Despite the amazing popularity and success of the Professor Layton series, for whatever reason I’ve just not gotten around to playing either of the first two games. I don’t usually jump into a game sequel before playing the original but when Nintendo called and asked me to review Professor Layton and the Lost Future, there’s just no way I could say no.
Now I know that many of you will have already played at least one of the Professor Layton games before and will not need any introduction to the game or characters, the rest of us however will need a little background detail.
One of the first things that instantly stands out above all else in the Layton games is the animation, it’s full of cartoon sequences that take me right back to the mid 90’s when kids TV started importing cartoons from Asia on the cheap and re-dubbed them with English voice actors. Animation aside the games themselves are all about the puzzle solving brains of Professor Layton and his young apprentice Luke. The two can’t help but get regularly embroiled into a series of mysteries. Now that on it’s own is bad enough but you can’t solve mysteries without clues and the only way to get clues is to chat to the locals. So they both end up bumping into a whole host of zany characters on their travels and despite these characters being somewhat of a distraction from the main goal, Layton and Luke can never resist chatting to them. It appears that no-one will volunteer any information about anything unless Layton or Luke solve a puzzle for them, ok so that sounds like a fair deal but it turns out that nearly all of the puzzles are just worthiness tests. You hardly ever come across someone in real desperate need of their puzzle being solved. It’s a tactic which is painfully slow yet very rewarding for the player, but I can’t help but think it would be much easier for Layton if he just called the Americans in to Waterboard everyone.
In this adventure Professor Layton and Luke have been invited to a special presentation by Dr Stahngun, apparently the Doctor has created a Time Machine and wants to show it off to everyone. Of course everyone is sceptical but can’t quite disbelieve it enough to walk away from the show. Like every great showman, Dr Stahngun needs some help on stage to demonstrate the device. So whilst any normal person would choose the best looking girl (or guy) in the audience, Stahngun requests the help of Prime Minister Bill Hawks. The very nervous PM steps into the Time Machine as requested and promptly disappears in a puff of smoke when the Time Machine explodes. Now naturally you could see this as either a nasty accident or an assignation attempt, either way there is some serious stuff that needs looking into and you’d hope that Scotland Yard could take care of it. Sadly Inspector Chelmey and Constable Barton are next to useless, so once again Layton and Luke are the ones that will be solving this mystery. But hold on, why have just one mystery when you could have two? A strange letter arrives for Professor Layton, it’s supposedly from his apprentice Luke. However it’s not the little schoolboy called Luke that has written this letter, it says it’s from a Luke from ten years into the future, a Luke with a deeper voice, and most scarily of all, a Luke that has hair in places he never used to have hair before.
So comes another adventure in which Professor Layton and Luke may have to solve over 165 puzzles in order to solve the greater mystery of a disappearing Prime Minister and a letter from the future. They’ll not only have to contend with the bemusing Londoners of the present but also the introverted ones of future London.
When it comes down to it; Professor Layton and the Lost Future is all about the puzzles and quite frankly they’re the hardest part to describe in a text review, but I’ll try. Any veteran gamer will have played puzzles like these before but even those new to videogames will also have the experience needed if they’ve ever partaken in any sort of brainteaser found in the newspapers. You’ll encounter almost every sort of brainteaser you can imagine; Math Puzzles, Logic Puzzles, Word Puzzles, the list goes on. My favourite was when I was asked to work out how many people were sitting on a double decker bus with just a few clues, the clever use of language (the word passengers in this case) steers you away from counting the driver and conductor. Forgetting to add them to your passenger total will see you fail the puzzle and be rewarded with less picarats. Picarats are your score points, the more you have the better you’re doing. Don’t worry though, it’s not essential to get every puzzle correct or work them out first time. If you need help then you can spend some Hint Coins and purchase some advice for the puzzle that you’re stumped on. You can find hint coins by thoroughly exploring each area with your stylus, don’t leave any stone unturned and you’ll find plenty of the coins to see you through the trickiest of puzzles.
Despite being my first Professor Layton game I already feel instantly at home with the game and characters, it’s a total joy to play. The voice acting, animation and puzzles make for a jolly good time and will leave you smiling and frowning in equal measure. With hours and hours of content in the standard campaign, not to mention the extra game modes and downloadable content – this is probably some of the best value gaming you’ll find outside of Tetris or Bejewelled. If it wasn’t for the fact that certain puzzle mechanics are recycled just a few too many times, Professor Layton and the Lost Future would get a perfect score. Instead it’ll have to settle for 9 out of 10.
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