Track down the Masked Gentleman and crack the case in Nintendo's brain-teasing adventure.
Better late than never is a great way to describe Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, the newest puzzle-solving adventure from developer Level-5 and Nintendo. This charming 3DS game was actually a launch title in Japan, when the system debuted in February 2011. After reading about it for well over a year, we're finally able to crack the case. Was the wait worth it? Absolutely.
Broken into its most basic elements, this Layton plays almost exactly like previous entries in the series, as the good Professor, his partner in crime, Luke, and assistant Emma explore a European-inspired world populated by a host of colorfully eccentric characters while solving a plethora of head-scratching brain-teasers. To that end, you can expect hundreds of challenging logic puzzles, each one trickier than the next. Stuck? It's fine, as valuable hint coins, found through exploring, inch you one step closer towards the solutions you seek.
That said, a few key features make the game stand out, starting with the brand-new plot. This time around, team Layton visits a Las Vegas style carnival city called Monte d'Or, plagued by a white-clad figure known as the Masked Gentleman, who possesses a Miracle Mask known to hold great power. What ensues is a gripping and at times humorous narrative, giving players a unique look at Professor Layton as a youngster.
On top of that, Level-5 retained the animated cut scenes that have become the series' trademark, but now the environments are in 3D. Although it's a bit weird to see, considering our experience with past Layton games, this change in dimension does an excellent job highlighting the glasses free 3D, which is by far one of the more impressive titles to make use of this feature. Everything, including Layton pointing his finger towards the screen after solving a puzzle, looks great, particularly the layers of depth during those aforementioned scenes. Considering the criticism Nintendo absorbed over the 3D when the handheld first debuted, this is cool to see.
What's more, you'll have no problem navigating the game world, dragging the magnifying glass across the touch screen for points of interest and then tapping the desired objects to investigate. Finally, Miracle Mask comes with a handful of entertaining mini games, one of which asks you to train a cute rabbit so it learns tricks and returns to the circus. A mild distraction, but it's still worth a look.
Throw in a year of downloadable puzzles, one per day starting October 28, and Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask will definitely satisfy your demand for quality puzzle gameplay. If anything, it'll inspire you to track down older Layton games on DS. Suffice to say, both first and longtime players are in for a treat.
Review copy provided by Nintendo.
What's Hot: Professor Layton as a young man, hundreds of puzzles, useful hint system, excellent 3D effects, easily navigable world, free puzzles for a year.
What's Not: That hint system also makes the game too easy, though you don't have to use it.