Top hats, English accents, and a plentiful amount of puzzles make up the excitement that is Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the second title in the venerable handheld series. Taking place after the events that unfolded during The Curious Village, this new adventure has Layton, Luke, and Flora uncovering the mysteries surrounding the Elysian Box, which is said to kill anyone who opens it. The suspense is high, the puzzles challenging, and the story surprising for Layton and crew, and I was absolutely absorbed in the game in no time. Put your thinking caps on ladies and gents: you’ll need them.
The always dapper Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke get word that a colleague and friend has passed away while investigating the Elysian Box, an artifact said to kill anyone who opens it. Thinking there’s something fishy about this tragic incident, Layton and Luke decide to investigate the box themselves. Their adventures lead them to the luxurious Molentary Express, a train owned by Mr. Beluga and conducted by his wannabe rock star nephew, where even more mysteries reveal themselves. The bigger picture is uncovered and the duo find themselves in the town of Folsense, and bustling town full of lights, plenty of people, and a vampire. Wait, what? The townsfolk complain of a demonic vampire feasting off the people of the town, but still, this is the biggest lead Layton has on the Elysian Box. The story is right up there with Curious Village’s in terms of characters, twists, and memorable plot points. I found the story very engaging and one that I genuinely wanted to see what happened next. At times the story can drag on, especially during the middle sections where there are so many questions to answer, but I could barely put my 3DS down when playing the final sections of the game. A strong story helps this game a lot, and I am happy to see the writing and progression of plot remain high.
What would the game be without some kick ass puzzles? The core of the game (and really the ENTIRE game), puzzles are what makes the Professor and Luke’s world go round. There are over 150 puzzles to find and challenge yourself with, each different from the last (sans a few repeats with different objectives). Puzzles range from the simple (which hat belongs to the person you’re looking for), to the average (place the minimum amounts of lights to light all pathways), to the crazy hard (Which horse should you pick to ensure a draw during the race). All the puzzles, even the harder ones, however, are all solvable if you just take some time and think about them. If you’re stuck you can use up to three Hint Coins to unlock clues on how to overcome the brain teaser. Hint Coins are found by exploring the world outside of puzzles and there are only so many you can find and use. Puzzle are easily the best part of Diabolical Box: they combine the fun that any video game should provide with the satisfaction that comes from solving a hard puzzle. The game makes great use of the 3DS/DS’s technology, usually incorporating touch sensitive controls as well. The puzzle are on par with the ones from the previous game, but surprisingly do not repeat themselves. Overall the puzzles are great, and fans of the puzzle genre should pick this game up immediately and delve into the puzzles.
When you’re not solving puzzles you’ll be exploring different parts of the world. Whether you’re on the train or in the town, the same basic gameplay elements are in effect. You explore the world one screen at a time, and touching objects will cause you to interact with them. For example, if you see a person on the touch screen, you can touch them and you’ll talk to them. When you touch an object or person and a red exclamation mark pops up, it means you’ve found a puzzle that you’ll have to solve. Exploring each nook and cranny is encouraged to find Hint Coins and bonus puzzles, but if you do miss some puzzles they are transported to a special house that you can access later to complete them all. Three new minigames are also available in Diabolical Box: A pet hamster is given to Luke to train and get into shape; a broken camera can be assembled once all the pieces are found, and a tea set with ingredients allows you to brew special teas to give to ailing citizens. These are really just distraction to the main game and don’t offer much outside of breaking up the puzzles and are completely optional. Still though, it is nice to see some added gameplay methods aside from the standard puzzle play. If you’ve played any other game in the series, you’ll feel right at home with Diabolical Box.
Why It’s Worth It
– It’s amazing how many puzzles the game has! Solving each one is rewarding, and it has that, “Just one more” feel to it.
– The game combines the perfect balance of short burst gameplay for on-the-go gamers, and long terms of gameplay if you want to play through the night (a great quality for any handheld!)
– The animations are all nicely done and have a unique feel to them. Characters are unique, the sound is fantastic, and the colors really stand out
– Did you like the first game? You’ll like this one…
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is an excellent sophomore outing for the series, and proof that the handheld titles are worth the praise they’ve received. Improving upon the awesomeness that was the first game in the series, Diabolical Box adds more puzzles, a new story, additional minigames, and still retains the charm that made the first game endearing. While the game isn’t for everyone (It’s light on action and heavy on puzzle solving and story), those that want something different from the typical shooter/RPG/adventure game should look no further than Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. It’ll be an adventure you won’t soon forget!