The 2008 review revue, part three

Professor Layton and the Curious Village | Level-5/Nintendo | DS | Puzzle
I gave it: A- | In retrospect, this was: Spot on, old boy.

Do you remember Professor Layton? Assuming your name isn’t Chris Kohler, you probably don’t. Like Burnout Paradise, Layton has become one of those cautionary tales about releasing good games at the beginning of the year. Gamers are like goldfish, with a three-month memory for games. If it launched before September, they forget about it by the time the end of the year rolls around. But please don’t forget about Professor Layton! We need to pester the crap out of Nintendo to release its sequels.

Admittedly, Layton’s forgettability probably has something to do with the fact that it has stunning low replay value. It’s a whimsical and at times challenging little adventure romp, but once you’ve solved the problems, there’s little else to be done. Nintendo thoughtfully offered additional weekly puzzles for a while (and maybe still? I stopped checking after a while) to convince gamers to dig up their copies from time to time. Yet even those DLC bonuses do nothing to refresh the main story, a lightweight adventure game built around solving a few hundred brain teasers. Once they’re solved, they’re solved, and you can’t revisit a given puzzle to challenge a harder version; in fact, many of the later puzzles are simply restructured takes on questions that appear earlier in the game.

That being said, the ten hours or so needed to complete Professor Layton are a lot of fun. I could have lived without tapping every pixel on the screen for coins, and some of the puzzle placement can be downright infuriating. Despite all these drawbacks, Layton coasts quite far on its charm, its abundance of interesting mind-teasers, and its appealing combination of adventure-game structure and brain-game stumpers. As often happens when developers mash two genres together, the results are far more interesting than they might have been on their own. Like curry and rice, both of which are fine on their own but become perfect when combined, Layton’s elementary mystery adventure give its riddles structure, while the riddles allow the adventure to be completed by doing something more interesting than inserting widget A into every available hotspot until you finally find socket B.

The warm, European-style artwork is a nice touch, too, offering a refreshing break from generic anime tropes that could fit right alongside with likes of Tintin or Asterix. The eponymous professor and his plucky companion (whose name I’ve completely forgotten) are affable, and the townspeople they meet in the course of their journey are just odd enough that you’re almost willing to accept that their collective, monomaniacal fixation on riddles is totally logical. (That the story actually does offer justification for this particular aspect of the game is a nice little bit of attention to detail.) Ultimately, Layton’s lack of replay appeal makes it a fairly disposable title, but one worth experiencing nevertheless.

14 thoughts on “The 2008 review revue, part three

  1. Luke! His ward’s name is Luke.

    I recently purchased this game and promptly finished it after remembering about it. You’re right, when I made up my top games list for ’08, I did forget it. But not for lack of awesomeness. Looking forward to the sequels (and the animated movie in 2010!).

  2. The current owner of your copy of Professor Layton is in full agreeance. I rammed through it in only a few days, had loads of fun, and haven’t turned it on since. But I recommend it to people pretty often.

  3. As it happens, I didn’t get around to this game until a few months ago, and I was just mentioning it to somebody today, so I actually didn’t forget it.

  4. “I gave it: A-”

    “(and maybe still? I stopped checking after a while)”

    “his plucky companion (whose name I’ve completely forgotten)”

    “Ultimately, Layton’s lack of replay appeal makes it a fairly disposable title…”

    I played the game. I didn’t see its appeal. The Japanese are going crazy for Layton, it seems, which I consider a mystery worthy for Layton himself to solve. But I won’t really mind if the sequels aren’t translated. That’s just me, though – obviously it appeals to some people outside Japan, too. But I think it’s missing some key ingredient that would make it more appealing. I couldn’t really feel the soul in the game.

  5. Funny thing about the ‘downloadable’ puzzles – they’re all on the card itself (65 total if I remember right) and you’re only accessing the key online to unlock them. But at least Nintendo lets you do it for free…NAMCO.

  6. Didn’t Seanbaby put this game in his article about crappy brain games? I’ve never played it, and I’m so conflicted now.

    Sorry if I just put in a blank message above this.

  7. Strangely, I found Layton for ten bucks at a used electronics store near my college about a month after it came out, and picked it up because I had heard good things. I probably wouldn’t have bought it for more because I was unsure at the time. But man, what a fun game. I haven’t picked it up since I beat it, but in a year or two after I forget the solutions to the puzzles I’ll probably play through it again.

    I own all three games you’ve written about in your “review revue” and funny enough, I’m pretty sure I purchased all three because of the various things I had heard about them here on GameSpite. So I guess, uh, thanks everybody.

  8. I still pop it in now and then to listen to the music and rewatch the animations. I hope they retain the main cast for the dub of the Layton film.

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