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Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Curiouser and curiouser.

Many are visual. Counting the triangles in a convoluted pattern, rearranging blocks so a ball can escape, drawing a shape onto the background. They start off very simple, and then become moderately tough. It's not until near the end that you'll start needing the clues, but it does get really tough. For instance:

"The numbers below follow a certain rule. What is the missing number?


Good luck with that one.

At some points I found myself remembering algebra to solve puzzles, although I suspect I was missing a simpler route. And what a joy to play a DS game with a notepad by my side, for scribbling out ideas. In fact, wonderfully, for most of the puzzles the DS lets you doodle on the screen, meaning you can make notes, draw out sums, sketch 3D shapes, etc, while on the move.

So what's not so great? Well, there are a couple of puzzles that just don't make sense. One in particular is plain, flat-out wrong. But it is only two out of 135, for perspective. Frustrating though. Also, toward the end the number of puzzles available dries up, leaving you trudging around the town looking for the few that remain in a bit of a needle/haystack situation. And there's a bit too much reliance on sliding block puzzles later on, with the fresh, wordy challenges disappearing. (I stress, these are those Japanese wooden block puzzles, rather than something as ghastly as a sliding tile puzzle where you rearrange the flat discs to make a picture of a rabbit, or some such bloody rubbish. In fact, there is one such puzzle, but brilliantly it subverts the form, as if mocking all the idiotic "adventure" "games" that think them a valid inclusion.

There are too many of these puzzles, but thankfully there's many more varied.

There's also some early problems with the weekly Wi-Fi puzzle download, with many players reporting that the download fails for them midway through - it did for us too. But this, we are assured, is being looked into.

The other thing that bugged me, and maybe this is just me, is the voice of Luke. During the utterly gorgeous cut-scenes (did I mention how gorgeous they are?) the characters are wonderfully voiced, with the exception of the kid character, who come to think of it doesn't really serve any purpose at all. It's one of those over-enthused older-woman-as-young-boy voices that squeak out of the average CBBC cartoon, and to me sounded far too much like Josie Bloody Lawrence for my teeth to bear. The whole story would have made a lot more sense if it were just Prof Layton on his own, removing the somewhat troubling question about why he was travelling with a pre-pubescent boy (to whom he wasn't related) in an unknown village for days on end. (Although a lot of the puzzles were predicated on Layton and Luke asking one another... Um, replace him with a talking cat!)

But tish and fipsy to such complaints. This is utter loveliness, embodying everything the DS has come to mean to me. Puzzles, high spirits, and an embracing of beautiful 2D artwork over complicated 3D fuss. Wonderfully, the ending - which is entirely satisfying and complete - promises that there will be more. In fact, finish it and one of the features unlocked is a place to put in a password (unique to your DS) that will be revealed in the next game in the series. Meta! It is, in fact, the beginning of a trilogy, which is a fact that fills my heart with glee. Two more of these! Hurrah! The next is to be called Professor Layton and The Devil's Box (ooer) and is out now in Japan. Oh, and weird news while we're distracted from the review: there are rumours of a live-action film based on the characters.

Where were we? Oh yes, a really lovely, surprisingly dark, and utterly engrossing collection of varied puzzles. It's getting a 9, and if you tried to argue I should have given it 8 you'd be right on every technical level. But then I'd lift up the top of my skull and show you all the happy it's put inside my head, and then you'd realise you were wrong.

9 / 10

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