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RELEASE DATE (NA): February 10, 2008 GENRE: Adventure/Puzzle
// review by Emily

Every puzzle has an answer.

It's a very, very rare day when I actually consider giving a game a 10/10. My highly critical mind can usually pick out the smallest nuisances in any game. The music is horrible, the art is bland, or I stubbed my toe on my way to throw the game in the dumpster. What I have for you today, however, is a true gem. I'm sure there's plenty of people who would disagree, but in my opinion, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is one of the most well-organized, well-balanced, and well-written game I have ever had the pleasure to review.

This game follows the story of archeologist Professor Layton and his bite-sized sidekick Luke as they venture out to a mysterious village to solve an inheritance dispute. Once there, the duo find that there's much, much more than meets the eye. An ominous tower that seems to snatch up ailing townsfolk. A hidden heirloom, the Golden Apple. A kidnapping. A murder. A runaway cat. This game has more mystery than fast food chili. Unlike the chili, I could eat it all up. From beginning to end, the story captivated my mind and made it twist and turn to figure out what the heck was going on. Normally I would scoff at a game having so many story elements going on, but I have to say that this game pulls it off wonderfully. There never seemed to be a stagnant moment, as far as I was concerned.

When I was in a high school play, the director told me that a good play gives each of its characters (no matter how small) their own identity. I totally saw this in this game. Each townsperson had their own unique characteristics that set them apart from everyone else. There were no run-of-the-mill NPCs in this game. That quality just made the game a completely wonderful and colorful game!

The gameplay is actually not very complex. You play as some kind of partially omniscient "viewer", I suppose. That means that you don't play as any of the characters in the game, but you are controlling where the characters go and what they interact with. The main pull of every Professor Layton games is puzzles. There are at least 100 different puzzles in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. The puzzles are solved with the DS stylus by moving objects, tapping certain options, or physically writing your answer. With that said, there is an incredible variety in these puzzles. You'll get everything from logic puzzles to algebraic puzzles. If you have an incredible hatred for math like I do, you probably want to keep a pen and paper nearby. My little notebook filled up quickly with drawings and calculations! Each puzzle is given a certain amount of points called "Picarats", which helps you determine the difficulty of the puzzles. The higher the Picarats, the more difficult the puzzle. I was surprised at how well each puzzle was gauged in this regard. Every once in a while, they'll throw a trick question at you, so keep your mind sharp and your eyes open! Otherwise you'll lose Picarats for every wrong answer! Ultimately though, the points don't really matter unless you're going for a high score.

Somehow, even the puzzles here are interesting.

If you get stuck on a puzzle, never fear! There are exactly three hints for each puzzle. They're actually helpful, too! I've played some games where the "hints" were incredibly vague and not helpful at all. This is not the case in this game. To get hints, however, you need to find hint coins that are hidden around the areas that you explore. It actually helps to ferociously tap every tree and rock like an elevator button when you're late. Each hint costs only one hint coin, and the more hints you get, the more help you get. The more help you get, the more puzzles you can solve. The more puzzles you solve, the more extras you can find! Some puzzles give you rewards such as a gizmo, a painting scrap, or even a piece of furniture for Layton and Luke's hotel rooms. These items aren't necessary for completing the game, but they give you some nice rewards, so do as many puzzles as you can find.

The art style of the Professor Layton games is truly unique. For some reason, I want to say it reminds me of an 80s style kind of thing. It's not amazing HD graphics, but it's a puzzle game. It really doesn't need fancy shmancy 3D stuff. However, the animations are great! I'd totally watch a Professor Layton cartoon! (Wait. There's a Professor Layton movie?! I'm all over that after this.) Anyway, some people might not like the cartoony style of the game, but I found it to be absolutely charming. The voices are really well done too—with one exception. For some reason, the European version and the American version have different voices for Luke. It is my personal opinion that American voice Luke is annoying. Bleh times three. On the flipside, Professor Layton's voice is dreamy. The voice just fits into the gentleman persona of Hershel Layton.

As with the art, the music isn't anything extraordinary. It's actually rather simplistic, yet the melodies are great. I would even say that the music goes beyond what I would expect from a game that is solely puzzle-based. The theme song for the series is catchy, upbeat, and mysterious (if that makes sense). These little tunes follow you along as you explore every nook and cranny of the mysterious village. A special tune also plays when you are in the puzzle screen. At first, it's a charming little song, but after a while gets repetitive. On the tougher puzzles, I sometimes had to mute the sound so that I could concentrate on getting the right answer. Otherwise, the music didn't bother me at all.

I really can't say that Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a perfect game, but it has so many good elements that come together to make a beautifully constructed game. The story is amazing and threw me off guard. The puzzles are difficult enough to keep me on my toes, but not frustrating enough to make me want to throw it out the window. It looks great. It sounds great. It plays great! What else can I say except it's a really great game! I was so impressed with this game, I'm giving it the highest score I feel I can give. I strongly recommend that you have this game in your collection if you love a good story and a game that will make you think and improve your mind!

Every puzzle has an answer!
And you'll find that answer...eventually.

I should've paid more attention in algebra class.

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