So there you are, in the mansion of a rich widow who wants you to help her solve the mystery of her husband’s inheritance. You just chased down her beloved cat, and have returned to find that a murder has taken place there in your absence.
“No one leaves this room until I question them,” says the detective in charge of the murder case. How shocking! You turn to the butler next to you, who says quite casually, “You know, this murder reminds me of a brain teaser I once heard…”
Such is the world of “Professor Layton and the Curious Village” for the Nintendo DS.
The game is an interesting mix of classic “point-and-click” adventure games and a large collection of puzzles, riddles, and brain teasers. The title character, Professor Layton, renowned for his intellect and ability to solve puzzles, has been summoned to the village of St. Mystere. There, he and his apprentice, Luke, must solve a variety of puzzles to help the residents of the town with various problems.
The game is controlled entirely with the touch screen. You wander around the village by tapping in various directions and locations, and talk to people and search objects in the same manner. When you talk to people, trying to find clues to the mysteries Professor Layton is attempting to solve, it is rare for a character to give you any items or useful information without having you first solve a puzzle of some kind. Everyone in St. Mystere apparently thinks of little else other than brain teasers, and is obsessed with having you solve them to prove that you’re worthy of hearing, “Oh, the cat went over by that fence.”
This crazy setting is complimented nicely by some beautiful artwork that may initially remind you of an old children’s cartoon. Don’t be put off by this, though, as it’s extremely fitting and really is easy on the eyes. It also allowed the developers of the game, Level 5 (known for many great titles such as “Dark Cloud” and “Jeanne D’Arc”) to provide a fair amount of full motion cutscenes in the game, complete with voice acting.
But the puzzles themselves are the main draw of this game. If you’re a big fan of riddles and brain teasers, you may recognize several of them. You’re presented with classic quandaries such as getting three wolves and three chickens across a lake using only a small raft (and without the wolves eating the chickens), or identifying who is telling the truth amongst a group of liars. All these provide for some entertaining gameplay, as well as some great mental exercise.
There are well over one hundred puzzles in the main game alone, which could easily keep you busy for fourteen hours or more, not including some of the side events such as finding pieces of a broken painting and putting them back together. After the main game, you unlock a separate set of more challenging puzzles, which provides even more play time. Finish those? Well, Nintendo and Level 5 are releasing weekly puzzles for download over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, free of charge. There’s a whole lot of incentive to come back to the game.
It’s not a game for everybody. If you absolutely hate using your head, doing simple math, or thinking about certain questions that may remind you just a little too much of the SATs, then you may not enjoy Professor Layton. However, if you have any love at all for puzzles and brainteasers, you’d be wrong to not at least give this game a look. Do yourself a favor and check out “Professor Layton and the Curious Village.” As the good Professor says, “Critical thinking is the key to success!”