A true gentleman leaves no puzzle unsolved.
This is the mantra of the well-mannered and gentlemanly Professor Layton, making his return in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the sequel to last year’s Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Combining a compelling story with plenty of brain-teasing and challenging, but fair puzzles, Layton and his apprentice make for a game that is every bit as satisfying as its predecessor.
Diabolical Box is, at its core, a 2D point-and-click adventure game, set in a charming world where everyone seems to have a puzzle or three they need just a little bit of help with. That’s where you come in as Professor Layton; archaeologist, fencer, puzzle enthusiast and overall gentleman. You and your young apprentice Luke are morally charged to solve the mystery surrounding the death of a colleague of Layton’s, whose curiosity got the best of him during his research of a relic called the Elysian Box, known for killing anyone who dares open its lid.
In order to solve the mystery of the Elysian Box, you need to find clues. The late doctor leaves you a couple, including a train ticket to an unknown destination and a ripped up photo – the latter is promptly confiscated by the bumbling Inspector Chemley, who you end up bumping into on a constant basis. You must set out to ask questions and find the truth, which of course means solving several tons of puzzles. You make your way around by tapping the screen, finding hint coins (invaluable for those more challenging brainteasers), hidden puzzles, and people more than willing to help you out- if you can solve their puzzles.
The puzzles in the game are plentiful; 138 just in the story mode itself, though you’ll only need to solve about 85 to get through the main game. The types presented range from simple math tricks to optical illusions to deviously challenging sliding puzzles and mazes, each given a value in picarats. Picarats are the game’s ‘currency’; the harder the puzzle, the more picarats it’s worth, and with enough of them you can unlock extras, such as music and character profiles. Each puzzle also comes with three hints that can be unlocked with hint coins, which can be found by furiously tapping anything that looks like it could even remotely have a coin hidden in it.
Finishing all the puzzles the story mode has to offer unlocks – you guessed it – still more puzzles, bringing the total up to a whopping 153, with even more that can be downloaded weekly through a wi-fi connection for the low low price of free. None of the puzzles have any sort of time limit, and most of them let you freely quit and come back later for another try. They’re everywhere and while some of them are hard to spot, most of them are shoved right up in your face (“Hey, can you help us?” “Man, what a great question, let me reward you with this puzzle!”). Even if you miss some, Granny Riddleton will scoop up the lost puzzles and coddle them into her little hut for you to do later.
There are a couple of minigames added in, such as rebuilding an old camera with parts you find scattered about, making tea, and training a fat hamster back into shape. Completing each minigame rewards you with, yet again, more puzzles, as well as other smallish rewards. For instance, if you help your hamster get into tip-top shape, he’ll sniff out hint coins for you on occasion and point them out. Finishing the camera nets you the ability to turn some areas into “find the differences” puzzles and unlock… yep, more puzzles.
Diabolical Box is a satisfyingly long game, rounding out at about 16 or 17 hours, mixing well the telling of its story with all of its puzzles. Layton makes use of its full-motion video again, rewarding you with several cutscenes and keeping itself a cut above most other puzzle games; the voice acting and stylized, exaggerated characters make it a storybook brought to life. The only real downside is the background music, which is catchy at first, but soon becomes a bit repetitive and irritating. After all, there’s only so much accordion a man can take.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box brings the same variety of logic puzzles, story and exploration as the game before it, making a unique experience for all ages, and a real treat for any fan of puzzles. Cutscenes and voice acting will hold your interest in the story and leave you wanting more. Luckily, the end of the credits teases at another sequel, so there’s plenty more to come for the professor and his apprentice.
Things We Liked: The compelling story and sheer variety of puzzles. Simple controls. Full-motion video and voice acting. Charming characters and settings; what would a mystery be without a bumbling inspector and a luxury train ride?
Things We Disliked: Repetitive background music. Entering and reentering areas to try and trigger events (ARE YOU THIRSTY YET?!) Some recycled puzzles.
Target Audience: Fans of puzzles and brain-training games. DS owners of all ages. Anyone with a love for point-and-click adventure games.