Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Puzzle / Adventure
We once again return to the world of Professor Layton where I assume the quality of life for those poor at puzzles is very low, as it is impossible to get any service, product or even a conversation without solving one first.
Those eagerly awaiting the Professor and Luke's return, fear not, as once again Level 5 have released a fantastic game. Although once again, for all intents and purposes, the same game. Setting-wise this is the beginning of the Professor and Luke's adventures and shows how Luke and Layton met. Also joining our puzzle solving duo is Emmy, the Professor's current assistant, who should be familiar to anyone who has seen the film.
To those new to the series, it is hard to describe the magic behind this game. There are two main modes of gameplay. First, is an exploration mode which primarily consists of tapping on a collection of still images hoping to find 'hint' coins and more puzzles. It is merely a crude but effective way of linking together the story and puzzles. The second play mode is the puzzle solving and is at the heart of the game's challenge. To gain information from individuals, access new areas or even just for Layton, Luke and Emmy to amuse themselves, players must solve a whole assortment of brain twisters ranging from easy to fiendishly clever.
Up to four hints can be bought if you run into trouble but beware: there is only a limited number of hint coins available to find and usually the first hint is useless so you must spend wisely. Also the fourth 'super' hint costs 2 coins and often outright solves the puzzle, so I would avoid using unless desperate.
Merely describing how the game plays misses most of its charm. The true reason so many have been sucked into these puzzles are the excellent music, characters and environments. Of special note is the fantastic animated cut scenes that would be excellent on a home console or even, unsurprisingly, an animation movie let alone a DS game. They make it very hard not to get caught up in the mystery.
Very little has fundamentally changed in the game and, indeed, some of the puzzles are just minor variations from previous entries (altering the type of animals you must help cross a river doesn't really affect the problem itself). Even with original challenges, I found myself discerning the unique logic behind the puzzles with far greater ease than when I first played these games. I suspect that this is an issue similar to long term crossword fans who become so effective by repeated play... so can I really fault a game for making me a better puzzle solver?
A collection of mini-games and downloadable puzzles offer some diversions from the main plot but this is a game really designed to be played through once. That is not a criticism as, like all Layton games, it may be a single play through experience... but what an experience it is! A must have game.
Rent or Buy: Buy
Repeat Value: 3/5
Reviewed by: JP Gallagher