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Review – Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (NDS)

Nintendo DS – 1 Player – Level-5

I could have sworn I had already done reviews for at least Professor Layton and the Curious Village but it looks like I am mistaken.  Either that or I’ve finally lost a chunk of posts with my constant shifting from one blogging platform to another.  Since this is essentially a fresh intro to the series I’ll just touch a bit more on the details instead of straight referencing old content.  I guess it’s better style anyway.

At the core, the Layton games are nothing more than puzzle games.  More accurately, they are essentially the ULTIMATE puzzle games.  With say, Scribblenauts or Tetris, which are also a games of the puzzle genre, you are generally limited to a singular type of puzzle repeated ad nausea with increasing difficulty (usually through a timer since you can’t really die in a puzzle game).  In the Layton games, you get a massive variety of puzzles.  Puzzles ranging from simple and obvious math problems to complex sliding block puzzles to little riddles where you have to think out an answer. 

Also unlike many puzzle games that simple throw out a list of puzzles to work, these puzzles are encapsulated in some sort of story.  The larger story is of course, a mysgtery, so it’s a puzzle all in it’s own.   The mysteries presented in these games are pretty decent and often feature twists you may not expect.  The dialogue is well done as well which helps the presentation even more.  The art is decent as well though often the secondary characters around the various locals are… questionably designed.  Basically, the core characters all look great and have nice animations when needed, the third level characters sometimes come off like a third grader scribbled a few lines and called it a person.  It’s not distracting and overall the art style is great.  It’s certainly a refreshing style compared to the usual excessively repetitive “anime” style that often predominates these sort of quirky titles.

The unwound future, if you couldn’t deduce from the title, follows Layton and his apprentice Luke through a time traveling adventure.  Though not everything may be quite what it seems.  This was one point that kept nagging me going through this game was trying to figure out what’s “really” going on.  If you’ve played the previous two games you’ll know that often the most obvious supernatural themes presented tend to be a bit shady in the end.  On that note though, the ultimate climax, while quite epic, seemed a bit too elaborate to really fit with the simpler themes present in the series.  Still, in terms of overall story, I’d say it’s a bit higher than Diabolical Box (Layton 2) though probably below Curious Village (Layton 1).

The real saving grace for the story was that it dealt with Layton himself and his past.  The first game was more of an introduction and history for Flora.  The second game was essentially the Temple of Doom for the series having nothing really to do with the core characters, and the third brings us back to give us some history on Layton and the reoccurring Don Palo.

It’s good to get some actual characterization.

The real question I suppose is how are the puzzles.  Of the three currently available games I’d have to say that I found the puzzles in this game to be kind of weak and fairly easy.  Also of note, the parrot and car mini games were both kind of lame, the car one in particular, which I solved all of in one try.

Overall it’s a game that leaves me with an odd mix of feelings.  I like the series and I like the plot.  Still, the plot was a little slow at points and the puzzles seemed a bit easy.  Still, it’s enjoyable and if you like the series it’s certainly worthwhile to keep going on it if only for the background on Professor Layton’s history.

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