Professor Layton and the Curious Village review
A Fun Puzzle Game with a Nice Story, but Little Depth

The good:

  • Fun puzzles
  • Stylish cartoon graphics
  • Lots of extra content and unlockables
  • Ability to download puzzles via Nintendo WiFi Connection.

The bad:

  • Inability to solve mysteries yourself
  • Music is nothing memorable


Booting up Professor Layton and the Curious Village is like throwing yourself into an Encyclopedia Brown book, but without the chance to solve the mysteries yourself. The premise of the game seems to be a point and click mystery game, but it turns out to be a entirely puzzle-driven experience with little else to do. While there is a great story that drives the plot, there's not a whole lot you can do to actually progress it other than completing puzzles as you find them. However, if you can look past this and enjoy it for the quirky little title that it is, than you will get a lot of enjoyment out of Professor Layton, because it still has a lot to offer.

The game centers around Professor Layton, and his young assistant Luke. Layton and Luke are called to a mysterious island, St. Mystique, to try and solve the mystery of the Golden Apple. The deceased Baron Reinhold left a cipher in his will that whoever uncovers the truth behind the mystery of the Golden Apple will inherit his entire fortune. Lady Dhalia, his widowed spouse, call upon Professor Layton to solve the mystery. However, things start to go foul when a family member is killed without warning. So, this treasure hunt turns into a murder mystery which Professor Layton must solve.

The story is a throwback to Agatha Christie style novels, with a mysterious culprit running amuck in the city as Layton and Luke try to unravel the mystery before he claims his next victim. However, this isn't your straightforward mystery. Expect tons of plot twists that really do keep you guessing until the final scenes of the game, where everything starts to come together. The story is magnificently written, to be sure, and it will keep you interested the whole way through.

So, Layton and Luke set off to solve all the various mysteries that are brought about. The system for solving these mysteries, though, is much different than you might expect. The inhabitants of St. Mystere love puzzles, and so to get any information out of them you must solve the puzzles that are thrown at you.

This is where the game starts to veer from its point and click style of play. While you do maneuver through the town using a point and click interface, you won't be uncovering clues by meticulously scouring over an area. Instead, you will be given a puzzle to solve, and then given a very small bit of information as a reward. While games like Myst and Siberia also capitalize on puzzles, they do not approach them in the same way as Professor Layton, where puzzles are basically the only mode of gameplay. Which, depending on how you look at it, is both a blessing and a curse.

It's a blessing because the puzzles are challenging, rewarding, and incredibly fun. There are 120 puzzles in the main game, increasing in difficulty as you progress through the game. There are also many different varieties of puzzles, from logic puzzles to trick questions to visual puzzles and much more. While some puzzle types are recurring throughout the game, the puzzles never seem to get old.

Puzzles are given a score in "picarats" which is based on the difficulty of the puzzle. Correctly solving a puzzle will earn you that number of picarats. However, guessing incorrectly will cause the number of picarats to drop a bit, meaning less picarats when you do get the correct answer.

If a puzzle seems too hard for you, you can buy hints using "Hint Coins" which are hidden in various places throughout the game. There are three hints to unlock for each puzzle, but not nearly that many hint coins in the game. It is wise to save your hint coins until you come across a very difficult riddle that you just can't seem to get.

If you cannot seem to figure out a puzzle and don't want to waste Hint Coins, you can exit the puzzle and come back at a later time and try again. However, many of the puzzles early in the game are mandatory to progress the plot, so you can't rush through the game without completing any puzzles.

Now, I've talked about why the puzzle system is a blessing, but I haven't touched on why it's a curse. While the puzzles are a lot of fun and offer a lot of challenge, one gripe I had was a lack of depth. Other than trying to find Hint Coins, going around town is really only about searching for puzzles to decipher. Even though the story is so rich, you do not really get the chance to solve the mystery for yourself. Beating certain puzzles (or a certain number of puzzles, in some instances) trigger new events in the plot, like a new mystery to be solved, or leads to Professor Layton solving the mystery. You do not get to do any sleuthing or investigating for yourself, which is pretty disappointing when you are engrossed in the plot like I was.

While this may seem like a big gripe to have with a game of this type, but really it's not that noticeable when you are actually playing through the game. The puzzles and story felt like they were interwoven pretty well as I was playing through the game, and it didn't feel like I was getting the raw end of the deal, but looking back I can see that I didn't have much to do with the solving of the various mysteries.

On top of the puzzles you find in the game, there are also a few bonus puzzles that can choose to do throughout the game. When you solve a puzzle, you may get a gizmo, a piece of furniture, or a painting scrap. These are pieces that you will use in three bonus puzzles. Gizmos can be put together to make a secret robotic figure, furniture can be rearranged between Layton and Luke's rooms until both are completely satisfied, and painting scraps can be put together to produce a piece of artwork found in the game. While these puzzles aren't terribly difficult, they are definitely fun distractions and welcomed additions.

If you manage to complete all of these on top of the 120 in-game puzzles, than you can unlock 15 bonus puzzles. It's a nice easter egg, and it offers up some incentive to beat all of the puzzles offered in the game. These puzzles are actually quite difficult, so only the sharpest of minds will be able to complete all of them.

On top of this is the ability to download puzzles via Nintendo WiFi connection. While new puzzles are no longer being released, you can still download the entire backlog of puzzles available online, which is 26 puzzles in total. This is just another way to squeeze some longevity out of the game.

One thing I've yet to touch on is the graphics. This game uses a cartoonish style, but it is beautiful. Colors are crisp and animations are fluid, and the style of the game is pretty unique. The character design of this game is phenomenal; a few times while I was playing through I laughed out loud at the absurdity of some character's appearances. There was obviously a lot of time spent on getting the style right, and I think it does the game great justice.

At various points in the game there are cutscenes, which are stunning. One that I remember in particular is a scene where Layton and Luke are investigating a ferris wheel and it suddenly breaks. The two are running through the park trying to avoid the ferris wheel before it crushes them. It was a beautiful cutscene, one of many throughout the game.

The audio also fares well. The game features full voice over in the cutscenes, and Simmish style gibberish in game. The voice over work is believable, yet at the same time quirky and befitting of the cartoonish style. The music is simple and pretty good, although it's nothing too special. It's definitely good, but nothing outstanding in my opinion.

So, to wrap all of this up, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a great game. The story is enthralling and full of plot twists and new discoveries, the graphics are fresh and full of style, and the puzzles are fun and challenging. The many unlockables and downloadable puzzles offer lots of different things to do when the main story is over. However, the inability to solve the mystery yourself brings this game down a bit. Overall though, this game is a wonderful experience that will amuse anyone looking for a unique experience.

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0 thumbs!
Marc Jan 28, 09
I think you pretty much summed it up. The game was a masterpiece. Just being able to appreciate its wonderful art style is like a 4.5/5.
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