Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Adam Riley 14.10.2012

Review for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask on Nintendo 3DS

It is quite shocking to think that Professor Hershel Layton is about to embark on his fifth video game adventure. For Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, though, it is his first ever time venturing into the world of three dimensions. With the series proving to be so wonderful on the Nintendo DS, does the transition to 3DS have any negative impact on the formula? Honestly, considering it originally started life on DS, prepare for a merely familiar feel with a smidgen of 3D flavour mixed in. Far from being a negative point, however, since drastic changes are not required to what has become a highly reliable series!

Level-5 has been criticised by some for resting on its laurels, becoming increasingly complacent following the mega-hit of Professor Layton and the Curious Village, milking the intriguing series dry with subsequent Nintendo DS adventures, Professor Layton and Pandora's Box, Professor Layton and the Lost Future, as well as the first entry into a prequel trilogy, Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call. However, from four games there have been three sets of 9/10 and even a 10/10 for the last of the original trilogy, which points slightly towards there being a winning formula somewhere in there! Before growing too tired of the same old look, though, the 3DS arrived on the scene and the development team quickly shifted focus to make its fifth attempt for the new platform in the hope of re-igniting the flame amongst players. Whilst arriving at the launch of the 3DS in Japan, everyone else had to patiently wait for the series, which started its Western life late anyway, to naturally progress on these shores, hence its arrival now, over a year and a half later.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask on Nintendo 3DS

Changes are abound in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, but purely on the aesthetics side. The first extremely noticeable matter is that of polygonal character models appearing, which take some getting used to at the start, but with the 3D slider ramped up to maximum, the level of depth brought to the Sherlock Holmes-esque tale of mystery and intrigue would not have been quite as impressive if the characters and surrounding scenery had been flat sprites as in the past four entries. The manner in which areas are scoured has also taken on a new flavour, with the need to tap randomly all over being replaced in favour of a spyglass that can be dragged all over, with an orange light appearing when passing over a place or object of interest. This could be a hint coin for helping out with the 150+ conundrums littering the game, a secret puzzle, a random hidden item that gets added to Layton's personal collection or even a trigger for an extra piece of commentary from the characters currently in tow. Not only this, a blue light can appear, indicating that an extra zoom can be initiated to uncover people hiding away that hold oft-pertinent knowledge required for the progress of the story.

That is about it in terms of 3DS features, since as mentioned before Miracle Mask was not purposely built for Nintendo's new portable. The heart of the game is in the fantastically woven tale and its collection of mind-bending puzzles. Taking place one year after the events of both Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call in Misthallery on DS and the movie, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, Hershel Layton receives a letter from an old school friend named Angela Ledore, who bequeath's the delight of a new mystery unto Hershel, his assistant Emmy Altava, and wannabe assistant, the little flat-capped cockney himself, Luke Triton. A fiend is terrorising Monte d'Or, prophesying that the city will have destruction brought upon it due to the immensity of his mask's power. After witnessing city folk becoming petrified -- literally turned into stone -- the Professor starts his mission to find the Masked Gentleman and bring him to justice. To do this it is not merely a case of traipsing around the new city, questioning the populace and cracking the code repeatedly, with the setting also heading back to when Hershel Layton was a young 17-year-old schoolboy disinterested in any archaeologically related shenanigans. Playing both in the present and the future is essential to find the root cause of the current situation, using intellectual prowess throughout.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask on Nintendo 3DS

One personal love of the Layton series is the way the Professor himself actually speaks, with his diction being of the highest order and the breadth of vocabulary used truly grandiose -- how many can honestly say that they know 'insouciance' is equivalent to 'insolence'? Reading through the in-game Journal, where Layton shares extra thoughts during the journey, is an absolute joy and leaves a feeling of contemplation as to how well the tales could work in full novel format. On top of that, there are 'Episodes' that work rather like 'Skits' from the Tales of RPG line, where extra scenes can be viewed after certain events have taken place in the story's timeline; the same goes for the 'Mysteries' tab in the menu, where current unsolved aspects of the overarching mystery are referenced in more detail for those wanting to benefit from the experience by reading up on every tiny shred of story available.

The balance between gripping story and crafty puzzles is as expertly achieved as in the past two iterations, as is the integration of both contrasting elements; no longer is there much disparity between conundrum themes and the plot elements covered at the time. Level-5 has prided itself on offering up plenty of extras as well to ensure a much-needed break from the main action is up for grabs, and Miracle Mask is no different. Rabbit Show is a nintendogs-like animal training feature whereby players must befriend a cute little bunny and encourage it to learn moves in preparation for an eventual show; Toy Robot involves guiding said metallic play-thing around mazes in three-step movements alone, aiming to avoid obstacles and eventually land perfectly on the finish line; Shop, finally, is an engrossing mini-game that requires items of differing colour and type to be placed in specific patterns to entice customers to purchase every single item in one shopping session.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask on Nintendo 3DS

There seems to be a stronger focus on logic puzzles in this fifth Layton adventure, but whereas the supremely popular 100 Floors on iOS devices resorts to cheap tactics to keep the difficulty level high towards the latter stages, the collective brains of Akihiro Hino of Level-5, his smart staff, and the man that inspired Hino-san to create the Professor Layton series in the first place, Professor Akira Tago, ensure that each and every brainteaser found within is never completely indecipherable or, basically, unfair. Working through the beautifully presented tale, uncovering all the delightful intricacies of the plot and not only finishing off all of the in-game puzzles, but working through the 365 one-a-day-for-a-year downloadable ones, will keep Layton fans overjoyed until the Professor's next appearance, be it in the form of Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney or Professor Layton and the Azran Legacies.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Level-5 has answered its critics once more and delivered a truly splendid puzzle adventure effort for the fifth time in a row. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask may not take full advantage of the 3D elements of the Nintendo 3DS, but it proves to be yet another stunning mix of intriguing story and brain teasing conundrums, all wrapped up with the usual gorgeous presentation expected from the series. Puzzle fans should not be without this latest masterpiece.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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