preferred to listen to tunes on my iPod while playing this game, though I definitely had to pause when Layton had something to say. The hand-drawn and -painted visuals are beautiful.
It's a game that doesn't require a lot of the gamer's time to complete, and it doesn't have to be one's primary game. One can play other games while still spending a few minutes on this one here and there. It does, however, often force its way to the fore because of that "Just one more" attitude; once the game gets rolling, it's tough to put it down. And that's a mark of the great games, I think.
Overall: ZOMFG (out of ZOMFG).
Now … when's NOA going to bring Last Time Travel to the States?
12-17-2009, 08:10 PM
and the guy who did Anton apparently didn't get the memo about this game being in England.
Nobody got the memo about the game being in England except the actors for Layton, Luke, and Chelmey. Even Flora, who was in the first game, has an American accent.
The problem with some of the puzzles is that the game refuses to give you hints for them even if you use hint coins. And it's pretty smug about it too. "Sorry, we're not giving you any hints for this one. Have fun trying to figure out this classic puzzle! Did you know this puzzle was thought up by XXXXXX in the XXth century?"
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