May's Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 04.09.2011

Review for May

Earlier this year Cubed3 had the chance to try out an early version of an upcoming Professor Layton-style adventure, May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville, and recently caught up with the development team to discuss the project in further detail. Now, with finished product in hand, it is time for the final verdict. After being on the UK shelves for a couple of weeks, should people be snapping this up like crazy and should US gamers be eagerly anticipating its October release? Let us see if the mystery can be unravelled…

V5 Play should be commended for how well it has pieced together its first Nintendo DS title, May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville, because it truly is an almost mirror-image of Level-5’s immensely popular Professor Layton series of puzzle adventures. From the lilting French-style themes and quirky tunes, to the visual layout with character profiles at the bottom and a floating May head on the top screen’s map to depict where you are moving to, right through to even the Curious Village-esque setting of Dragonville and the wonderfully animated segues filled with voice acting. Everything smells very strongly like a plagiaristic effort, and yet the reason for heaping praise on the developer and not cursing it for laziness is because whilst in appearance and style it mimics the multi-million selling set of DS releases from Japan, at its core May’s Mysteries is a highly engaging mix of puzzle styles from across many decades that are still popular today, bringing together a whole slew of varying types of brain-teaser, reactionary-based puzzle, and clever conundrums that would appeal in any form. It picks the best elements from all over the place and bundles them into one surprisingly fresh package.

What certainly helps is that May’s Mysteries also has an intriguing story attached, with a selection of characters that manage to draw the player’s attention and keep interest high throughout. After leaping to safety from the hot air balloon they were riding along in due to finding it was suddenly bellowing dark smoke, Tery Stery wanders off to find out where it has finally crash-landed, only to leave his sister, the young May Stery of the game’s title, wondering where on Earth he has gone to. Stumbling upon a place called Dragonville and spying some rather rude graffiti on a nearby wall that refers to the town’s mayor, Arthur Doyle, May enters out of curiosity, believing her troublesome sibling, the aforementioned Tery, to be within the confines of the city walls. From thereon in, however, May becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of Dragonville and must not only rescue her brother, but also uncover the mystery of the unusual occurrences in the place where, oddly enough, ballooning and digging are forbidden practices and the inhabitants do not seem quite right in the head.

Screenshot for May's Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville on Nintendo DS

Puzzles range from writing a simple answer to a question using the highly accurate hand-writing recognition feature on the touch-screen, to working out quick mathematical queries, following musical patterns by tapping along with the stylus in-time, sliding tiles to complete pictures, and even finding items in hidden object scenarios and completing Tangram dissection puzzles. There are so many different puzzle types that there definitely is something for everyone's tastes. What may seem like a minor drawback, however, is when there is a lack of explanation after solving a particular puzzle. A very pleasing aspect of the Professor Layton trilogy is that when a correct answer has been provided there is a brief ‘show-and-tell’ for those that guessed the right response and wish to know the proper path to the solution. In May’s Mysteries this is not always the case, with May sometimes muttering a partial explanation during her follow-up conversation with whomever gave her the task at hand. Part of this, though, may well be linked to the fact that cheating could come into play when using the ‘Skip Puzzle’ function (at the sacrifice of 15 hint points; hints being the key to solving some of the more awkward puzzles), skipping to the conversation with the answer and going back to complete it afterwards. Either way, it is only a small quibble that does not detract from the main game.

To keep players motivated, each puzzle comes with a target amount of points that can be added to the game’s running score total that reduces slightly when a wrong answer is submitted. There is also the opportunity to play special extra puzzles that unlock as you visit new locations or meet unfamiliar faces, all of which allow you to gain extra hint coins for use further down the line. May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville definitely succeeds in drawing players into the adventure with its intriguing tale, impressive implementation of the traditional point-and-click PC mechanic, and massive number and variety of puzzles included. With around 20-25 hours needed to fully work through this, a whole host of weird and wonderful characters to meet and places to visit, as well as a fantastic atmosphere throughout thanks to the visuals and wonderful soundtrack, this pays homage to Level-5’s Professor Layton games in the best possible way, whilst also standing on its own two feet to become a must-buy for fans of this genre. The fact that V5 Play wants to do a sequel if this first game is successful enough should drive home the point: buy this game and support the cause!

Screenshot for May's Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Many people may glance at May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville and immediately dismiss it as a poor man’s Professor Layton. To do this, though, would be foolish and mean missing out on a highly impressive homage to Level-5’s masterpiece series. V5 Play has delivered a superb mix of differing puzzle styles, drawing from logic conundrums, rhythm-based efforts and even hidden object games to add a heap of variety, whilst also crafting a story that is laced with intrigue and dark humour at times, keeping the player’s attention until the closing credits. May’s Mysteries is a superb debut for what will hopefully be a long-running series.


V5 Play







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date 05.08.2011   North America release date June 2011   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   


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