Professor Layton and the Curious Village review
Level-5 has reached the next level
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a game that a variety of age ranges are able to enjoy, from the playability and difficulty of puzzles to the more conventional features such as the cut scenes and intrigue of the plot line. Despite coming out many years after the initial Japanese release, the game holds none of the Japanese ancestry one would expect from a game originating from a highly cultured country, instead it is based in jolly old England, to which has been portrayed perfectly. There are no dodgy stereotypes, no dodgy accents and... well, nothing dodgy about it at all in my opinion. Although not produced by Nintendo itself it's a still a game Nintendo should place high and proud in it's hall of fame, because this game might just be the next Cluedo.
The game play is something I have found to be unique to the Professor Layton games, understandably I haven't played every DS game there is to mention but from what I have played the way in which the player would play the game differs somewhat from the other, more well known games of the console. eg. Pokémon, Zelda, etc. The player is given a layout from which they can navigate via the Nintendo DS Touchscreen, however you can't simply move about willy nilly and pressing randomly on the Touchscreen, it gives you the option to move or to have a look around your environment first. To move you can touch a show icon in the lower right hand side of the screen which will make several arrows appear in the directions in which you can travel, a nice idea. Although it can get rather tedious having to press the icon every time you want to move in succession to a previous move and therefore can become rather repetitive and bring, which I have to say is the only downside of the Touchscreen usage can think of. Going back on looking probing your surroundings, when the option to move is disabled you can, for lack of a better word, probe the surroundings of the village with the NDS stylus, in doing so you can find things to help you complete puzzles, usually and most notably the Hint Coins which are in limited supply. The addition of the hint coin can be rather useful to the younger age groups because they allow the player to unlock 1 of 3 hints every puzzles has, you can only unlock one hint for every hint coin you have, making it easy to spread the game over as many generations as possible, something which Nintendo find great pleasure in doing. A neat feature that has been added to these games in the trunk that Layton carried with him, in it you can complete a variety of mini games so to speak. You can decorate Layton's and Luke's room, piece together a torn painting with pieces collected from completing puzzles, put together a robotic dog that helps sniff out hint coins by assembling several "gizmos" that you can gather after completing puzzles. What makes these enjoyable is you have the option as to whether or not you can do them or not, they hold no relevance to the story line, but give you the option for some help and fun if you need it. It can draw you away from all the puzzles and make you focus on other things, and is rather enjoyable. What I love most about this game however is the storyline, there can be no game without a storyline. Unto itself it's genius. It's well thought out and until a very very late in the game it's unpredictable, you're not sure what is going on unlike some other game I care not to mention. The way you have to solve certain puzzles to find out new information is somewhat reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and the navigation resembles that of Cluedo, both extraordinary media moguls of their time, and still to this day. This game merely draws the two together in an amazing story. But most and above all is the sense of achievement one gets from a completion of a puzzle, unlike in Pokemon where only hard battles gives some sense of prodigy, this game does it with every puzzle and every little bit of information you can gather, and that is what makes this one of my top 10 games of all time.
There aren't that many controls to this game, keeping it simple and easy again linking back to the availability to all generations. In Fact the only way you move around the place is via the NDS TouchScreen, which provides a comfortable gaming experience, other games that use the DS' buttons primarily often end of giving me sore thumbs and aching knuckles because I need to switch from Touchscreen to the D-Pad to the A, B, X, Y buttons. Although after a while of using the TS for a few hours your wrists can start to ache a little bit, so taking a 5 minute rest is all that is needed and you're on your way again. There isn't really that much to say about this section of that game except in summary the controls are simple, effective and above all enjoyable.
There are many, many different characters in this game, each adding their own story into the mix. Some of the lesser characters re-appear more than once to help you in your quest but others only appear once and you never see them again, unless they're wandering around the town. No matter what each character will give you a puzzle that's either for fun, to gain a reward such as a Gizmo or painting piece or to help with your enquiries. Of Course some are more important to others in the story such as Lady Dahlia, current head of the Reinhold Manor, Matthew the butler and Ramon the servant where as some just act as the pivotal characters such as Simon, the one that begun to reveal the secrets of the mysterious St. Mystere. Either way the characters are individual and differ in their personalities which adds a little something to the whole story. Each having their own attitudes towards whether they wish to help you or not as well as personal motivation or gain. More often than not the character will ask you help them complete a puzzle before helping you any further, somewhat forceful but useful to you as they all set you up for the final few puzzles at the end of the game.
Ofcourse we must consider the main characters themselves, Professor Hershal Layton and his apprentice Luke Triton. They each add alot to the story, whether it be reasons to continue looking or just a little bit of banter those two characters really define the game more than anything. Humorous to say the least. You can play as either Luke or the Professor, but do not have a choice in which, only that Luke will solve some puzzles and the Professor will also solve some, the player has no control over who does what puzzle. Something which doesn't need to be improved on, despite my dis-likening for it, because depending on who solves the puzzle depends on whether the case gets solved or not.
Puzzles are the defining thing in this game. Varying from easy to difficulty they provide a mind blowing experience for anyone and everyone. What makes the puzzles so enjoyable is that there is no one set genre to them, some require you to input an answer, some require to to actively move things about and some just require either common sense or critical thinking, there is something for everyone. Something which I personally really enjoyed, not just one genre but all of the because no matter what puzzle it was, it was made enjoyable.
Ever played Pheonix Wright: Ace Attourney? The graphics are very similar to that. They are decent enough for the DS game and there isn't really that much room for improvement. So yeah, the graphics are okay but that's not what I want to focus on, my main thing for this section is the Cut Scenes!
Run Forrest Run!
Truely amazing. The entire idea of the game being a game and a program at the same time isn't that old of an idea, but this game executes it perfectly. It doesn't have too many to minimise game play to an extent where you solving 1 or 2 puzzles before the next cutscene, it's literally 20 puzzles to every cut scene, which can seem like forever when playing the game, but at the same time it doesn't have too little cutscenes. Not only that but they are not longer than they need to be, they don't add any unnecessary things into the mix they simply tell you the story and the emotions of the character, adding a little more depth to the game, something that perhaps other games should do more often.
Music is the thing that adds atmosphere to the entire game, and it has to have produced one of the best gaming soundtracks I've ever heard. Some of the music can get rather repetitive if you take too long doing a certain thing, such as puzzles, but other than that the atmosphere it created is really good, it adds tension, relief, astonishment and then some. Not much else to say, it's something you really have to listen for yourself;
Professor Layton is a revolutionary game with everything you can expect from an adventure/puzzle game. Story, plot, motive, tension, cunning, intrigue, atmosphere and a good soundtrack. For that I'd say more than anything this is a definite game to get if you're like me an sit down with your family and play the odd game of Cluedo, trust me on this, you're going to love this game.
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