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A much needed renovation
on 27 October 2012
As a fan of Professor Layton I know I wasn't alone in worrying about where the series could go once I'd completed "Spectre's Call." Though the game was still entertaining to a point, it was obvious that the games' formulaic approach was wearing thin. The series needed a little change in direction and thankfully that is provided in the Professor's first outing on the 3DS.
The main core of the game hasn't changed. The Professor receives another letter from another old friend describing another strange set of events at another odd little town. He sets off to investigate, with Luke and assistant Emmy in tow, to find a town full of odd people who converse and live their lives providing puzzles to strangers. It's everything you've come to enjoy from Layton.
The big changes attribute greatly to the 3D factor. Conversations, navigation and a lot of puzzle solving now takes place using the 3D screen. No more prodding around every inch of the environment looking for hint coins, as the new magnifying glass search reveals areas worth investigating for you. No more flat, gestureless dialogues with the townsfolk, as the more rotund, 3D characters gesticulate greatly whilst speaking on the top screen. It takes a little getting used to seeing the characters in a more polygon model, but it succeeds in giving extra life to them. The anime cutscenes are even more impressive in 3D and the carnival like town of Monte D'or provides a stunning backdrop.
Of course, once past the visuals, it is the gameplay that is of most importance. The puzzles here are as entertaining and head scratching as they've always been, with a steady difficulty curve but a good mixture as well. Whilst not many take as much advantage of the 3D available as I feel the could, there are a few welcome breaks in play in the form of other guises, (horseriding anyone?) The story is also intriguing due to the flashbacks to the past, and the ability to play within these flashbacks, making for some interesting plot turns and discoveries about the Professor's past, though I'd argue this is one the weakest mysteries to solve in the series so far (it's sort of obvious who the villains are here.) The minigames are much improved, with all three being playable to the end. In previous games, my interest has waned in at least one of these minigames and in one of the games (Lost Future I think) I didn't bother with any of them.
My only minor gripe was the pateince you have to allow yourself for this game. It's a good job that you spend a good while being amazed at the visuals in this game because in my first two hours of gameplay I only came across ten puzzles. There is a lot of talking to characters who, for the first time ever in a Layton game, don't insist on giving you a puzzle to solve before giving you information. It's a strange choice from Level 5, but you are rewarded for this patience as the game wears on.
This was a much needed change of pace for the Professor. Spend some time zooming in and out of the environments and just enjoying the splendour of a well loved series in 3D, before getting down to a few good old head-scratchers. Had we had more of the same, I may have grown tired of Layton and called time on my interest in the series. As it is, I can enjoy this game (one free puzzle a day for a year) until the next one is released, rumoured to be the last for the DS, something I'll be genuinely sad about