I have always been a fan of brainteasers. I remember as a little girl poring over books filled with them. It was frequently a frustrating pursuit, but the feeling of satisfaction after solving a particularly difficult puzzle was well worth the hours of hair pulling. So when I heard there was a game for the DS filled with them I put it on my shopping list. I was not disappointed. Within five minutes of starting up the game, the old familiar feelings of frustration and triumph came rushing back.
The premise of the game is that Professor Layton, world-renowned puzzle solver, has been invited to the village of St Mystere in order to assist in the dispensation of a will. He and his apprentice find themselves trapped in a bizarre town full of mysterious disappearances and suspicious characters. They must solve puzzle after puzzle as they investigate the mysterious goings on and search for Baron Reinhold’s treasure. Of course, the villagers will confront you with a puzzle at the drop of the hat and there’s no decent way to write your way around algebra problems and matchstick maneuvers. Despite that the game manages to be engaging and entertaining. I found myself playing until the wee hours of the morning just to see what would happen next.
I would also like to mention the artistic style of the game. The animation is beautiful, a cross between The Triplets of Belleville and Howl’s Moving Castle. I haven’t been this enamored with the look of a video game since The Curse of Monkey Island. It’s entirely in two dimensions, but obviously this is no great detriment to the game. I loved watching the cut scenes in this game. Even the still backgrounds were gorgeous. It set the atmosphere of the game very well: a timeless Victorian England.
Now I suppose I should talk about the game play. The puzzles presented to the player range from simplistic to so annoying you want to hurl the DS at the wall. Fortunately, you do not need to solve every single puzzle in the game, although there are things that unlock if you do. However, you do have to actually solve some of the brain teasers. You need to solve at least eighty of the one hundred twenty puzzles presented to you in order to win. It may take some doing, but it is possible. They even provide you with the ability to purchase hints with hint coins that you pick up around St Mystere.
There are a variety of puzzle styles, and it is an education to discover where your critical thinking strengths lie. I found that I am still very proficient at the mathematical puzzles. Probability, algebra, and trigonometry all came back to me with an ease that surprised me, especially when you consider that all the calculus I crammed into my brain is nowhere to be found. However, my ability to deal with the more visual puzzles was dismal. It was a bit depressing to screw up puzzles that were deemed fairly straightforward.
There is one kind of puzzle I would caution you against: the matchstick moving puzzles. The game is very finicky about the matchstick placement. So even if you understand how to solve the problem, you may have trouble convincing the game that you understand. Your matchstick placement must be very precise and you need to make sure you keep your matchstick movements to a minimum. After the frustration of solving the first matchstick puzzle, I simply skipped all the other ones. Thankfully, there aren’t that many of them.
Eventually you solve the mysteries of St Mystere as you progress to harder and harder puzzles culminating in the discovery of the Baron’s fortune. But it comes with a catch; the deceased baron wants whoever uncovers the treasure to act as a guardian for his daughter. The wisdom of entrusting your only child to a protector whose primary qualification is an ability to solve puzzles aside, the age of his daughter is never stated. She’s referred to as a young woman, but her waifish appearance makes determining her age impossible. So you don’t know if Professor Layton has just taken on a young ward or a fiancée. It’s more than a little creepy, but amusing at the same time.
Ambiguous relationships aside, this is a great game for those who enjoy the challenge brainteasers provide. There is even an upcoming sequel to look forward to. In the meantime, there are weekly puzzles to download and solve. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it to anyone who isn’t a puzzle enthusiast. But if you get the chance to try the game out, I encourage you to do so. The artwork is definitely worth a look.
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