Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (Hands-On) (Nintendo DS) Preview

By Adam Riley 28.06.2009

Review for Professor Layton and Pandora

Level 5's President Akihiro Hino and Chiba University Professor, Akira Tago, author of a very famous series of puzzle books in Japan, have already worked together on three Professor Layton games in Japan, yet Europe, Australia and the US have only so far received the first outing. Now Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (or 'the Diabolical Box' as it will be known in the US) has finally been unveiled in English and Cubed3 got the chance to goes hands-on with an early demo version to see how it is shaping up.

After being enthralled with the US edition of the first Professor Layton since it launched back in early 2008, unlike most European gamers that are still lapping up the adventure I have been particularly eager to sink my teeth into the second part of the trilogy as quickly as possible given the Japanese version is impossible to enjoy without a solid grasp of the language. Sadly, though, there was not a lot of content actually on offer in the demo Nintendo had on show at the recent Post-E3 event. With the demo being of the timed variety it meant that even when skipping through the gorgeously animated video sequences and the general cut-scenes, all splendidly voiced it should be added, a mere two puzzles could be accessed, and even then players were prone to making foolish errors on the answer front due to haste leading to not reading the puzzle instructions properly.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

The premise behind this adventure is that Professor Layton and his young assistant Luke are heading to the train station to catch the luxurious Molentary Express. As we see the two lead characters begin to board, an ominous young lady looks to apparently be following them, whilst there is a comical scene where a rather rotund woman is being forced through train doors that look far too narrow for her obese shape. The scene then flashes to Luke getting far too excited by how posh and lavish the booth they are in actually is, with him bouncing up and down on the seating area. Queue the back-story about why they are set to travel; a letter had been sent to Layton by his former mentor, Dr. Schrader, about the Elysian Box, an evil contraption that leads to death upon being cracked open by anyone, including Schrader himself. But with the box looking so alluring, how could anyone resist its wiles? Rumour had it that people had indeed been having trouble keeping their hands off it as a string of deaths were apparently now building up...Most of this was skipped the first time through, but the introductory part is really worth watching in full since the Professor Layton series is all about lengthy story-telling strings that convey the purpose behind the on-going exploits. Considering this is definitely not a rudimentary brain-teasing puzzle game it is indeed essential to follow the plot.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

The main video sections are all fully-voiced, as are the majority of key introduction sequences, but do not think you have gotten away from the reading aspect too easily, since there is definitely a lot of reading to be done in the 'non-essential' parts that are unvoiced, as well as the puzzles' extremely wordy instructions themselves. As this is merely a taster of the full game, rather than have play-testers become too fidgety during the starting sequence, Level-5 has thrown in some interaction in terms of the first 'warm-up' puzzle, which asks users to simply find a key somewhere in the room both Luke and Layton are in after leaving the train…A few seconds later, after discovering its obvious hiding place, players are once more taught (as in Curious Village) that by tapping the on-screen shoe icon in the bottom-right of the screen you can activate the walk function, which itself is carried out by touching one of the subsequent arrows that appear around the current locale. At this early stage in the game the only option open is that of leaving the room and heading into the hallway, where an attempt to depart from the building takes place. However, there is somewhat of a hindrance in the form of the map for the next location being firstly all muddled up and secondly missing key parts.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Here comes Puzzle 001 of around 150! Each time a puzzle starts a number appears, for instance it states 10/10 on this first puzzle. These are like lives/points and each time you get a puzzle wrong, the number gradually reduces bit-by-bit. The screen following that numerical indication has an explanation of the puzzle itself on the top screen, whilst the touch-screen contains the map, complete with four tiny squares missing. Players are entitled to use three hints or just jump straight in, choosing the correct missing pieces from a selection at the lower part of the touch-screen. Once sure the answer is right, hit the answer button and Luke or Layton will inform you if you were indeed right. Upon getting the right answer, another short movie sequence kicks in and the duo arrives at the old man's house, sparking off Puzzle 002, this time one worth 15 points. Players are faced with ten different apartment windows and have the task of finding which one can see light, a flag AND hear music…or something similar (this was the part where rushing HAD to be done in order to beat the timed-demo's clock). Again the basic idea is the same as the first puzzle, except the answer must be found this time by drawing a circle around whichever window believed to be the right one. For anyone that figured out the answer, the next sequence was all about learning to use Layton's briefcase where notes are made, puzzles can be replayed and the game progress so far can be saved.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Final Thoughts

Professor Layton and Pandora's Box looks to be more of the same puzzle-adventure goodness found in Curious Village, except with closer ties between the story side and the brain-teasers included. With download content planned in addition to the 150 initial puzzles, Europe's proposed September release date cannot come quick enough!









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Smilie I want this game, NOW!

The former top user was Keven! You'd probably give birth to yourself 1000 times over until you sprout wings to fly away into the fading sun, that or you'd just turn into a lesbian. Who knows @_@ - L, 12/06/09

Definitely, me too. Curious Village was a fantastic game and this expands upon things much further, mixing the storyline into the actual puzzles better than before, thus removing the disjointed feel sometimes felt with the first game.

It's also good to see Nintendo aligning the US and European releases this time round.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Hey in that 1st screenshot that guy looks awfully familiar.... Echoes? o_O;

Diablo II
"I'll make weapons from your bones!" - The Smith Paladin: I will cleanse this wilderness. Deckard Cain: Stay a while and listen!


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