IGN Review of Professor Layton & the Curious Village
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is not your usual handheld game. This original title lets you know right from the start just how different a DS experience is going to be. The game opens with one of the most impressive introduction animations seen on the Nintendo DS, establishing its characters and European-influenced art style extremely well in the first five minutes. Even though the designers back the presentation down a bit after the initial build-up, the game continues strong as a fun and unique handheld adventure.
The strange little town of St. Mystere loves puzzles. Loves them. The citizens can't strike up a single conversation without challenging the person they're chatting with to solve a brain teaser. Even when there's murder afoot, no one can seem to take their mind off of some challenging headscratchers. Find a penny on the ground, solve a puzzle about pennies. Look at a clock, learn a clock-related puzzle. See a cat licking himself, hey, there's a cat-licking puzzle. No…not really. But you get my point.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is, essentially, a huge assortment of textbook puzzle games strung together by an old-school point-and-click adventure. There's a story -- one about a mysterious will and a golden apple treasure -- that evolves into a murder mystery that Professor Layton has a desire to solve. But to unfold the story and uncover the clues, Layton and his apprentice must win at all sorts of puzzles that are thrown at them.
Some puzzles are required to solve before you can move on. Others are optional. Many are hidden, only revealed by poking around the environments instead of simply following the script and hopping from location to location to finish the adventure. If a puzzle's giving you a bit of a problem, you can spend earned Hint Tokens to uncover one of each puzzle's three hints, and these Hint Tokens are earned exactly the same way as the way you uncover the hidden puzzles: by poking around the environments.
Puzzles range in difficulty, from the absolute obvious to the downright devious. Remember Die Hard with a Vengeance? You'll find a ton of variations of the puzzles that Jeremy Irons dishes out to Bruce Willis, including that "pour the liquid" challenge…but this time it's not to disarm any bombs. Many puzzles really need to be calculated, but others are trick questions. And sometimes these trick questions are simple to spot: if the script is throwing several numbers at you, you can pretty much guarantee that these numbers are just to throw you off and the answer is a lot simpler than the text is letting on.
When you solve a puzzle successfully, you're rewarded points based on how many (or few) tries it took you to discover the solution, and your score is being recorded for posterity. But it's here where the game stumbles a bit: you can cheat so easily in Professor Layton because the designers don't discourage you from simply turning off and on the system after incorrectly answering a puzzle. If it's a multiple choice question, you can simply poke around until you hit the right answer, then reset the game and answer it correctly the "first" time.
As long as you don't cheat, you're golden. But I know you guys: you're going to do it. And that's why this game really needed a "Mr. Resetti" style of discouragement. If you turn your system off after an incorrect answer, boom…you should be penalized and note how many times you "cheated" the system during the adventure. But it doesn't do that, so cheaters prevail in Professor Layton.
And then there's the issue of replay. On the plus side, there are some puzzles that are designed around playing them over and over again, like tile-sliding puzzles that challenge you to figure it out in the fewest possible moves. But when you hit upon a puzzle with only one solution or answer, once you've already figured it out, you're done. Sure, it's unlocked outside of the adventure. Big whoop. Yeah, it's open for friends to try out, but I'd rather show them the puzzle in the context that it's been given: the adventure game.
Of course, the whole Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection option makes everything all right. Nintendo promises to put up a new set of puzzles on its servers weekly for Nintendo DS owners to download, and that's just fantastic. Keep in mind that these puzzles will most likely utilize assets already found in existing puzzles in Professor Layton. One of the first puzzles to download is a Matchstick challenge, of which there are already several in the main game. As long as Nintendo comes through with a regular schedule, this is a big reason to keep Professor Layton in your gaming rotation.
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