The first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, was an interesting addition to the DS library. Rather than a straightforward Japanese puzzle game like Planet Puzzle League or Picross, Professor Layton was more like a French cartoon – think Belville Rendez-Vous with the occasional sudoku puzzle thrown in. It was a cute conceit to begin with, where everything and everyone you saw lead to a puzzle. But as the game progressed, this got really, really annoying, as Penny Arcade managed to sum up perfectly. On top of this, the puzzles got painfully repetitive, and once you figured out that the game was actually a smug asshole who tried to catch you out all of the time and 90% of the puzzles were actually trick questions, it became less a matter of working them out and more just a question of donkey-work. Still, I battled through and finished the first game, just don’t ask me what happened in the story, since I had long since given up and would just tap rapidly on the screen whenever an exposition sequence suddenly came up.
With Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, I had hoped that the creators would fix some of these problems. Maybe they integrated the story a bit better? Maybe they came up with new, interesting puzzles?
Did they fuck.
The game is essentially the same as the first, in slightly different clothes. In another way, it’s actually more frustrating than the first game, since the entire thing has a lot more hand-holding to help newcomers to the series. The puzzles are almost exactly the same, and the characters are still the same bunch of puzzle-wielding cunts. I mean, what kind of Maitre d’ would ask you to solve a puzzle for him while you’re waiting for your table? “Welcome to El Bulli. I’m terribly sorry sir, your table is not ready yet, but in the meantime, here’s a book of crossword puzzles.”
Maybe I’ve just gotten incredibly curmudgeonly in the year or so since the first game (I hear that happens after you cross the big three-oh), but I’ve been trying to decide what I find particularly wrong about this game. If they took out the random puzzles, I wouldn’t care for the story, or the way it’s told, with you as a completely passive detective who just clicks through screens as the story unfolds for you. If they took out the story and just presented it as a list of puzzles, I’d be annoyed at the frequency of repetition.
If you’re new to the series, or if you really liked the first one, give this game a go, you’ll probably like it. For me, however, this is one of the few games that has made me think that life is too short for this kind of bullshit.
Fuck it, I’m going back to Picross.