Sunday, August 30, 2009

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box: A review

I've been looking forward to this sequel to Professor Layton and the Curious Village ever since I found out that it would be hitting American shores. Part 2 of the first of two trilogies of Professor Layton titles, the Diabolical Box brings 150 new puzzles and a handful of minigames to the table.

The same gorgeous art style reminiscent of Miyazaki is used and the storyline is very engaging. Level 5 has delivered again with this title and if you're a fan of puzzles you definitely need to pick up this title. One nice touch: you don't have to have played the original game. This title is a standalone and you can start with this one or the Curious Village without any confusion. If you're not familiar with the series let me fill you in. You play as Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke. The Professor teaches archaeology at a university he and Luke solve mysteries on the side using their natural talents at puzzle solving. As you move about the various setpieces you uncover hidden puzzles. Solving them earns you picarats and help move the story along. Puzzles include math puzzles, logic puzzles, matchstick puzzles, word problems and the like. The meat of the game is the puzzles but they're wrapped up in a very immersive over-arcing stageplay.

A few puzzley minigames have been added as well. Each is presented as a puzzle but can only be completed as you collect pieces from each chapter of the story.

Some of the kinks of the first title seem to have been worked out. For example, I found that in the Curious Village some of the puzzles were worded a little ambiguously and I wasn't sure what sort of answer the game required to solve the puzzle. Also, in the first game the memo screen and the puzzle screen were one in the same which sometimes limited you to the amount of information you could doodle and still see. The memo page has been improved with a transparent overlay that gives you the entire bottom screen to scrawl out notes on. Much better.

I also like how Professor Layton is always teaching Luke what how a "true gentleman" behaves in various situations. You can't go wrong giving this game to your kid.

Overall, The Diabolical Box is a hard buy. Interesting puzzles, engaging story, beautiful artwork, immersive voicework; all add up to a hours of enjoyable gameplay.

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