Review by BWoodhouse

"Not Exactly Elementary"

“Raring to try another puzzle? Ooh, nothing gets my heart racing like a passionate man!” coos the corpulent innkeeper, laying bare her ulterior motive. Usually a proper English gentleman like Professor Layton would politely talk his tophat out the door. But this smitten woman has the promise of a puzzle. As a world-renowned riddle solver, the Professor just can't resist.

Of course, her ordeal concerns food; our admirer wants to take her large, irregularly shaped sandwich on the go. Can you figure out how many slices are necessary to fit it into a rectangular container? Then again, every odd villager in little St. Mystere presents a bevy of brainteasers, so your critical thinking skills better extend beyond spatial reasoning. As you point-and-click Professor Layton about the rustic town, he'll find 120+ puzzles covering trick questions, algebra, geometry, word problems, optical illusions, and logical observations. Plus there's a new one to download each week. Some are traditional, perhaps recognizable, mathematical musings. Like the water pitcher problem; the simplest variation requires you to evenly divide eight quarts of liquid, using containers that hold eight, five, and three quarts. Another is the N-queens puzzle, where N chess queens must be placed on an NxN board in such a way that they can't attack one another. And one-line drawings, where a complex picture is traced without picking up the pencil or recovering any lines. It will get tougher at the end, but all the problems can be reasoned out with enough time and effort, or through buying hints when you're really stumped. Advanced studies in probability, graph theory, and combinatorics won't hurt either.

Professor Layton and his pint-sized apprentice Luke did not come to crack the ordinary problems of the proletariat, though. The town's benefactor, Baron Augustus Reinhold, recently expired, leaving behind a mystery of an inheritance. To anyone who can find his Golden Apple will go the entirety of his sizable fortune. Except nobody has heard of this 24-karat fruit before. The Baron's snotty widow has called upon our selfless heroes to locate the item on her behalf, but it won't be a leisurely search. Shortly after the pair arrives, a murder occurs. Rumors fly about a rash of twilight abductions. And a ghastly, twisted tower looms over the disorder. Only Professor Layton can uncover the numerous secrets of St. Mystere.

That's the main issue with Professor Layton and the Curious Village, because only Professor Layton will uncover the numerous secrets of St. Mystere. As you reach the end of this approximately ten hour journey, the brainiac begins to simply lay out the truth behind each and every felony. Parts of this game can be passively enjoyed. Cutscenes animated by respected studio Production I.G bring the Professor and Luke to life, complete with British accents. The clean and simple 2-D visuals take you to an atmosphere that feels like turn of the century England, in what ends up being a bittersweet story. But after performing all those mental gymnastics, I would've liked the opportunity to put the final two and two together.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/24/08

Game Release: Professor Layton and the Curious Village (US, 02/10/08)

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