Review by paleselan

Reviewed: 11/05/12

Layton 3DS is missing the 3 in 3D

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is the fifth game in Level 5’s Professor Layton franchise, and the first game in the franchise to release for the Nintendo 3DS. Some are asking whether the game is worth playing. To that question, I say that the game is wonderful. Others are asking whether the game is made taking advantage of the 3DS’ capabilities. Unfortunately, to that question I can only answer negatively.

Although the fifth game released, Miracle Mask is actually the second game in the franchise’s timeline. This has both its benefits and hindrances on the game. The game does a great job displaying some of Layton’s history; and the backstory is a great addition to the mainline story. Furthermore, Layton’s interactions with Luke showcase the affection that the two characters share. Unfortunately, other than the few main characters, the rest are mostly forgettable. I still remember some of the characters from the first and third Layton games, even though I played those games years ago. As opposed to the previous entries in the franchise, the characters in Miracle Mask aren’t nearly as memorable and they are quite forgettable.

The story itself is interesting and unique. Half the game takes place in the present, and the other half takes place 18 years ago in Layton’s past. The story blends itself together fluidly, and it never feels like the game is skipping back and forth. Unfortunately, the major climax at the very end of the game is quite predictable and only after the credits does a cliff-hanger appear hinting at the next game.

Miracle Mask is a mix of 3D and 2D style. The environment and cut-scenes are all 2D and most of the time the characters are as well. Rarely, the characters are given a 3D makeover and take on a three-dimensional persona. The 3D models look out of place when the rest of the game is completely 2D. It seemed like the developers were just trying to make use of the 3D technology within the 3DS. Honestly, the 3D models take the player out of the experience because it accounts for such a small amount of the overall game.

The rest of the game looks great, though. The game still holds the European style from the previous four games. The hand-drawn animations look stunning and aren’t ever boring, even after the fifth game. The music is top-notch as well, and sounds like it was taken straight out of the streets of France.

When not engaging with the story, the player is tasked with solving 135 different puzzles. These puzzles are standard fare for a Layton game. The puzzles were each gratifying to solve, and the game staggered the difficulty well enough so that a newcomer to the franchise could latch on to everything the game has to offer. Unfortunately, after over a hundred outings, puzzles can begin to get a little tedious. Once towards the end of the game, it seems like the game is just going through the motions. I fail to understand why the developers didn’t take advantage of the 3D capabilities when designing some of the puzzle. I feel like some perspective puzzles and sliding puzzles would be much more entertaining with a 3D makeover. These developer decisions lead me to wonder why Miracle Mask is even on the 3DS instead of the original DS.

Fortunately, the game offers up some distractions in between puzzle solving. There are three mini games that are available throughout the game. Although none of the mini-games are anything amazing, they’re a great distraction. Additionally, the game throws in some story “missions” that detour from the standard puzzle-solving formula. There is a horse chase part, a dungeon exploration part, and an investigation part of the story. Although this may seem out of place when discussing outside of context, they’re great distractions from the normal gameplay and the developers did a great job developing these parts of the game. This shows how good Level 5 is at pacing its games. The gradual learning curve is perfect for all players. Furthermore, the puzzles and sequences in throughout the game are a perfect length for a portable title. The game can be entertaining whether sitting on a couch playing, or sitting on the bus playing. It’s perfect for a portable.

Overall, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is a must-play for all fans of the franchise and the genre. Additionally, although it is the fifth game in the franchise, this is a great starting point for newcomers to the series and a great continuation of the series for veterans. Unfortunately, the change to 3D wasn’t very successful, or much of a change at all, for that matter. I wish more work was put into implementing 3D mechanics into the puzzles. Those problems aside, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is still a great game and is recommended to every single 3DS owner.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (US, 10/28/12)

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