Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 08.11.2008

Review for Professor Layton and the Curious Village on Nintendo DS

The PC adventure genre has slowly been making its way onto the Nintendo DS, either in the form of classic ports (CSI: Dark Motives, Runaway: Dream of the Turtle, and even Broken Sword next year) or newly fashioned entries that draw from the genre and are akin to the games of yore that dazzled fans the world over (Hotel Dusk, Another Code) all thanks to its handy touch-screen inputting method. However, rather than being the sheep, following the rest of the pack, Level 5 has dropped its obsession with RPGs for a short time, take a slightly different route in melding the world of traditional adventuring with brain teasing puzzles. But do the two styles prove to be a juxtaposition that works or is it more like a clash of personalities?

The game begins with the introduction of the unusual Professor Layton and his young assistant, Luke, as they make their way to the curious village of St. Mystere, a place where puzzles and brain-teasers are commonplace and mystery is somewhat of an everyday occurrence. A wealthy baron has just passed away and his will revealed that an elusive treasure is hidden away in the depths of the village. Therefore, the late baron's family bequeaths the task of unravelling the various riddles and cracking the case wide open to the renowned archaeologist and puzzle expert Layton, along with his trusty young associate. Rather than merely having to deal with this one request alone, though, Layton stumbles upon the suspicious death of another member of the family. Could conspiracy be afoot?

Visually everything is presented in a manner that most will find quite reminiscent of the works of Hayao Miyazaki or the Studio Ghibli collection (Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and so on). There are several hand-drawn, animated video sequences from Production IG (the company that most recently worked with Nintendo for Wario Land: The Shake Dimension) that come complete with extremely impressive voice acting. Lines are delivered with such gusto and the scenes are so intricately detailed, that more often than not it seems like a proper movie production and deserving of being viewed on a larger screen than the DS's. In fact, even when the scene moves on to the static in-game sections, the high quality of the art is retained, giving off an air of days gone by in Good Ol' England thanks to its 19th Century setting, accompanied by an ambient soundtrack full of mesmerising tunes and pieces that stir numerous emotions during play. On the whole, Layton exudes a plentiful supply of charm and class that other Third Party DS efforts have severely lacked so far.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Curious Village on Nintendo DS

The game itself is professionally balanced with a sufficient amount of the background story being laid before players before they are thrown into the onslaught of puzzles packed into the product. Level 5 has managed to get the mix almost perfect, with thankfully not too much prose so as to overload the more casual crowd and turn proceedings into somewhat of a chore, with lengthy reading sections between puzzles. That balance would be worthless if the gameplay mechanic was less than capable, though, yet everything is controlled seamlessly via the stylus and touch-screen, whilst puzzles also make good use of the dual-screen set-up, with a particular question normally spanning both screens, allowing for notes to be made on the lower screen before inputting the final answer. Curious Village works like a traditional point-and-click PC effort in that players use the stylus for navigation. However, movement around the various areas is done by tapping on a shoe icon in the bottom corner, then choosing the direction in which you wish to move, as opposed to the game being a completely free roaming affair.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Curious Village on Nintendo DS

Once in a new area, gamers are able to tap on any part of the scenery, which results in one of several things happening. Sometimes either Luke or Layton will share their thoughts on the item touched, other times the resulting action will throw up hidden coins that can unlock hints during puzzles, and then there are the occasions when an actual brain-teaser will be uncovered. Players are encouraged to converse with locals and gather more information on their journey so that progress can be made through the adventure. As for the meat of the game, the copious amount of conundrums can sometimes have a tendency to make your brain ache...but in a stimulate fashion, of course!

Level 5's Akihiro Hino-san, President of the Company and Producer of this game, was inspired to make a title such as this due to his love of Professor Akira Tago of Chiba University's 'Head Gymnastics' books, which have sold over twelve million copies in Japan alone. The ones adapted for this DS offering range from very basic puzzles, like following a set of directions backwards to figure out the house you would have started from, to logical ones where you must work out how often a certain set of numbers appears on a 12-hour digital clock, or trying to decipher word-based dilemmas. Other early examples include those of a visual variety, such as finding a house that is not connected to others by road, or playing with positional concepts, for instance moving match-sticks to show what a dog looks like when run over by a car, or finding the hat with a brim the same length as its height. The sheer diversity of the puzzle styles means boredom never sets in and the changing difficulty levels prevent complacency from creeping in and allowing veterans to fly through to the end with the greatest of ease. Once again, as stated earlier, the overall balance has been struck immaculately.

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Curious Village on Nintendo DS

For those worried that, as with Brain Training, the appeal of Professor Layton may wear off very quickly due to conundrums repeatedly cropping up, fear not. The game draws from the wealth of Tago-san's puzzles (more than 2,000 of them) featured in his multi-million selling series of 'Head Gymnastics' books. With 130 found within 'Curious Village', all of which have been revised for the DS format by Professor Tago himself, thirty of which are also brand new, plus the numerous extra brain teasers that can be downloaded via the online Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, there should be enough to keep any gamer's needs satiated until Nintendo Europe decides when best to release the other two entries in this trilogy - Professor Layton and Pandora's Box, and Professor Layton and the Last Time Travel. Does this deserve to be the major Christmas hit Nintendo Europe is hoping for? Most definitely. If you have not imported the US version already, rush out and show your support for this game right away. You will NOT be disappointed!

Screenshot for Professor Layton and the Curious Village on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Level-5's first Nintendo DS effort is a sight to behold, perfectly marrying the addictive qualities of brain teasing puzzles with a delightfully mysterious tale that entertains throughout. It may have been a long wait for the European release, but those patient few out there will be rewarded with a game that exudes pure quality.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (66 Votes)

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


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