Review: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Review: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

When Professor Layton debuted on the DS way back when, it completely changed what people thought was possible in a puzzle game. Layton and friends are back, and this time they are appearing on the 3DS for the first time.

Layton and co. are called to the miraculous, and somewhat fictitious city of Monte D’or by a friend from Laytons mysterious past. The city is being ravaged by a masked character known only as the Masked Gentleman who is performing miracles such as spontaneous combustion, mass petrification and even transformation. It is down to Layton to uncover who this masked figure is, unravel the secret of his powers and generally save the day. In order to do this, Layton must not only delve into the dark history of Monte D’or, but also into his own past. The story is genuinely interesting with every character you meet being likable and interesting whether they come from the past or present.

The story is told in a number of ways, big scenes shown in fantastic prerendered animated cut-scenes and contain full voice acting, however these are somewhat few and far between. The majority of story is told through text boxes that may or may not be voice acted depending on the scene itself. Those who have played the original Professor Layton games will immediately notice a change in the graphics. No longer are you presented with flashy sprites, but instead treated to animated 3D models which really does make a massive difference to the presentation.

Gameplay revolves around puzzles as you might expect, with the story being there as a tool to guide you to the next puzzle. Each puzzle is well crafted and range from relatively easy to mind mindbogglingly difficult, but rarely do they require massive amounts of thinking as what often seems a complicated issue, turns out to be ingeniously simple. To help you solve these puzzles you can spend Hint Coins to give you a bit of a hand, these wont down right tell you the answer but they will point you in the right direction which is nice. My biggest gripe with the puzzle aspect of the game however is the frequency and general lack of reason for them. Whilst some puzzles are directly related to the story, and have real meaning, most of them are pointless diversions that have no bearing on what you are supposed to be doing.

When not puzzle solving, you are travelling around the city and looking for clues, puzzles, rare objects and hint coins. How this is done is a little bit awkward at first, since your vision is controlled via the touch screen, but after a few minutes the system feels natural and you will be uncovering the secrets of Monte D’or in no time.

Professor Layton also comes packed with a variety of side tasks to complete if you want to get away from the hussle and bussle of the city. As you progress you gain a variety of minigames which can be played at will, these range from guiding a robot around a maze to teaching a rabbit how to do tricks so he can perform in plays. These are fun diversions, but the real winner is the downloadable content. For a full year after its release, Level 5 are releasing one puzzle a day to download. These puzzles are rated for difficulty, come a variety of flavours and are a welcome addition to an already bulky package.

Fan of the Professor Layton series will love this new installment, and those who have never played them should give this one a go. The combination of investigation and puzzles is as endearing as ever, and is not something that should be missed.

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