Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew



Anyone who has an eye on the US/import DS scene will have played Professor Layton around a year ago and ever since game fanatics have been crying out for a European release. Well, it's finally here so the rest of the world will get the chance to find out just why this title is in most DS owner's top ten. In fact, before you even read this, if you're are a fan of the Brain Training series or indeed anything that gets the grey matter working, stop reading now and go and get yourself a copy before it sells out for Christmas. Why? Read on and you'll see why...


After quite a lengthy intro the first thing you'll notice about Professor Layton is the manner in which the game initially keeps you in the dark. There's the mysterious fairground, the strange building that towers over the town, not to mention the townsfolk who talk in riddles and insist on you solving logic problems before divulging information. Your first problem will actually be getting into the town thanks to a stubborn drawbridge. Here you must work out which cog will enable you to complete the mechanism and so give you safe passage to the village. This is one of the simpler problems; you'll find the range of head scratchers here (based on Akira Tago's Mental Gymnastics Series) impressive to say the least.

There's not a great deal of the town open to you initially and not all puzzles need to be solved on the first attempt, although the quicker you solve them the more Picarats you'll be awarded. These may seem a little useless at first but you can spend them in the main menu to unlock bonus content for the game. Another useful collectable is the gold coin that buys you hints for each of the puzzles. While these are invaluable early on, hints won't help you solve some of the more difficult slide puzzles. In addition to the main game you also have a variety of side quests such as collecting pieces of a picture and even a rather odd machine. You can even re-arrange the furniture in your hotel room.

Even more impressive when you revisit the game, rather than trying to recall where you left off, it gives you a quick recap of the previous hour or so that you spent with the game. Ingenious to the point where you have to wonder why no one else has thought of it before. The only real downside is that this first outing for Professor Layton does have some issues as far as replay is concerned as while some of the sliding puzzles can be revisited to complete them in less moves, most will provide little in the way of entertainment once you've solved them.


Absolutely all touch screen - even navigating the town is done with your trusty stylus.


The game looks beautiful and actually different from the 3D textured and futuristic renderings we're seeing at the moment. Instead the backgrounds and characters look like they've been lifted straight from a watercolor painting giving greater depth of personality to each of the many town dwellers you encounter. The animation, on the other hand, is minimal at best but you do get some truly amazing FMV clips to bridge the various sections.


A very pleasant little European ditty plays throughout the game generating a suitably sinister atmosphere. The voice acting is really rather good too, it's just a shame it only pops up in certain sections of the game with all other communication handed over to simple text.

Dual screen

Both the navigation around the town and the puzzles are solved using the stylus. The traditional controls are redundant. It's all simple stuff too, with the many features 'drip-fed' to you as you play though the first hour of the game. The puzzles are an entirely different matter with each one requiring a unique response so while some may require a simple number input, others will need blocks pushing around and the odd one may need you to write something. Whatever is needed you will find the touch-screen an incredibly responsive and strong aspect of the overall package.

Final comments

Possibly the greatest praise you could give Professor Layton is its universal accessibility and this really is a game for everyone even if you've never considered this genre before. The puzzles are well crafted and the production values very high, indeed the only thing you could possibly criticize is that fact that there's little in the way of replay value because once you've solved a puzzle there's little point in doing it again. The developers have attempted to address this with weekly downloadable puzzles but most of these use the same framework as those found in the main game. Still, it's a lengthy adventure but, while they are already up to the third installment in Japan, it's unlikely to tide you over until the powers that be translate the second outing for European consumption.

Pro: Wonderful Sound and Visuals, Great Puzzles
Con: Little Replay Value
Final score: 9.1


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Boxart of Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Nintendo