IGN Review of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke, have already investigated multiple mysteries on the Nintendo DS. Previous iterations in the puzzle franchise, the Curious Village and Diabolical Box, have quickly become fan favorites due to their high production value, fantastical storylines and of course, challenging puzzles. The latest adventure for the good professor, subtitled the Unwound Future, keeps that tradition intact.
As the title suggests, the plot for the professor now revolves around time travel. Layton and Luke attend a time machine demonstration that goes awry – there's a massive explosion, and the Prime Minister and scientist in charge of the project vanish in the shroud of the blast. Shortly after the incident, Layton receives a letter claiming to be sent by the future version of Luke. Things only get weirder from there, and the tale unwinds over 12 chapters (plus an epilogue) where you'll discover the truth behind 10 mysteries. Unlike previous games, this tale shows you an important part of Layton's past and harbors a great theme about the importance of balancing emotion, logic and pride. If you've never played a Professor Layton title before, you shouldn't worry as the story doesn't rely on your knowledge of past games.
The production of the Unwound Future is really impressive. The animation sequences and voiceover work in tandem to bring the story to life, and they're both beautifully done. The voice work still isn't incorporated throughout the entirety of the game, likely due to space issues, but there's enough of it to satisfy. The ending sequences were incredibly striking, and there was some 3D model work to complement the regular anime style.
If you've played a Professor Layton game before, the formula hasn't really changed. Conversing with folks you meet along your way, or even animals, often results in a puzzle challenge. People everywhere seem to be focused on puzzle solving, no matter what's going on in the world (massive explosion? Who cares! What's the answer to this puzzle??), and they either want you to solve the riddle for them or can't wait to test out their creation on the famous professor. I solved around 100 different puzzles throughout the course of the main campaign, but there are plenty of others scattered around the world as the game boasts 165 total conundrums. Any puzzle that you might've forgotten or passed over will be directed to a specific area on your map so you can solve them later.
Of course, you can't skip over puzzles tied to the main storyline and there are even blockades that prevent you from progressing through the storyline unless you've completed a certain amount of brainteasers. Should you ever get stuck, you can always call upon your hint system, though I did come across one puzzle where that wasn't an option. Normally, hints are unlocked by hint coins, which can be collected by tapping around on environments. In previous Layton games there were only three hints to help you, but Unwound Future includes a fourth option: the super hint. Designed for those puzzles you really can't grasp, the super hint generally lays out the answer for you, though it's not a guaranteed "win button." Although the Unwound Future tells you to use coins sparingly, during my time with the game I found plenty of coins, enough that I was able to freely spend them when I needed to and not worry about running out.
Regardless of whether or not you use the hint function, successfully completing puzzles garners you Picarats, a form of currency that allows you to access even more puzzles in the Bonus area if you earn enough. The amount of Picarats a puzzle is worth usually indicates its difficulty level and should you guess at your answer or get it wrong, the amount of Picarats you earn decreases. This isn't a huge problem if you're the cheating sort as Professor Layton still allows you to cheat by saving before a puzzle, figuring it out and then rebooting so you can pretend you solved it on the first try. So, while cheaters supposedly never prosper, they certainly do in the world of Professor Layton.
Ranging from numbers to diagrams, the puzzles you struggle with will likely vary compared to your friends. I'm not a big math person, so any time a number-focused puzzle came up I found myself leaning on the hint system. There's a great variety of puzzle types, and there were only a handful that appeared multiple times, so if you really hate a specific style you'll likely only have to deal with it once.
There are some new puzzle modes to complete the package in Unwound Future. Similar to the hamster feature in Diabolical Box, there are now three different areas that can be accessed outside of the campaign – Toy Car, Parrot and Picture Book. All of them are great inclusions as they mix fun, simple themes that can get difficult really quickly. Like a twisted version of Mad Libs, Picture Book requires you to unlock stickers by solving puzzles in the main story that are associated with one of the books, and figure out where the stickers belong to create a cohesive story. This was my favorite of the new additions, but I was disappointed that there were only three books to complete.
The other two modes, Toy Car and Parrot, are just as enjoyable, but don't offer the adorable storybook packaging. Toy Car features a matchbox sized vehicle that moves around a grid based on a finite number of directional arrows you have to place, and you usually have to collect a certain amount of goods before you can exit. It's straightforward, but tougher than it looks, especially as you progress. Another seemingly simple mode is Parrot, where you have a limited amount of ropes you can place to help a feathered friend deliver a package to someone on the opposite side of the screen. Both of these seem easier than they actually are, so it does take time to decipher the solutions.
Don't expect these new modes to increase the replay value of the game, as just like any other puzzle once you've figured it out there's no reason to try it again. That said, I spent around 16 hours with Layton and Luke and still haven't even come close to completing all of the puzzles available, so it's a good value. Even after you complete the story, the game plops you back into a previous point in the adventure so you can continue to solve puzzles that you might have missed.
©2010-09-10, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved