Sunday 2 March, 2008
Maybe I was a little too quick to recommending this game. Sure, it’s a good game but you see, I’ve been tricked. The first time that I put this game into my DS, I was simply shocked. I’ve had my DS for nearly 3 years so I thought I had seen all there was to see but the production values in this game are astonishing. The first cut scene shows you Luke and the professor as they journey to the St. Mystere. You’ll be charmed by the hand drawn characters and you’ll be shocked at how well the 3D objects interact with the 2D ones without feeling dramatically different. There are beautifully animated, hand-drawn cut scenes the move the story nicely along. Above all, the most surprising part of the game is certainly the voice acting. I have never seen such extensive voice acting in a DS game and the first 15 minutes of the games are entirely read aloud by the DS. It not only gives the characters more personality, the less I read, the better I feel. (You might be wondering how a point-and-click genre lover such as myself doesn’t like to read. It is indeed an oxymoron but I just wanted to let you know that it is possible.) But alas, I have been tricked by the game. While the first 15 minutes will show you 3 cut scenes, the other dozen are scattered throughout the game and voice acting disappear for the entire game, with the exception of those cut scenes, of course. Looking at the game as a whole, it has an amazing intro which leaves you wanting more, but you’ll be looking far and wide without finding it.
There is another reason to applauded Level 5: their puzzles are well integrated with the story. Trying to find your way to St. Mystere? Solve a map puzzle! Trying to lower a bridge? Solve a puzzle about cogs! Trying to cross a river? Maybe there is a river-themed puzzle! There are also clock puzzles, cat puzzles, candy puzzles, hat puzzles, and even a filthy jar puzzle. It’s the fact that there are many different puzzles that keeps the game interesting and it’s the fact that they are related to the story that makes the two parts of the game feel like a cohesive whole.
But let’s not forget the other part of the game: the puzzles. It seems appropriate to now introduce idea of picrats, Professor Layton’s point system that attempts to deter guessing while rewarding players for sharp, quick thinking. To some degree, it works well. If a player guesses for a puzzle but gets the problem right on his the second try, the player will be rewarded less picrats. If the player still cannot answer the problem after several tries, no more possible picrats will be deducted. It assures that players will come back to the puzzle. Imagine a player’s disappointment is he wasn’t rewarded for getting the right problem because he tried too many times. In this way, the reward system works well.
Unsurprisingly about Professor Layton is the fact that it is a single-player game, like all other point-and-click adventures. This does not mean that game deters social interaction using the game as a common ground. Online, I have seen so many boards come together to offer hints to players of this game ass they talk about the possible answers and ones that have already been confirmed wrong. It is also noteworthy to mention that there are even Youtube videos showing the right answers and with hundreds of hits per each of these videos and the recorders promising to offer more, Professor Layton is incredibly social.
Even on a local level, it is a social game. I was playing the game at the same time that my sister was and we were both having a wonderful time playing the game as 8 pm turned to 3 am in a blink. We were talking about the problems as we progressed and even traded the answers to a couple of problems (Is that cheating?). And though I had finished the game by the time that my roommate started, we would frequently talk a bout the puzzles. “Is the answer 3?” he would say to me. I would answer with “Maybe.” or “Did you remember to read the last line?” It’s conversations like these that prove that single player games still allow for social interaction which is certainly a plus for Professor Layton.
In the end, I wholeheartedly recommend Professor Layton and the curious village. Sure, Nintendo could have been more on-task with it’s supposed promise of weekly downloadable puzzles, and Level 5 could have added more voice acting and cut scenes to the game, but these are just blemishes to the otherwise outstanding game that is Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Buy it, and you won’t regret it… or at least you’ll have me to blame, anyway.