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Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Review

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Developer: Level-5 Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 25, 2009 Available On: Nintendo DS

Have you ever owned one of those brain teaser books with dozens of puzzles, math problems and various other ways to test your knowledge (and patience)? If you have or at least know what I am talking about, then that is basically what Professor Layton is. It’s a portable video game version of the same concept. Nintendo took gamers on a puzzle solving journey the likes of which has not been tried before on a handheld.

Now Professor Layton is back to solve another mystery. He receives a letter from his mentor, Andrew Schrader, who writes of a mysterious box thought to kill those that open it. As the professor and his apprentice Luke rush to Andrew’s house, they find him dead. It turns into a crime scene where Professor Layton and Luke are interrogated, only to lead an investigation of their own.

Most of the game takes place on a train, the Molentary Express, which takes the two to various towns for which they continue their investigation. Professor Layton is basically a point and click adventure game with puzzle solving elements scattered between. Commands are as simple as tapping items and people on the screen. You can communicate with other characters, although the dialogue is scripted (i.e. you don’t get to select responses).

The puzzles usually follow a dialogue sequence that somehow relates to the puzzle that you are asked to solve. Sometimes other characters ask you to solve them, sometimes you need to solve them to move on to another area, other times the Professor or Luke get reminded of something and it involves a puzzle. You pretty much can’t go two minutes in the game without having a puzzle in front of you that needs to be solved.

The puzzles themselves vary in type and difficulty. You can take as long as you like as there is no time limit to solve any of the puzzles. However, if you get a puzzle wrong, you will lose “Picarats”, a type of score assigned to each puzzle. At most you will be penalized twice for incorrectly guessing a puzzle. Alternatively you can unlock hints using “hint coins” that you find throughout the game. These are limited in number, so you can’t just go about using hints on every puzzle. That said, most of the hints provide you with information you probably already know. You will have to use three hint coins (the max number of hints in a given puzzle) until you will likely reach one that is useful.

I was rather impressed with the sheer number and quality of the puzzles that are included in this game. Yeah, there are a few that will have you rolling your eyes, but most of them are based on logic. Others will have you slide objects in a jigsaw fashion (although more blocks), calculating basic algebra and using your spatial skills to determine what something on a 2D plane would look like in a 3D surface. You don’t need to solve all of them. If you get stumped, you can always come back to it later as well. There are, however, some puzzles that are mandatory in order to advance the story. There are 153 puzzles to be unlocked in all, as well as a new downloadable puzzle every week on Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

I have to say that Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box presents itself very well. The story takes place with a children’s book feel to it with bright colors, disproportioned characters and a light feel. There are even a number of animated story sequences that bring the game to life even more. Don’t let the look fool you, though. There probably aren’t many kids that can solve these puzzles. Even college students will be scratching their head at some of these. Likewise, the sound is quite brilliant. While the music gets reused a lot, the voice acting is top notch, even without big name talent.

I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. Whether it is the presentation, the voice acting, the new puzzles each week or the puzzles themselves, Professor Layton is a high quality product that keeps you thinking throughout the entire experience. If you happened to enjoy its predecessor, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, you are sure to love the Diabolical Box. With two more unreleased games on the way, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.8 out of 10
Written by Kyle Bell Write a User Review