A quick glance at game’s box art ultimately tells the story – brain-teasing games are clearly the flavor of the month on the Nintendo DS, but unfortunately, for every fun title like Brain Training, there are a slew of mediocre brain teasing titles that are vying for your gaming dollar. Thankfully, Professor Layton and the Curious Village falls into the first category. What is most surprising about Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the seamlessly divine marriage that it portrays with its clever balance between story and gameplay. As you start playing the game you’ll quickly find that this title is so much more than a simple collection of brainteasers.
Your puzzling experience begins with the introduction of the unusual Professor Layton and his faithful young assistant Luke as they travel to the curious village of St. Mystere, a place where puzzles and brainteasers are as commonplace as a controller in a gamer’s hand. You’ll find that mystery is always afoot in village of St. Mystere. Following the death of a wealthy baron, his will has revealed that a secret treasure is stashed away in a secret location within the picturesque village. To track down the mysterious treasure, the Baron’s family must solve a variety of riddles, or as it turns out, hire Professor Layton and Luke to do the job for them, and from there, the story takes many twists and turns that will make you curious how will all the events will tie together at the end.
While it’s all good and well to include a storyline to add some meat to the gameplay, the greatest strength of the title is within its puzzles. At its core, Professor Layton and the Curious Village features over one hundred and twenty puzzles, but most gamers will find that only 80 or 90 are required to complete the story mode. For those times when you just feel like having a quick puzzle session, the game also allows you to play through the story mode puzzles without having to play through the game’s story mode. If you manage to work your way through all of the puzzles, Nintendo is also offering players a new set of puzzles each week, which are available as free downloadable content via your Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. The free downloadables are reportedly only going to be available for a limited time.
The types of puzzles on offer are quite varied and ultimately keep boredom from creeping in, as you will be able to solve such problems as: completing a maze, solving math problems, answering riddles and moving objects from point A to point B in a certain number of moves. The difficulty of the puzzles varies, ranging from too easy to fairly difficult, but the game’s built-in hint system (which you can access by collecting hint coins that are spread throughout the game) will soon put you on the right track. Best of all, while the puzzles can prove difficult in certain sections of the game, they are rarely ever frustrating thanks to both the hint system and the fact that none of the puzzles are timed, allowing you to sit down and ponder the answer away from the DS.
As you sit through the animated cut scenes, you’ll notice that the game’s visuals are quite reminiscent of the popular Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away animated films. Cut scenes aside, this also translates wonderfully to the in-game action. The hand drawn characters, the attractive air of St. Mystere gives off with its 19th Century setting coupled with the soundtrack of music with a mysterious lilt to it, leaves you feeling like St. Mystere is a living, breathing town of old world charm on your DS, something that has been severely lacking in other third-party developed DS titles. The game is also fully voiced with excellent performance that truly adds more life into the game than any other DS titles around.
As a whole, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a game that will keep you occupied for hours. Whether you choose to play in short spurts or a marathon session, you’ll find that its delightful combination of adventure, mystery and brain teasing fun will be worth every cent. So what are you waiting for? Hurry up and buy it!
9.3 out of 10