DS

North America

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

by Zachary Miller - May 29, 2008, 5:28 pm PDT
Total comments: 11

8

I haff tvelve metchsteek.

Professor Layton really needs to get a different hobby. He gets entirely too much pleasure out of solving brain-numbing puzzles. You can only imagine Layton’s glee when, upon arriving in the curious village of St. Mystere to solve an inheritance issue, he is greeted by townsfolk who are clinically obsessed with mindbending puzzles. These people have pulled out all the stops—slide puzzles, matchstick puzzles, logic puzzles, mathematical puzzles, trick question puzzles, and more. You’ll have to solve a whole bunch of them to reveal the mystery of Professor Layton and the Curious Village for Nintendo DS.

At its core, Layton is a point-and-click adventure. At all times you’re presented with a scene, and tapping on specific things with the stylus will let you talk to characters, find hint coins (more on this later), or move to different scenes. Talking to characters or tapping on certain pieces of landscape (like, oddly enough, a flower patch) usually results in a round of puzzle-solving (and Penny Arcade is right—nobody will tell you anything or help you in any way without first presenting you with a head-scratcher. This is the game’s most inventive, yet frustrating, aspect).

Puzzles are usually very straightforward. Some examples: there are three pitchers. One is eight gallons, one is five, and the last one is three. The eight-gallon pitcher is full of liquid. How can you make the eight and five-gallon pitchers have exactly four gallons each? Or: on one side of the river, there are three chicks and three wolves. If at any time the wolves outnumber the chicks, the wolves will eat the chicks. Can you get all six animals to the other side of the river? And finally: one germ is sitting in a jar. The germs split every minute, so after one minute there are two germs, and after two minutes there are four. After sixty minutes, the jar is full of germs. How long will it take to fill the jar if you start with two germs? As you can tell, there’s a lot of logic and deduction involved in solving these problems. Fortunately the puzzles do not have time limits, so you can take as long as you want and even make notes on the touch screen with the stylus.

Puzzles are “ranked” for difficulty based on how many “picarats” they are worth. Each time you present a wrong answer, the number of picarats decreases (although the puzzle’s difficulty does not). You can use hint coins (found throughout the landscapes by tapping things) to unlock hints. You can get up to three hints per puzzle, but obviously you are limited to the number of hint coins that you have in your possession. Unfortunately, the game does not auto-save when you fail a puzzle. That is, if you get an answer wrong, you can simply restart the game and try again without penalty. While this does alleviate some frustration, it also undercuts the game’s intention.

Puzzle solving, ironically, nets you more puzzles. As you play you’ll accrue pieces of a mechanical dog, furniture, and scraps of a portrait. The mechanical dog is fairly straightforward, but the furniture and portrait pieces eventually become variations on slide puzzles. You can also download a new puzzle once a week if you have access to Wi-Fi. Solved puzzles are saved in a log, and you can challenge yourself or friends to solve them all over again if you so desire.

The game looks great. Drawn in a European art style vaguely reminiscent of The Triplets of Belleville, Professor Layton is brimming with color and life. Although the backgrounds and character sprites are static images, basic mouth and arm movements and the occasional fully-animated cutscene really make Layton’s world pop off the screen. The cutscenes also employ well-spoken vocal dialogue, and the entire game is backlit with a mysterious musical score which fits St. Mystere’s unusual personality very well.

Overall, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a very interesting game but it definitely caters to a niche audience. If you don’t like brain-teasers, it’s probably not for you. Despite its charming atmosphere and interesting plot, your patience for puzzles will ultimately decide how much you like this game, so consider yourself warned.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 9 9 7 8 8
Graphics
8

Although the color palette is best described as “various shades of brown and green,” the whole aesthetic works given the game’s European countryside setting. The cutscenes are wonderful, and the character designs are marvelous.

Sound
9

The game’s main theme is fittingly “mysterious,” and I really liked the voicework during cutscenes.

Control
9

While exploring the town, it’s all point-and-click. For puzzle-solving, you use the stylus for note-taking and moving puzzle pieces (like pitchers and tiles). It’s all very simple and intuitive.

Gameplay
7

Although there’s something fishy in the town of St. Mystere, it’s difficult to fully understand what’s going on because your progress is impeded many times by the townsfolk’s obsession with puzzles! Still, this IS a puzzle game, so I shouldn’t be complaining.

Lastability
8

Well, if you like puzzles, there are enough here to keep you busy for months. If you don’t like puzzles that much, you thankfully don’t have to solve them all to beat the game. But once you do that, there’s very little reason to go back if you don’t want to solve the rest.

Final
8

Professor Layton and the Curious Village will admittedly find its market with a niche audience, but it caters to this niche audience extremely well. Its production values are high, the puzzles are truly puzzling (some even familiar), and the plot is constantly thickening. Now then, there are ten candles in a room. Somebody opens a window, and three of the candles go out…

Summary

Pros
  • Gotta love the European animation and accents
  • Interesting plot and characters
  • More puzzles than you can shake a matchstick at
Cons
  • No mechanism to keep players from restarting if they fail a puzzle
  • You'd better like puzzles
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorMay 29, 2008

Well, this review is a little late. ;)

>"No mechanism to keep players from restarting if they fail a puzzle."
I'm not sure how this is a "con", really... Since the game is single player, it doesn't really hurt the game if the player wants to "cheat".

Anywhoo, I *loved* this game and cannot wait for the next one.  If you haven't bought this one yet, please do.

I found Layton to get a little tedious as the game went on.  The story is interesting, but it unfolds so slowly (10-20 puzzles between each plot advancement) that I couldn't stay excited about what would happen next.  I have also objected and mocked Luke's voice acting, which gives me nightmares.  HOWEVER, it is a very charming game overall, and most of the puzzles are quite good.  I'm not really interested in the sequels unless they shake up the formula and provide some nice enhancements, which I don't think is going to be the case.

The difference for me was that the puzzles were the main part of the game for me, with the story secondary.

MarioIsFrenchMay 30, 2008

The puzzles in this game are really good. Not obviously easy but not too hard that you have to pick up a pen and paper. I agree with the rating of this game but i would add the antagonist in the cons area. It feels like he's placed there without any reason and he annoys me more than anything in the game (even with his very limited time under the spotlight). He's like wacko jacko in an elementary school: he has no business being there.

SheckyMay 30, 2008

Quote from: UncleBob

Well, this review is a little late. ;)

>"No mechanism to keep players from restarting if they fail a puzzle."
I'm not sure how this is a "con", really... Since the game is single player, it doesn't really hurt the game if the player wants to "cheat".

Anywhoo, I *loved* this game and cannot wait for the next one.  If you haven't bought this one yet, please do.

There is a mechanism.  You cannot soft reboot the game (L + R + Start + Select).  You need to actually throw the switch.

Also, to alleviate frustration, the number of points you loose for wrong answers bottoms out (I think after 2 wrong guesses). 

Was there a reason to care about those points so much anyways?  I had over 100 hint coins when I finished as well (and got all of those without the aid of any dog sadly...)

That was the oddball thing in my book... tapping every square mm of the screen in search of the coins.  You should have just earned some thought the game.

Quote from: MarioIsFrench

He's like wacko jacko in an elementary school: he has no business being there.

LOL thank you British Tabloid.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterJune 14, 2008

I bought the game yesterday.

Now before I move on, I must state that I only have three hours under my belt and I only have a handful of puzzles completed, so think about that before potentially roasting this mockingbird ;) .

So far, I like it. I love the presentation and the story. I'm still pretty early in the game but so far I am intrigued. I just know a grand mystery with an amazing resolution is awaiting me. The problem is, believe it or not, the puzzles.

I KNOW the game was all about puzzles and that doing them would develop the story forward, but I was caught by surprise at how constant they are. At times, its just plain annoying as the puzzles presented aren't even relevant to the story. The very first puzzle was an excellent example of how puzzles should be uniform to the case at hand, especially in a game built around them.

For example, I am talking to a case witness when all of a sudden he springs a puzzle about a star and dots. Even Luke couldn't help but think it was odd that a puzzle would appear in such a scene. Plus, my suspension of disbelief might be on the fritz but WHY are nearly all of the residents of St. Mystere so obsessed with puzzles. It would have been fine if one of two people are puzzle fanatics, but all of them?

Finally, the game might cause mental fatigue. This is clearly designed to be played in short bursts rather than long marathons. The puzzles are quite clever and challenging. They pull no punches in the difficulty department so playing them for too long could make you tired (go ahead and insert the "LOL you are stupid!" jokes, I don't care). Which is a shame because I truly want to see what happens next, but I have to play through puzzles about dogs becoming roadkill, red cubes and people drowning in order to do so.

Again, I've only played this for 3 hours and I admit I wasn't in the best of moods when I played it (first time I was extremely tired, second time I had a headache and was waking up) so my whole view could change once I hammer through it, and maybe the resolution could change my overall view. But so far its reliance on puzzles might be its own Achilles' heel for me.

LuigiHannJune 15, 2008

Take your time, pace yourself on the puzzles. The atmosphere is nice but the story starts inane and remains inane.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusJune 15, 2008

Quote from: pap64

Plus, my suspension of disbelief might be on the fritz but WHY are nearly all of the residents of St. Mystere so obsessed with puzzles. It would have been fine if one of two people are puzzle fanatics, but all of them?

You'll eventually find out why...

vuduJune 15, 2008

You almost have to treat the story and the puzzles as two completely separate elements.  The game is essentially 120 puzzles back-to-back.  The game would be fantastic if that were all it was, but Factor 5 was nice enough to give us some gorgeous art and a fairly nice story to package it up in.  However, the puzzles are all that really matter, and the rest is just window dressing.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterJune 15, 2008

I confess that after playing it all morning with a more open and clearer head I am warming up to the game immensely. As I expected the story is becoming more engaging as it progresses. I still find the puzzles oddly irrelevant, but if its true that all is explained then I will have to wait.

One thing I realized, though, is that Professor Layton may be a much better and effective brain training game than all of the brain games on the market. Brain Age, for example, just measures how "dumb" you are according to the speed you perform the tasks. The exercises themselves are rather easy, especially if you attended grade school. So in BA its now how well you perform the tasks, its how fast you do them that matter.

PL, on the other hand, actually challenges your mind with puzzles that seem impossible at first but are quite simple once you put a little more brain matter into them. It also effectively makes you feel "dumb" if you spent more than 30 minutes on a puzzle only to realize that the solution is rather simple and under your nose.

So in a way, PL is a REAL brain training game because it forces you to think outside the box, use rational and critical thinking to solve its problems, and in a way leaves a far more effective impression on the player than small tests of speed.

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Professor Layton and the Curious Village Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer Level-5
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Release Feb 11, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Layton Kyouju no Fushigi na Machi
Release Feb 15, 2007
PublisherLevel-5
RatingAll Ages
eu: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Release Nov 07, 2008
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
aus: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Release Apr 10, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingParental Guidance
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