NostalGeek

Don’t Hate the Game, Hate the Player

Professor Layton and the Curious Village Review (Nintendo DS)

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Level-5 is mostly known for their highly successful RPGs (Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy and Dragon Quest VIII) but with the Professor Layton series they stray into the IQ puzzle genre with great efficiency.
The project was born through President and CEO Akihiro Hino who always loved Tago’s Head Gymnastics series of puzzle books, which have sold more than 12 million copies to date in Japan. As a result Akira Tago developed the game while Hino san served as producer.
If you like puzzle game you are going to be enjoying one of the most charming games on the DS with great graphics and soundtrack and a deceivingly nice storyline.

Graphics

The game starts right off with a lovely CG sequence that is both beautiful and original in design, you feel like you are watching a mix between a Studio Ghibli movie and a classic European cartoon albeit of great quality. There aren’t that many sequences in the game but they are all a joy to watch.
the in-game graphics are divided into two categories, the overall look and the puzzles themselves. Let’s get this out of the way the puzzles look nice and simple, nothing fancy but that is not the point of puzzles. On the other hand the backgrounds are simply gorgeous made of beautifully drawn illustrations that pack a lot of charm. The characters are equally well drawn and each look very different with a lot of visual personality. Layton himself is a hero with an old fashioned style that will no doubt be portrayed in several conventions by fans of cosplay.

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Sound

The soundtrack, composed by Level-5 composer Tomohito Nishiura, is filled with accordions that would be found in a cheesy American movie set in Paris BUT Nishiura never falls into that trap and keeps the score enjoyable and very original for a video game soundtrack. It must be said that the tunes tend to repeat a lot so your enjoyment will vary depending on your tolerance for the style. Personally i loved it.
The voice work on the other hand is top notch and can’t be denied. It consist of great British actors (Layton is voiced by Christopher Miller and Luke by Lani Minella) which you mostly only hear during the CG sequences but these voices will stay with you for a long while, especially the announcements before the success or failure of a puzzle, “I think I’ve got it!” (thick British accent), “Luke, here’s my answer…”, “Well..Here’s my guess…” and so on.
The great voices and atypical soundtrack really help give the game even more personality and charm.

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Gameplay

Very straightforward in this case. You click on people like in any RPGs and they talk to you usually giving you a puzzle to solve, then you just rack your brain until you find an answer.
the puzzles run the gamut of everything from “John is 3 times the age of Astrid but next year Astrid will be half as old as John. How are they?” to liquid games and cube sliding… It’s a bit hard to explain but if you check the images you’ll get the drift.
Each puzzle is worth a certain number of Picarats (basically points) which when accumulated give you bonuses and extras. If you answer a puzzle incorrectly the number of picarats you receive decreases but it only does so twice. As a result once you fail a puzzle twice you can fail it as many times as you want without any consequence. While this helps on some puzzle where the answer is fairly simple on others it doesn’t help at all because you have no clue what to input. But either way puzzles are usually just a matter of thinking, there was only one or two puzzles I had to go look up online because they where too far fetched.
In addition to this you can collect hint coins throughout the village by clicking…well…basically everywhere. You will get the itch to find them and end up putting your stylus anywhere just to see if you can find some. These coins allow you to buy hints for puzzles (3 for each) which give you the opportunity to answer puzzles without losing any picarats potential.
Here’s a hint: use your coins! You will get more picarats in the end. I saved mine for fear of tougher puzzles towards the end and even if they were tougher i ended up with 60 hint coins. So use them and rack up the points.

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Story

For a puzzle game Professor Layton and the Curious Village has a surprisingly good story. You are called to the village after receiving a strange will which picks your curiosity, the will mentions something about a “Golden Apple” treasure. As an infamous puzzle solver you cannot resist and head there with your trusty assistant Luke.
Of course upon arrival several things happen and the plot thickens! Murder, kidnapping… it all makes for a very exciting story that you’ll want to keep discovering. You may figure out the main mystery about halfway through the game, especially after a specific cutscene but the plot still holds a few surprises and I found the ending to be very charming and emotional. Quite a reward for a simple puzzle game.

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Overall Level-5 delivers yet another quality porduct and this new franchise is really a breath of fresh air. The game is part of a trilogy that is almost complete in Japan (the second game was released November 29, 2007 and the third one is coming out November 27 of this year) and Level-5 is hard at work on translating the second opus. I can’t wait for the next games and if you aren’t a complete puzzle-phobic I strongly suggest you pick this game up and thank me later.

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November 6, 2008 - Posted by | DS News, Video Game Reviews | , , , , , , , , ,

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