Critical thinking is the key to success in this awesome sequel.
Professor Layton returns to the DS in North America in Level 5's Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the second game in the series. Featuring gameplay similar to last year's Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Diabolical Box feels like a well done movie sequel as opposed to the soulless rehash it easily could have been.
This feeling comes primarily from the game's story, which has a much broader scope this time around. While the last game took place in one curious village, this sequel takes place in multiple environments, each one different enough from the others to stand out. There are a lot more cut scenes than there were in the previous game, and it seems like there's a little more going on as well. The game is divided up into chapters, seven in total, and the main story will probably take you between 10 and 15 hours to complete.
Because of its adherence to its strong story, the game is very linear with few extraneous paths, most of which only lead to a few bonus puzzles. While the primary gameplay focus is on solving puzzles, the game is like a point-and-click adventure otherwise. You traverse different static screens, talk to people, and search for clues. It's not a particularly inventive point-and-click adventure, but it keeps you engaged and doesn't distract you too much from the real focus, which of course are the puzzles.
These logic puzzles are the crux of the game. They vary in difficulty, with the more difficult ones being worth more picarats, with the game's scoring mechanic giving you more points if you get the answer right on the first try. A lot of the same puzzle types from the previous game return, but in different guises. For example, instead of having sheep cross a river, you have pancakes being transferred from one plate to another. It's familiar and different at the same time. In a similar fashion to games like StarTropics, there's even a puzzle that incorporates the instruction manual into its solution.
Still, some of the puzzles can get tough, and that's where hint coins come into play. Throughout your pointing and clicking you'll come across tons of hidden hint coins, which give you up to three hints on each puzzle. These are easy enough to come by, and help you out with the more difficult challenges.
In addition to all the puzzles, there are a few other secret mini-games that add a little bit of variety to the experience. In Curious Village, you primarily searched for pieces of things and put them together. In Diabolical Box, only one of the three mini-games involves putting things together - a camera in this case - but even that has added functionality. After piecing the camera together, you can take pictures of specific scenes and unlock more puzzles.
You also acquire a chubby hamster during your travels. Using toys you find and place on something similar to a chess board, you get the hamster to walk to the toys so he can reach different step plateaus, which helps him lose weight. It's a surprisingly deep mini-game that only gets more interesting as you find more toys. The other mini-game involves collecting different tea ingredients, making different kinds of tea, and serving it to different characters to unlock different items.
Like the first game, there will be a good deal of downloadable puzzles that will be released each week for a certain amount of time. While these titles aren't actually being downloaded, it's still additional content. You can also use a code from Diabolical Box's instruction manual to unlock more puzzles in the original game and Diabolical Box.
The graphics complete the whole package. They are similar to The Triplets of Belleville and the works of Studio Ghibli, and the characters and environments are gorgeous. The tone-setting music is good, albeit a little repetitive; there is also some good voice acting, although Luke is still as annoying as ever.
Overall, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is a spectacular sequel. It retains the wonderful and challenging puzzles from the original while offering grander story. There's a wealth of content, with over 150 puzzles and three different mini-games. It's a very unique type of game, and anyone who enjoys a good puzzle will most definitely enjoy this fantastic title.