#983 Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Posted: 25th December 2012 by Jeroen in Games
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204th played so far

Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
Platform: DS
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Nintendo

First of all, merry Christmas to all our readers! We hope you have a great time with family, friends or other people you want to spend time with, and that your presents were good (and filled with great video games).

Those of you who’ve kept with our blog for a while now (assuming someone’s out there) may remember we’ve covered the charming Professor Layton’s first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, some time ago.

During our recent trip to Disneyland Paris (discussed in Ferrari F355 Challenge), we needed something to occupy us with the train trip to the park and back home. While we’re delightful company, three hours each way meant that we needed more to do than chat all the way there. Peter picked up a few handheld games for his picks, and settled down on another Professor Layton. And yeah, we got stuck in it again. For anyone who is interested the other game was the puzzle/RPG Puzzle Quest.

Our Thoughts

The basic formula of the game is unchanged from Curious Village: Walk around, solve puzzles, unlock areas and solve the mystery plaguing the participants in this plot – in this case, some happenstance on the Molentary Express, a cross-country train. After you exit the train you find yourself in the mysterious town of Folsense which in itself is macarbre with reports of ghosts and vampires being abundance… as well as the townsfolk’s thirst for tea.

Starting with a mysterious letter and suspicious death, mysteries soon include a missing ‘child’, torn up photographs and, most important, the titular box. It’s an intriguing plot, with some outcomes telegraphed beforehand, but most still cleverly plotted and drawing you forward step by step. We didn’t get far enough in to give a full judgement – that’s something we’ll probably get to – but so far it’s been great fun. Speak for yourself, due to issues with builders forcing me to spend the day in my bedroom I completed the game whilst watching some episodes of Dr Katz Professional Therapist on YouTube. In total the story takes around 10 hours to complete since many of the puzzles will stump you to the point that you may shed a tear on a crowded Eurostar.

The puzzles themselves are mostly good. A good mix of difficult and easy (though some we find easy are judged difficult, and vice versa, and there have been a few we nearly got stuck on). Some can be argued with, still, with reading the creator’s mind more than it being about solving the puzzle, although to be fair that’s not as bad as it was. The main problem faced with a franchise like this is that you will eventually run out of puzzles, which is something that we felt here. There were an abundance of block-moving puzzles which are less about logical reasoning and more about trial and error. As Jeroen mentioned there is a problem with the puzzle difficulty to reward ration with myself finding 60-rated puzzles a breeze whilst many 20-rated puzzles really gave me trouble.

The game looks as gorgeous as before, nicely hand drawn backgrounds and characters, similar as to what we praised before. In the previous game I wondered whether the angular looks of the villagers were a reflection of French animation a la Les Triplettes De Belleville but no this really is the animation style they have chosen and it really does serve them well. Some of the best parts of this really are the beautifully illustrated cutscenes (although the British accents are a little bit strange)

On the whole, it’s similar to the previous installment of Professor Layton, which is overall a good thing – it’s fun, difficult and with an interesting plot. It’s just difficult to say what’s there without repeating – it takes the same strong formula, and evens it out slightly in difficulty, but still has the same exploring, puzzle solving and plot following. It’s good, but I think it’s best we leave the game series here where this blog is concerned – it’s already in danger of becoming formulaic – in the good James Bond sense, true, with nice twists and new stuff, satisfying your need for puzzles, just without anything new to be found there that’d make it worth it. There is nothing wrong with finding a formula that works (Lego did it for years) but there will come a time where they need to shake things up a bit… and I look forward to seeing how Level-5 plan to do so.

Final Thoughts

I suppose it’s rather appropriate we got our first Professor Layton game during Christmas… Anyway, that’s not as relevant. Again, this is a fun and charming puzzler. The formula is still holding up!