November 15, 2012

A Puzzling Mystery


Lasting First Impressions of Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Developed by Level-5  |  Published by Nintendo

78548A_3DS_PLMM_Titlesheet-NOCL copy» Professor Layton has, over the years, become a household name in homes with a Nintendo DS.  While there have been 4 games previous to this new title, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, this is the first game in the series developed exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS handheld.  I have been a big fan of the previous games since the core gameplay of all of them is solving intriguing puzzles, and I love a good puzzle.  Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask does not deviate from this tried and true formula and for good reason.  It works.

In this new entry, the ever puzzling Professor and his protégé, Luke, travel to the town of Monte D’or in search of the Miracle Mask said to have created the city. When they arrive, they encounter a terrifying ‘dark miracle’, performed by a mysterious masked man, that turns several townsfolk to stone.  Thus begins the mystery that the Professor and Luke will set out to solve.

As with other games in the series, players navigate a map of the city and search the area for new puzzles to solve and clues to uncovering the mystery.  The story itself is really just window dressing for these games since the core is all about solving some rather ingenious puzzles. Some of these puzzles will be written as a direct link to the story while others are just there for fun.  Professor Layton has always been a rather silly way of telling a story but it’s still fun and the puzzles can get quite tricky.

Miracle Mask Screen 1Miracle Mask, being the first title created for the 3DS, has done a good job taking the series into the next dimension, but ultimately, the 3D doesn’t add anything to the game itself. It’s really just there because it can be and that’s what the hardware does.  I was hoping to see some new types of puzzles that take advantage of the third dimension, but that is not the case.  In many ways, the 3D is just there for no other reason than the hardware supports it.

Like the Pokémon series of games, Professor Layton isn’t about new updated graphics as this game looks just like any other in the series.  The joy of these games is in the variety of puzzles to solve, wrapped in a mystery.  Once puzzles have been solved, they are available to play again at anytime.  Level-5 has also promised that there will be a new puzzle available to download every day for a year, giving all players another 365 new puzzles to solve in addition to the 100+ puzzles in the game itself.

Miracle Mask screen 2There are also plenty of mini-games available as the story progresses and new items are found.  For example, early on, a robot puzzle is solved and now this robot is available as a mini-game with several challenging levels available.  Early in the story as well, Level-5 seemed to want to add something new to the series and included a small action level in which the player moves the Professor left and right by swiping the touch screen as he races through the streets on a horse after the Masked Man.  While this was fun, it did seem a little out of place for this series. I don’t know if there are more of these short “action” scenes later but it just seemed like a ploy to use the new 3D and make the game cool.  Unfortunately it just isn’t needed in this series. Players are not looking for an action game with Professor Layton, they are looking for puzzles to solve, nothing more.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is more of what players have come to love about this series and it stays true to its name.  All the quirkiness of the mystery are still here with numerous puzzles presented in silly and fun ways. Add to that daily puzzles for the next year and fans are in for a real puzzling treat.  As a fan of the previous titles in this series, I am not disappointed with the first entry onto the 3DS. I just wish the 3D has some reason for being there.

Level-5, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.


About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.


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