And here we are again, playing yet another Professor Layton game. But this time there are some notable differences. Don’t worry, puzzle enthusiasts and top hat conniseurs, this is still the same Layton experience you’ve come to know and love, just in a different wrapper. I’ve delved deep into the game already, passing by three chapters in a night, with a handful more to go, and I’ve already got a lot to say about the game.
You know the drill by now with a Layton game: Professor Hershel Layton, his assistant Emmy Altava, and his young apprentice Luke Triton are hot on the heels of a mysterious that has been plaguing a random town where everyone speaks in delightful accents and wears interesting headpieces. The story isn’t what’s of note (but don’t get me wrong, it’s up there with other Layton titles), but rather the animation is what you’ll take note of first. Gone are the usual hand-drawn visuals for characters, backgrounds, and puzzles. Instead, Level-5 have granted Layton and crew another dimension to play around in, with all in-game visuals done in 3D. While this initially turned me off to the game, I have come to realize that the graphics are still simply beautiful and, in many ways, look better than their predecessors’.
Never mind character models looking a bit blocky compared to past title, but marvel in the magnitude of each location in the game’s town of Monte d’Or. A city-wide festival complete with clowns, tents, and lights everywhere dazzle the eyes and make you feel like the city is a living place. I was literally absorbed into the world the first minute I started up the game: it just looks that good. Yeah, I will miss the unique style the past DS games had, but they are always going to be remembered and cherished, but these new visuals are some of the best the series has seen. Oh, and don’t freak out about the cutscenes: they’ve remained as their traditional 2D style and pop up throughout the game to tell the story.
Professor Layton would be besides himself if his game didn’t feature some challenging-yet-engaging puzzles, and Miracle Mask has plenty of new puzzles to keep fans satiated. The transition to the 3DS has done more than upgrade the visuals, as some puzzles have gotten a boost in polygons as well. The first I can recall was a puzzle that had me manuver one ladybug chilling on a half-eaten ear of corn to another ladybug in a maze-like environment. A unique rolling perspective of the land would not have been possible without the 3DS’ capabilities, and with the 3D slider turned up you can get an even better view of the action. It’s a nice touch, and something that isn’t too drastic to make the game feel less “Layton-esque”. Outside of that and a few strange aesthetic changes to puzzle solving, the rest of the game’s puzzles are similiar to past Layton titles and should keep me entertained throughout the rest of the game.
There’s some other things to note here that aren’t really of concern to the quality of gameplay, but are just interesting for series fans. There was (and will likely be more) a flashback chapter where we get to play as Layton while he’s in school and living at his parent’s house. During this time, Layton doesn’t wear his signature top hat, and actually has a head full of bushy brown hair! There are also references to Layton’s past spread throughout the whole game, giving the Professor’s background some needed light. The music in the game is another grand achievement of orchestrated bliss, hitting all the right notes to capture the sounds of a carnival, the direness of tragedy, and that infectious melody of puzzle solving anxiety. In short, it’s a Professor Layton game through and through. Fans can be confident that Luke, Layton, and Emmy have returned in full form for their debut on the 3DS!