My life has been taken over the past week. And not unlike a monster movie, I’m too awed by the mythical primitive force before me to be frightened. You see, Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS came out this week and quickly graphed itself to my hands.
Here are five reasons why in my humble opinion, Professor Layton is the best game on the DS:
1) PUZZLES MADE BY LUCIFER HIMSELF.
Okay. I may have exaggerated a bit there. But the puzzles are diverse, satisfying and deep enough to show to friends without getting made fun of for playing a cartoony game. They range from smirk inducing to “I need a FAQ before my brain explodes”.
And I give max credit to the creators at Level 5 for understanding that puzzles alone do not make a game. In addition to the interesting story they’ve added a little thing called Picarats which you can think of as money earned for solving a puzzle on the first, second, or third try. These little incentives can then be used at the end to unlock some unexpected extras.
2) A HEART-WARMING AND ORIGINAL STORY.
Stories in games tend to revolve around the same few templates: military ops, bad sci-fi, dungeons & dragons, cliched anime, and gangsta games. That is about it. So when I heard about Layton and his wonderful top hat I assumed that he must be a space commando in disguise fighting blackmarket dragons.
Amazingly no. Layton and crew inhabit the most heart-warming world I can remember since Psychonauts. In this virtual playpen you have a chance to learn about a whole village and watch as many mysteries unfold before your very eyes.
And unlike most games (Cough *Halo 3* Cough) it comes to such a satisfying conclusion I cannot wait for the next in line. I immediately looked up the Japanese trailer (which happens to be at the end of the article for your convenience.)
3) WONDERFUL CREATIVE DIRECTION.
The town is drawn in exacting detail with an art style that is clearly inspired by Hayao Miyazaki. The character designs are so varied and humorous it taught me as I played. And the music was good enough to have me searching for the MP3′s online. For example, they had a whole team dedicated to coloring the world in the warm hues. Each part is way beyond any similar DS game, but together this becomes an experience that is unforgettable.
4) A GAME THAT RESPECTS YOUR INTELLIGENCE?
I enjoy playing games because I enjoy learning new things and overcoming obstacles. Most games have a series of rules that once learned can be easily repeated until completion. Professor Layton doesn’t really follow this trend. While you learn the over world’s rules quickly, passing one puzzle does not mean the others will be cake. And that leads to an interesting set-up because you never know what is coming down the line.
But beyond the puzzles, the Curious Village treats the user with intelligence. It asks more of you and encourages you along with each step. It shows guidelines for civility, and talks about the moral impact of an individual within a society. And it does it not by preaching but by illuminating thoughts across an unique adventure.
When Bioshock garners headlines in gaming circles for its use (or misuse to be honest) of Objectivism, Professor Layton and the Curious Village should garner equal attention. But not by injecting it with pseudo-philosophical overtones and instead with a clear and undeniably attainable view of a better world. One where everything is a potential puzzle to be reasoned, and where helping others is not always a means to an end.
5) THE CINEMAS
Okay, okay, okay – I’m sorry. This is a weak reason to love a game in principle. I might as well say I really enjoyed the “mode 7″ or “blast processing”.
Yet the voice acted movies throughout the title provide two nice benefits: First, they’re exciting to look forward to. Second, they create a level of immersion I’ve never had before in a handheld game.
I’m not a fan of technology for its own sake, but the simple and effective use here makes me hope that this will become the defacto standard for all handheld titles to come.
In summary, this is the very reincarnation of fun. Buy two copies and pat yourself on the back for having taste. Maybe three copies, and give one to that idiot around the block to show how superior you are in logic puzzles. TAKE THAT BULLY!
Trailer to Professor Layton #2 (Spoilers of you haven’t beaten the first game):
I’dv Fahiled Uwe Prafesser!