Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Professor Layton DSPuzzles, brain teasers, riddles, conundrums – whatever you want to call them, the inhabitants of the peculiar village of St. Mystere are full of them. In fact, their biggest export is not any type of animal, mineral or vegetable but, as you may have guessed, puzzles. Or whatever you choose to call them. The titular professor and his plucky apprentice Luke are summoned to St. Mystere to find a hidden treasure, but as you point and click around the rather brown village you’ll soon learn that the villagers have an obscure habit of throwing countless brain teasers in your direction before they’ll assist in your quest.

Coming from the minds behind PlayStation 2 RPGs Rogue Galaxy and Dark Chronicle, this is superlative stuff and packed full of charm. The anime-style cutscenes are reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli film and the puzzles really make you think, starting off with a simple maze to navigate your way into the village and getting harder as things progress. They come in all guises – some require you to move matches or coins around to form different shapes within a certain amount of manoeuvres; others are essentially math conundrums with a story attached.

The occasional few require the answer to be written down, with the character recognition thankfully being up to scratch. On most if you get stuck you can always come back later, though by tapping on objects in the environments ‘hint coins’ can be found and used to get a clue on the trickier puzzles. Successful completion of a puzzle will result in a tip-off for your investigation and some extra picarats. Picarats? The harder the puzzle, the more picarats you receive, but every time you fail you lose a small amount. Collect enough of these and it’s promised that a reward will come Layton’s way.

It’s not just the villagers that are out to twist your melon – about an hour into the game the two sleuth solvers book into an inn. As all the rooms are booked they end up in a furniture free attic in separate rooms. New furniture can be unlocked and positioned in either room but as their taste is somewhat different you have to find the right balance. It’s a little bit like Animal Crossing’s daily Happy Room Academy assessments. There are also parts of a destroyed painting to be found that have to be put back together with some thoughtful stylus shoving. If that wasn’t enough for your noggin to deal with, new puzzles can be downloaded weekly via WiFi. It’s the game that keeps on giving.

One puzzle in particular had me mulling instead of working, where I had to write down the amount of times in a day that a 12 hour digital clock will display the same three numbers in a row. In my book, any game that you continue to think about after the console has been switched off is a special one.

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