Thursday, February 28, 2008

VG Review: Professor Layton and the Curious Village


"PROFESSOR LAYTON AND THE CURIOUS VILLAGE” 
Nintendo, for the Nintendo DS, rated E for Everyone, $34.99.


"Professor Layton and the Curious Village” is a tough game to review.

On the one hand, it frustrated me frequently, often to the point where I contemplated flinging my DS across the room in disgust.

At the same time, I’d be a churlish philistine to not acknowledge its charm and style. This is an utterly unique title that deserves merit for attempting to go beyond your average “adventure game.”

The plot involves puzzle-master Professor Layton and his young ward, Luke. The pair are asked to come to the mysterious village of St. Mystere to help uncover a valuable treasure.

Once in the village, however, they discover a number of nefarious plots and shady characters, and find themselves immersed in the midst of an even larger, shadier mystery.

Despite what the plot synopsis suggests, you won’t spend your time interrogating suspects or pulling out your magnifying glass to look for clues.

No, it seems the citizens of St. Mystere are suckers for puzzles, and they’ll pester you to help solve their brain-teasers at the slightest opportunity.

These aren’t puzzles along the lines of “find crowbar in room A to lift rock in room B so you can get key to go into room C” that dot the landscape of most video games.

No, these are genuine puzzles, along the lines of “A man is going along the road at 50 miles an hour”-type word problems. You know, stuff about getting wolves and chicks across a raft or moving matchsticks to make words or figuring out percentages. Logic and math-style stuff.

And it’s here that I come across my real problem with the game: I’m no good at these sorts of puzzles. In fact, I’m downright awful at them, to the point where I vowed upon graduating high school that I would never ever look at another word or algebra problem again if I could help it. “Layton” broke my streak.

Still, if these sorts of brain teasers are your bread and butter, then “Layton” will be a pleasure to play. Not only do the puzzles range from simple to stumpers, but the game boasts a captivating, cartoonish design reminiscent of the film “The Triplets of Belleville.”

Most minigame collections for the DS have a thrown-together feel, at best, putting a bunch of mediocre puzzles under one roof and hoping for the best. “Professor Layton” tries to be a bit more ambitious than that. The fact that its goals lie outside of my meager abilities shouldn’t dissuade you from checking it out.


Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008

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