Game Review: Professor Layton and the Curious Village

January 17, 2009

Professor Layton

Since it seems like Professor Layton and the Curious Village was one of the more popular DS games of 2008, and I happened to get a copy of it for Christmas, I thought I’d give it a review.

In short, it’s pretty okay.

It’s exactly what it’s advertised as: A lot of brainteaser-style games and a strange rectangular-headed British chap with a cool hat. The heroes of the game, Professor Layton and his young assistant, Luke, arrive in the little village of St. Mystere to solve a mystery (what else) involving the hidden fortune of an eccentric, deceased baron. (Also, there’s a murder mystery on the side – but it’s totally not as important as money.) The people of St. Mystere are very fond of brainteasers, and will only offer help – or let you pass, in some cases – if you solve their riddles.

On a mostly off-topic note, that’s something that always bugged me about games like this. In St. Mystere, people will only let you pass if you solve their riddles. Couldn’t you just be like, “Um, I’m working on something really important and I don’t have time, sorry” and then run by? What are they going to do, tackle you to the ground and tie you up until you answer their question? It’s like in Pokemon, when trainers are all “lol i saw u, we have 2 fite RITE NOW” and then whip out their Caterpies or Bellsprouts or whatever without even waiting to see if you’re ready. The fishermen are the worst. You just know they have a team of six level 15 Magikarp, and you’re like, “Oh, come on. You have NO CHANCE. I’m the Pokemon League Champion, for crying out loud. Or at least I was the last time I checked, but my rival keeps taking that title back without even challenging me for it… Anyway, maybe you saw me fly into town on the back of a massive dragon? Yeah, that was me. And you have six level 15 Magikarp. It’s not even worth the PP to kill them. (KO them, whatever.) And when you’re done wasting my time, you’re going to give me a lousy 135 Poke-dollars or whatever they are, which isn’t even half the price of a Pokeball, much less a Great or Ultra ball, and I HATE YOU SO MUCH.” And the fisherman just stands there with a dumb look on his face and goes “U FITE MY MAGIKARP NAO K LOL”

Anyway, back to the brainteasers… Some are quite simple, some less so. One forced me to run crying to the internet for help because I’m truly terrible at those horrid little slider puzzles. There are 135 brainteasers within the game, and new ones that have nothing to do with the story can be downloaded from the internet every week. The first time you connect to Nintendo WFC with this game, it will download and save all of the puzzles since the game’s release, so you don’t have to worry about missing any, which I think is sort of nice. Overall, it’s your basic intermediate-level brainteaser book, except it has some plot and a few cutscenes and costs about 20 dollars more.

My main gripes with this game are fairly minor, but still annoying enough to mention. Movement around the village requires two touch screen taps when it ought to require only one. There are some side mysteries – eight or ten, I think – that you pick up throughout the storyline, but you have no hand whatsoever in solving them because the game does it for you as you progress, which sort of makes me wonder if there was a point to including them at all. The village is very small, and there really aren’t a lot of people in it. Sometimes after you acquire a new objective they’ll have new puzzles, and sometimes they won’t, but there’s nothing to indicate if they do or not. This makes for a lot of unnecessary and repetitive talking to townsfolk, which is another thing I dislike. You earn “picarats” for solving puzzles, which is the currency of St. Mystere, but you can’t actually buy anything with them. As for our heroes, Professor Layton can be either a quirky sort of fellow or just completely annoying, depending on how you view very proper cartoon British gentlemen with cool hats. Luke is entirely useless except as the standard Captain Obvious character.

All that said, though, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is somewhat charming. The plot is decent and has a bit of a surprise twist, and the cutscenes are actually quite well done, with voices and everything. I’m not really sure if I’d recommend it to buy for yourself – because honestly, in terms of pure gameplay, it’s no more than a good brainteaser book – but it made for a nice gift and was worth the time to play. A good game to rent or buy used, possibly.

Also, I found this very funny. (Some other comics on that site might not be child-friendly, though.)

-Caitlin

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