Professor Layton and the Curious VillageESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Touch Screen Support
Nintendo Wi-Fi Compatible
When Professor Layton and the Curious Village hit my desk I didn’t have a clue what the game was about. However, thanks to the power of the internet I have come to learn that this game is a very popular series in Japan that has already spawned a total of three games. All the games are based on adventure style exploration that is broken up by a series of mini-games throughout, which are basically brain teasing puzzles. Developed by Level 5, this game seems to have quite the following in Japan and having had the chance to play the game myself I would have to say that I too am somewhat hooked.
When you first start playing Professor Layton and the Curious Village you are treated to a great opening scene, and in full motion video too. I was amazed that I was watching such a good quality ‘cartoon’ play out in front of me on the DS’s bottom screen. Upon watching this video play out you then begin the game. The visuals are all rendered in 2D art form. Each area you visit has a hand drawn feel to it and they are all quite detailed. The artists definitely managed to give the village of St. Mystere a very quant European feel to it both inside and out.
As with the well designed levels the character designs are just as solid. They all manage to stand out in the game, and I don’t mean in a bad way either as they have a very unique look to them that compliments the backgrounds that they are on. The Japanese influence is very evident as they have a somewhat modern day anime look to them. As I played and watched the story unfold in front of me I noticed that there were lots of little details that really made this game. From the the characters having different facial expressions (e.g. happy, shocked, angry or embarassed) to their lips moving when they talked, even if you were just reading text boxes all of this adds to the charm of the game.
In my opinion there is very little to dislike in the games visual approach and I give Nintendo some big street ‘cred’ on bringing this Japanese game to the shores of North America. If you find anything wrong with the look of this game then I say “open your eyes people” as the visuals are quite solid.
The sound in Professor Layton and the Curious Village really manages to compliment the visuals and gameplay. You get some pretty nice voice over work with the Professor and Luke managing to take the main stage. Both of them have a very likeable British accent. It was somewhat uncanny how perfect each voice is as Professor Layton is somewhat sophisticated sounding while Luke’s voice is very childlike but with a hint of intelligence to it. The available dialog is clear and concise and is actually quite enjoyable. I have to say that the game really surprised me with the quality that was coming out of the both the DS cartridge and the dual speaker set up.
The music found in Professor Layton and the Curious Village is also very well done. It has a very stylish feel that melds well with the overall feel of the game. There is a nice mix of different music which varies from when you explore the various levels to that which plays as you try to solve various puzzles. I thought that I might find myself somewhat annoyed with the music after awhile, however it just seemed to fit in with the gameplay and didn’t become an issue at all. I even found that it could be somewhat ‘Jeopardy’ like (the TV game show) too given that I found myself staring at some puzzles for quite a long time.
As for the rest of the sound effects, don’t expect a lot given that this game is not an action oriented title. The various sound effects that are found throughout the rest of the game are quite solid but they are not anything special the audio is really about the voice work and music that sets the up the atmosphere for the game as a whole.
The story in this first North American release of the Professor Layton series is quite interesting. You are introduced to Professor Layton himself, a world-renowned archeologist and enthusiast of puzzles, riddles and all things that challenge the brain. You also meet his quirky assistant Luke. Both are called to the village of St. Mystere where Baron Reinhold has passed away and his last will and testament contains a message which provides a clue to finding the ‘Golden Apple’ which is the key to his fortune and estate. The Professor and Luke set out to explore the curious village of St. Mystere in an attempt to crack the case of the ‘Golden Apple’.
The main crux of the gameplay can best be described, as mentioned already, as an adventure style game. You navigate through the world of St. Mystere going from one static background to another. You do this by tapping on the direction arrows that come up on the touch screen. As you venture to and fro you will come across various people, places and situations and most of these are a platform to introduce any of the many puzzles you will come across. You must complete a number of the puzzles to continue your adventure. The puzzles that you face range from riddles, mathematics to full out brain teasers. I was somewhat impressed how you would have to think outside of the box in order to solve a number of them. Now I am not the most adapt at puzzle games but I do consider myself a smart enough man, but holy cow can some of these really make you think. When you correctly solve the puzzle at hand you are rewarded with picarats. These picarats are St. Mystere’s in-game currency and you will find that they can be useful as you progress through the game. Should you find yourself stumped by a puzzle, have no fear as you can use hint coins that are scattered throughout the game for your discovery. Each puzzle has three hints should you need to use them. But take it from me; don’t waste your hint coins on the early puzzles as the later ones can be quite tough.
Now I have not had the chance to experience all the puzzles in the game as a lot of them are hidden. You do not need to find all of them to finish the game’s main story but you will feel a sense of accomplishment the more puzzles you find. There are a heck of a lot of puzzles in this game. Early on within the first hour of play I came across a hidden puzzle that was No. 110. Now that my friends is a whole lot of content. From my understanding there are going to be in the neighborhood of 130 or so total puzzles, but remember a number of these are hidden.
I assume that many of you reading this review are thinking that the game is only about walking around and solving puzzles. Well the majority of the game is such; however there is a little more going on here. You will find that there are other tasks found within Professor Layton’s suitcase. These range from putting together random ‘gizmos’, restoring a damaged painting by collecting shards of it throughout the game, to furnishing your rooms at the inn an effort to make Professor Layton and Luke happy with each of their own rooms resulting in a special surprise. Bottom-line, there is more to this game then just solving the main story’s quest.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village supports online via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Network. However the support is not for multiplayer play, but it allows you to download new puzzles into the game. This aspect of the game was not up and running during my review playing as I had the game about a week prior to the official street date release. There are supposed to be new puzzles each week. I think it is great that Nintendo is giving this game further life with new puzzles that can be downloaded separate to the the main quest.
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