Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) Review

To commemorate the announcement of the rest of the Layton series being localized, let's take a look back at the mystery that started it all, Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS. Lisa Kudrow not included.

Curiosity killed the cat but founded a village.

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Level 5 is well-known for its sea of RPGs such as Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy, and Dragon Quest VIII. Now, teaming up with puzzle master, Akira Tago, professor of psychology at Emeritus Chibi University in Japan and writer of several best-selling puzzle books, Level 5 is entering new waters with Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS. Is this perplexing puzzler gifted, or does it need to stay after class?

The tale begins with Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke, driving towards the town of St. Mystere per request from the late baron's wealthy widow. His will speaks of a secret treasure, the Golden Apple, hidden somewhere within the confines of the village. The lucky person who finds it gets control of the baron's estate. Now it's up to Professor Layton and Luke to search the village for clues of the Golden Apple's whereabouts. During their search the pair will come across townsfolk with puzzles on the brain for Layton and Luke to solve as well as other mysteries around the town such as strange rumblings, odd disappearances of villagers, a foreboding tower sitting behind the village, and a murder to solve to boot. The mysteries and story are intriguing enough for players to press through the many puzzles and challenges the game throws at you, and each time you return to the game the story will quickly be recapped to you. No worries if you haven't played for months as the game will swiftly refresh your memory.

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Point and click to an area to be transported.

The main meat of Professor Layton and the Curious Village lies within the over one hundred puzzles and brain teasers the game challenges you with. No, you don't simply play through a list of puzzles. Instead, you converse with villagers who bring up a puzzle in their dialogue which is an ordinary occurence with the puzzle-obsessed populace of St. Mystere. Likewise, you can also come across puzzles within the environment. Most of the time there will be a puzzle or series of puzzles needing to be solved to unearth the next part of the story, and if you miss any puzzles you can visit Granny Riddleton's puzzle palace (i.e. shack) in the center of town to play any skipped puzzles. Clearing as many puzzles as possible is usually a smart idea as many of the riddles will unlock new gizmos, furniture, and painting pieces used to unlock more challenging extra puzzles. In addition to the already exhausting amount of puzzles in the story mode, there's puzzles that can be unlocked via download. They're not really downloadable puzzles as all you're doing is downloading a key to unlock puzzles already on the cart. Still, it's a welcomed addition for puzzle-craving players to wrap their brains around even further.

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Can you solve this early puzzle?

The puzzles of St. Mystere call upon the player to rely on his or her logic, observation, and critical thinking skills. The beginning puzzles are as simple as circling the town where no other roads lead to it, turning the DS upside-down, or trying to send animals across a raft in as few steps as possible. At the beginning of each puzzle, you'll see how much the puzzle is worth measured in picarats. If you fail the puzzle, the maximum score you can earn will decrease. By finding hint coins hidden throughout the village and found by tapping a certain spot on the screen, you can unlock hints. There's three hints per puzzle, and you'll definitely be relying on them for the second half of puzzles. Sure, you can just hop onto GameFAQs and spoil the answer for you, but it's definitely worth solving a problematic puzzle on your own than taking the low route. If you're like me, you'll probably check for the solution after an hour or so of struggling, and then you'll feel stupid in hindsight for not coming to the right conclusion beforehand. This way the game will probably take you anywhere from 10-20 hours. You might breeze through the brain teasers, or you might become stumped often like me. Regardless, it pays not to take the low route unless it's absolutely necessary.

Speaking of the low route, this game definitely did not take it presentation-wise. The art style is charming and very old-school. It brings added life to the many personalities of St. Mystere. Fully animated cut-scenes flesh out the important scenes of the game, and they run smoothly. The voice work is top-notch, and the amazing thing about it is that only two people played all of the parts. The music is laced with the accordion, and it's very quaint and doesn't distract. By no means is this a soundtrack that you'll want to download the audio rip from.

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This puzzle needs you to think backwards
for the fastest solution.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a wonderful experience. The many puzzles will demand the player to use all their critical-thinking skills, the story is intriguing and well-worth solving all those brain teasers, and the sheer amount of the aforementioned puzzles is easily worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, there isn't too much to do after completing the story besides some extra brain busters. Regardless, if you're looking for an endearing game that will beat your brain into shape and has more content and charm than Brain Age or your daily newspaper's sudoku, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the game for you.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.25/10]

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