Review – Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

September 27, 2010 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador

Professor Layton is a very different kind of badass.

He’s the ultimate gentleman; a top hat wearing, suit strutting London man who always manages to stay polite and is willing to roll with whatever crazy curveballs life decides to throw at him. He spends his free time solving puzzles and riddles, often drinking tea along the way.

But if need-be, he can assemble a gun out of broken slot machine parts that fires coins at a high velocity so he and his friends can escape a casino full of gangsters.

Don’t get your hopes up if you’re an action gamer – you won’t find any shooting segments in this puzzle game. But it’s the characters and setting of “Professor Layton and the Unwound Future” that help make it so darn lovable.

I’ve talked about the “Professor Layton” series in the past. The previous two games (which, like “Unwound Future,” are on the Nintendo DS) provided some brilliant, brain-teasing gameplay blended with some great mystery stories. This third game is no exception, and is probably the best “Layton” title yet.

For those new to the series, don’t worry. While there are plenty of familiar faces and a few references to past adventures, “Unwound Future” is a stand-alone title, and you don’t need prior experience with the series to enjoy it.

The game opens when the titular professor and his self-proclaimed apprentice, Luke, receive a letter from someone claiming to be Luke from 10 years in the future. From there, Layton springboards into an adventure that spans two very different times in two very different Londons. The future, it turns out, is kind of crazy.

The premise may be out there, but the narrative is interesting and very well done. Helped along by some terrific voice acting as well as a few beautifully animated FMV sequences, the game tells a very charming tale that you’ll probably want to see through to the end.

The gameplay is unchanged from previous titles, but very refined. As before, you explore various locations over the course of the story, and there are literally puzzles around every corner. Sometimes a local townsperson you speak to will pose a riddle to, or sometimes a situation in the environment will prompt a brainteaser. You might have to solve a puzzle to open a lock or get directions to your next destination. You can think of the entire rest of the game as fluff between the puzzles – as if your book of Sudoku puzzles had an involved story stuffed between the numbered grids.

If a puzzle seems to tricky for you (and trust me, there are some pretty tough ones in here), you can get help from a slightly revamped, much improved hint system.

When exploring the environment, you can find tons of hidden hint coins. If you’re stuck on a puzzle, you can use a hint coin to nudge you in the right direction. You can do this three times for increasingly helpful hints, and if you’re still stuck after that you can spend two final coins and have the game give you a hint that will likely make the solution obvious. This is a good system to avoid the frustration many players might have.

Often, the way these puzzles will be presented to you in pretty contrived. For example, at one point you need to visit someone in a hospital, but you have to “fill out paperwork” first. As it turns out, the only question on this paperwork is a riddle that involves a nurse making her rounds. But these situations tend to be more charming than anything, and don’t get in the way of your enjoyment at all.

The variety of puzzles is also fantastic, which is good considering there are over 150 of them to solve, not including free downloadable puzzles that will come in the future.

If you need a break from brainteasers, there are a few mini-games you can mess around with for a change of pace.

When it comes right down to it, “Professor Layton and the Unwound Future” is an amazing sequel in a pretty amazing series, and anybody who likes using their brains at all should check it out.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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