Review: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)September 1st, 2009 | Written by Danreb Victorio | Topic: Nintendo DS, Reviews
The Professor Layton series has been around for quite a while, but on American shores, it’s only been around for a couple years. While Japan has now seen four Professor Layton games, including a full-length feature film coming up, North America is just seeing the release of the second game. It’s been more than a year since the last game was released, and if all you expect is some puzzle-solving action, then this game is definitely well worth the wait.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box once again stars everyone’s favorite top hat-dawning, dot-eyed professor and his boy apprentice, Luke, on a somewhat darker adventure than the one they encountered in the village of St. Mystere. This time around, Layton and Luke visit one of Layton’s teachers—who they find to be dead by the time they reach his flat, leaving an unused ticket for a luxury train with no destination written on it. Layton and Luke learn that before his sudden death, he had been studying a “cursed” box that brings death to all that open it. With this information, the two set out to solve these many mysteries.
For those of you who’ve never experienced a Layton game before, all you have to know is that it’s a mystery novel that requires you to solve a handful of puzzles to progress. Throughout the game, you’ll unravel different mysteries that add some depth to the story, and as you continue to advance the story, the little mysteries you encounter at the beginning of the game become clearer.
If that didn’t make much sense, all you really need to know is that you’ll be solving a bunch of brain-teasing puzzles. A lot of the puzzles are simple teasers that require just a little bit of logic and trial and error, while others require a whole lot more planning. The difficulty of each puzzle is represented by the number of “picarats” each one has. Picarats are what allow you to continue to progress through the game and also act as a sort of revenue to unlock many of the game’s bonuses. The more picarats a puzzle has, the more challenging it is.
Of course, not everyone is into puzzles. Luckily, with each puzzle comes three hints that you can make use of to help solve each puzzle. While a lot of the game’s puzzles are open-ended, the more difficult ones require one definite answer, and sometimes it can be hard to come up with an answer right away. With that, you can only use a hint when coughing up a hint coin, which are found in random areas throughout the game’s environments.
Though it’s probably a staple to the game, one issue players have had in the original game that rears its ugly head again in The Diabolical Box is the fact that it’s really easy to cheat in this game. Since a lot of the puzzles require a lot of trial and error, and even three hint coins, you can easily give yourself a second chance by saving the game before a puzzle, and then turning the DS off and on after you’ve solved it. Doing this will save you of playtime, hint coins, and possible picarats that you may have lost by doing a puzzle incorrectly. Seeing as how a fifth Layton game is in development by the time this title has been released, we don’t anticipate this problem to be addressed anytime soon, but it would be nice if that were the case.
The game’s superb visual style has virtually gone through no changes, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. The characters each have very lively and distinct styles while also blending effectively with their appropriate backgrounds just like they did in The Curious Village. The only real difference between The Diabolical Box and The Curious Village is that The Diabolical Box is probably a lot more colorful, but other than that, nothing has changed.
The game’s sound has also gone unchanged. Since it’s a sequel, there is some new music here and there, but everything from the voice acting in the game’s cutscenes to the brain-teaser music make a lively return, and they definitely go together to bring what’s now a seeming authentic Layton experience.
If you were expecting this second entry in the Layton series to go through extraordinary leaps and bounds, which you really should have no business expecting, then you will be horribly disappointed. But if you were expecting another session of tough puzzles with a convincing story, then Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is every bit as good as The Curious Village and should be more than enough to satisfy your inner detective.