Adventure Gamers Awards
Having said that, it’s far and away the 150+ puzzles that are the highlight in this game: they’re varied, challenging, and rarely seem obvious – or even possible – from the get-go. Unlike many adventures, these are all pure logic puzzles. Some may intimidate you at first, like a puzzle involving shape radius or another that has you synchronizing a broken clock, but there’s no advanced Algebra class needed for this game; all you need is your wits. Same goes for a puzzle involving knots and a daunting, tangled mess of ropes. The puzzles here are all about thinking systematically. Even if you’re dealing with simple sliding puzzles or mazes, they’re only “simple” when you figure out the clever twist that makes the puzzle easy. And to make it all worthwhile, you’re amply rewarded for your efforts, unlocking bonuses by completing puzzles on the first or second try. Having trouble? There are always hint coins – a series staple – to collect and use when things get a little unsavory.
The feel of playing these puzzles on the DS is fantastic. They all use the touch screen, and most are done well; whether you’re writing in numbers with the stylus or simply selecting an object, it feels natural. The puzzle presentation is top-notch, too, and many of them have familiar pictures surrounding the puzzle (such as characters you’re interacting with) to tie in with the story. The singular song of chimes that plays while puzzling is reminiscent of Jeopardy in a way, yet soothing enough not to be a distraction.
There are only a select few caveats to this otherwise great puzzling experience. First, the puzzles begin to feel a little repetitive at times, as certain types have two or three versions of varying difficulty. Not so exciting, especially if a particular puzzle type isn’t your thing. Does the phrase “word problems” make you cringe? Then you’ll probably despise a good fifth of the puzzles offered here. A few other little complaints: one puzzle makes you draw a perfect circle. Drawing on the DS is awkward as it is, and it feels like too much to ask for those who aren’t artistically inclined in the first place. There’s also one puzzle with poor word choice (that’s you, Puzzle 47), and one with typos (puzzle 77, please step aside).
Adding a bit more variety, I really appreciated the fine selection of meta games in Professor Layton’s trunk, all which are unraveled gradually throughout the game. Curious Village had very basic minigames, be it a rudimentary jigsaw puzzle or casually arranging furniture. This time around, activities are similar but more quirky and complex. There’s another puzzle to piece together, for instance, but this time involving a complicated camera. There’s also a tea minigame that’ll test your creativity. Throughout the game you’ll discover new ingredients for tea, which you can then combine to make unique blends, which then can be used to cure certain ailments of characters along the way. These minigames are all very casual in nature, yet work as great pace-changers from the hardcore nature of the main puzzles, making for a pleasant sidestep from the primary adventure. But even if you’re looking for more traditional brain teasers, there are bonus puzzles of that type available as well, plus (for a limited time) you can find still more downloadable puzzles each week at the Professor Layton website.
If I had a complaint about gameplay in the first Layton title, it’d mostly be the puzzles not really gelling with the more important moments in the story. You’d find puzzles by merely bumping into characters, not by delving into actual mysteries. That’s still a feeling you’ll get quite often this time around, possibly to your chagrin. Any topic raised, whether it’s diner food or family fortune, will prompt an immediate appetite for puzzling from anyone involved. And while the first game ultimately had a reason for all this crazed puzzling, this game does not. And frankly, it feels a little cheap at times.
But when it really matters, right when you’re getting to the heart of a mystery, you can rest assured that there will be a logical puzzle for the situation you’re in. You’ll fuddle with keys to open a door, tinker with lights to illuminate a forest, or piece together a much-needed map, and shortly you’ll find your way to the next location. Solving these better-integrated puzzlish acts really moves along the story bits with a slideshow of drama. But, like in Curious Village, there will still be those moments where you’ll say to yourself, “Oh. Great. I’m stacking pancakes. Why am I doing this?”
Without tampering with a successful formula, any new Professor Layton adventure was bound to be welcome, but this one is all the more so for its many little extras and intriguing locales. The story does feel a little flatter than its predecessor’s at times, but don’t be surprised not to notice very often, since you’ll be too wrapped up in the sequel’s equally amazing, if hair-ripping puzzles. And you’ll stay wrapped up for a fair while, too, as the game could run anywhere from 15 to maybe 30 hours, depending on your play style. I expect many will either play Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box like I did – in a frenzied, relentless hunt for more puzzles – or in a slower-paced, exploratory way: trying all the tea varieties, speaking to all the townsfolk, and taking things one puzzle at a time. Either way, for puzzle fans it’s a brilliant way to spend your time, and so long as you’re playing, that’s really all that matters.
What our readers think of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Posted by emric on Jun 9, 2012
the series' wonderful charm only gets stronger with this sequel
another utterly charming game in the professor layton series of puzzle-adventures. the art direction, character designs and storytelling are all delightfully enticing. even without all the puzzles, this would be up with the best pure adventure titles on DS—...