Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Developer: Level-5

Platform: DS

Release Date: Nov 2008

Awkwardly avoiding conversation on a bus? Waiting for your bacon to cook? Desperately procrastinating to avoid doing that thing you SHOULD be doing?! Well, what better way to pass the time than with a casual puzzle. Forget looking in something as primitive as a book though. Now it comes in the format of a DS game (and as such, costs more…. Awww yeah).

The Set up:
Professor Layton is renowned as something of a puzzle scholar in this game. So, when he is called to solve an unusual mystery in the aptly named town of St Mystere, he can hardly resist. During the course of his investigation, he will encounter the village locals, all of whom have a number of puzzles for him to solve.

You can probably tell, this isn’t REALLY about the plot. Level-5 clearly threw a bunch of puzzles together and then, just to make it look professional, added a narrative to keep players interested. The twist? It actually works surprisingly well. If you take a step back, you know the plot is immaterial. You know it’s just filler. And yet, you will actually want to keep playing this game, just to see how it pans out. It shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is, by any account, but this is, in fact, a well told and delightful story.

There is a distinct Agatha Christie vibe to the whole thing, light and airy on the surface but with a hint of dark happenings going on behind the scenery. Generally, it’s all quite harmless, but the village and its occupants are still very charming. Cut scenes are presented in a type of anime style animation, which gels nicely with the overall feel of the game. There is also a very soothing parisian-style soundtrack that plays throughout and, oddly, never becomes irritating as you explore the town.

The one exception to this rule is, unfortunately, your companion, a young boy named Luke. An insufferable little twit, every time he opens his mouth is to say something irritating in what appears to be a middle class cockney accent, something I never knew could exist. This wouldn’t be a major issue, if it weren’t for the fact that he is involved in just about every exchange of dialogue in the game. It is possible that the sound of children simply grates on my nerves, but watch the trailer and judge for yourselves.

Naturally, as mentioned before, neither the plot or dialogue are what the game focuses on, it’s the puzzles. And there are a considerable amount of these. Boasting 120 puzzles in the main game, and a further 15 once you complete certain tasks, there is no shortage of brain teasers. Many puzzles may seem familiar, as most are typical riddles or mathematical problems that could probably be found in most puzzle books or newspapers. Still, there will undoubtedly be one or two at least that will leave you completely stumped.

But have no fear, as the game implements a very useful and well structured hint system. Dotted all over the village are a number of hint coins, which you can exchange for one hint for the puzzle you are stuck on. They are all well hidden, encouraging players to explore every single corner of the village. They are also in short supply, making players very reluctant to have to spend them. You also lose points for every wrong answer you give, encouraging players to really think about puzzles rather than simply relying on guesswork.

What is especially appealing about this game in particular is how incredibly easy it is to pick up and play. Unlike most games, which usually involve you having to take a good five minutes to remember where you are, or get your bearings, Professor Layton throws you right in to where you left off, once you reload your game. I cleared this entire thing in ten minutes intervals.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village isn’t an essential title, by any means. There is no epic story, or mind-blowing gameplay to be had here. It simply utilizes the technology it has, the DS, for the most casual gameplay possible. This is the definitive pick-up-and-play experience. Not one for the hardcore gamers, but for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend gaming, isn’t that into it, or just likes the odd riddle, this game is perfect for you. Just try to ignore the English twat.

Rating: 8/10

Every puzzle has an answer.” – Professor Layton

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 1:03 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What I find strange is the fact that he lets a boy hang out with him, when he could have a sidekick that knows karate, or something useful

  2. Strange how stupid the premise of the Professor Layton series sounds, yet it’s still fun.

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