Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-02-17 Nintendo DS Puzzle E (Everyone) Nintendo / Level 5

I had no idea what Professor Layton and the Curious Village was all about until I actually played it. I had a little idea of adventure meets mini-games, but I was way off about the mini-game component.

The opening cutscene is like watching any cartoon show on TV: great animation, great voice acting, I was really pleased with it. Professor Layton and the Curious Village begins with the death of Baron Augustus Reinhold, a puzzle and riddle enthusiast, who through his will leaves his estate to the one who can find the hidden Golden Apple somewhere in the village of St. Mystere. So Professor Layton and his little apprentice Luke are called in by the Baron's family to help locate this treasure.

The game is controlled entirely by the stylus. You navigate the different areas by tapping the shoe icon and yellow arrows appear with possible paths. You touch a person to interact with them, touch an object to inspect it, while in the puzzles you go from touching to dragging and also get to write numbers as your answer (just like in some of the Brain Age math problems).

St. Mystere is indeed a curious place. Everyone seems obsessed with puzzles, riddles and brainteasers. You won't get any information from these people unless you solve whatever puzzle they toss at you. And this is where the game caught me off guard, since the puzzles really weren't what I expected.

You will encounter a little bit of everything. Questions that involve logic thinking, knowledge of math, geometry and some that rely on common sense alone. Many puzzles sometimes seem so obvious to solve, but they're actually not. For example, there was one that asked me to pick the best chair for a multipurpose auditorium? I was totally stomped, and it turned out that the correct chair model was picked because it was the only one that could be stacked. I never felt so dumb. In fact, some of the puzzles in St. Mystere made me feel completely stupid, because of the whole "how didn't I think of that?" type of solutions.

Some of the activities include figuring out which is the lightest of eight unmarked weights by using two moves on a scale, how to move three wolves and three chickens across a river without leaving more wolves than chickens on either side at any given time (in 11 moves), others that rely on optical illusions, moving matches to create new images, and plenty more.

There are over 130 puzzles, and each one is worth a certain amount of picarats (your score). If you fail to solve a puzzle, the amount of picarats goes down every time you attempt it. You can also use hint coins (up to three per puzzle), but these are limited and you can randomly find some by inspecting your surroundings. As an added feature, Nintendo will also be releasing more puzzles on a weekly basis, that will be downloadable via the DS Wi-Fi connection.

Aside from the puzzles, you will have mysteries to solve as the story progresses, so there will be plenty of exploration to do as well.

As for the game presentation, I find the artwork fantastic. Although the game plays in a 2D setting, the backgrounds are so rich and detailed that everything is worth looking at. The anime influences are clearly visible on the character design, but with a bit of an updated, more modernized look.

The sound is amazing too. The music is fitting for the mystery/puzzle-solving feel throughout the game, and I was especially pleased with the voice acting, and not just because the dialogs are well written, but because the DS can do this much but not many games use the feature.

A puzzling adventure, Professor Layton and the Curious Village sure is intriguing and definitely worth playing. Even if it makes me feel dumb most of the time.

Special thanks to Allison Guillen, Chris Olmstead and Nintendo for providing a copy of this title.