Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Here at T1GN we’re pretty heavy into the console games, mainly FPSs, but a while back I bought my wife Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box to keep her occupied while I played my “big boy games.”  The best part is, it worked.  My wife doesn’t really have the patience for, well, anything, so I knew this game had to be good.  I have recently either been bored with the games I have or beaten them, so I picked up her Nintendo DS and started playing, and honestly the game is really good.

The game follows Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke as they travel cross country by train to solve the mystery behind a strange box that is said to kill anyone who opens it.  Diabolical Box is the second game in the Professor Layton game series to come to North America, with the first being The Curious Village and the third, The Last Time Travel, set to be released this fall.  The Professor Layton series is more expansive than just the three introduced in the Americas; Professor Layton and the Specter’s Flute and Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracles were only released in the beautiful country know as Japan.  There was also an anime movie created (which I am dying to see).  “Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva” (a.k.a. “Professor Layton: The First Movie” and “Professor Layton and the Immortal Songtress”) is the animated movie, which is the continuation from the first true game in the series, Professor Layton and the Specter’s Flute. The movie is set to release in the UK in September 2010.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, I really wasn’t expecting Diabolical Box to be that good.  I only say that because, let’s be honest, most of the games for the new Nintendo systems (excluding the Mario games) have been lackluster, but this is the best non-Mario game the DS has to offer.  It perfectly blends brainteasers, sliding puzzles, logic puzzles and others with the deeply engaging story.

Some of the puzzles are surprisingly hard, one in particular- the trash can slider puzzle.  I completed the puzzle after some time trying only to have the battery die before saving.  I have since not been able to complete that puzzle. My wife, however, has gotten past that level and has been able to continue the story.  Yes, I have played some of her save file because she has gotten further than me and I love it so much so that I plan on getting The Curious Village and The Last Time Travel when it is released later this year.

There are 138 puzzles to beat in the main story and 15 bonus downloadable puzzles to beat, and by beating each puzzle you have the chance to unlock one of three different types of rewards.  Whether it be hamster toys, which are collected to help give a morbidly obese hamster a much needed workout, or pieces of a shattered camera that Sammy accidentally dropped that you must find a way to reassemble.  You may also earn tea ingredients to brew new recipes and serve cups of tea to Luke, Layton and people they meet.

Players have an unlimited amount of time to solve each puzzle, but are given hint coins to help them on the harder ones.  You start with only 10 hint coins and can find more by exploring the locations.  Each puzzle begins with a number of points, called picarats, for you to earn by solving it, and for each wrong answer the value goes down.  I really like this feature because it makes you really question whether or not you really know the answer and penalizes you for not really using your brain and thinking it through.

The voice acting in the game is great, borderline flawless, and the cut-scenes are beautiful- so much so that when I first starting playing I thought it would be better suited for the Wii, being played on a TV screen.  After more time in the game I realized I would rather it be hand-held so that I can bring it everywhere with me and play it whenever I felt like it.

This is definitely a game worth adding to your collection, if not for the fantastic storyline, musical score, and voice acting, than at least for the brain teasers, and puzzles, because, man, when you solve a tough one you feel like a genius.