Last Level Press

Review: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

It has been a long time, and I mean an incredibly long time, when a demo I played in a store made me want to not only obtain a game but also the system for it. To have it be the first game I’ve played in a now long-standing series makes it all the more astonishing, and makes me question why I had been holding off on buying and playing prior entries. That system was the Nintendo 3DS, and the game was Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask.

The game starts with archaeologist, gentleman, and avid puzzle-lover, Professor Layton entering the desert city of Monte d’Or to see an old friend from his past about a mysterious person dubbing himself the Masked Gentleman, a fashionable though mischievous man who is causing trouble in the city with a powerful artifact, called the Mask of Chaos, through miracles, such as bringing paintings to life or turning people to stone. Together with his apprentice Luke Triton, assistant Emmy Altava, and a wide cast of quirky characters, Professor Layton must stop the Masked Gentleman before the city is destroyed as the “miracles” escalate.

But, you know, no pressure.  

Professor Layton’s first outing into three dimensions could be a bit jarring for longtime fans of the series when the previous four entries of the series were entirely 2D in art style, but the transition from a wonderful animated cutscene to the 3D models for the characters, and superb integration of said character models in a colorful city square, is beyond what you might expect from a first outing for an already established series, as well as a game that was among the launch titles for the 3DS in Japan. For me, this was a selling point that made me want to finally get a 3DS and finally retire my old DSLite.

While I have to admit that there were only a few truly standout earworms for me, this game delivers with a great orchestral soundtrack. Despite the emphasis that this game takes place in England, the characters are English, and the baffling logic as to why there is an expansive desert region on the island of Great Britain, the main theme of Monte d’Or seems to take more cues from French accordion music… and yet it works.  

“…I’m sorry, what?”

Not only does it work, it just feels appropriate for what is basically a Las Vegas  stand-in.   The other tune you’ll hear most often is the one that plays when you’re solving actual puzzles. It’s not what I would call intrusive, but it certainly becomes background noise when you are truly stumped on a puzzle. Nevertheless, the soundtrack is charming, and is still pleasant to listen to. But if you’re one of those types who like to play games with no music, you should at least turn the volume up to hear the exceptional voice work.

The controls, as with previous installments, are fairly simplistic with a heavy emphasis on stylus use. The overworld is the sort of fair you would expect from old point-and-click adventure games as you click on the screen to interact with people, find collectable objects and Hint Coins, and have Layton, Luke, or Emmy give comments on whatever you click your magnifying glass on. There are a few instances where the 3D comes into play with some interactive puzzles but these are not the core of the game, which are the standard touchscreen puzzles that the series is known and lauded for. The game is what is expected of the series at this point while trying a few new things.

“Like making this cane…disappear!”

The backgrounds can be best described as eye candy with very few boring areas, which is to be expected with the primary setting being in a glitzy tourist destination. Whether you wish to use the full extent of the 3D while playing or simply have it turned off, you will not be disappointed by the environments you traverse. While the 2D backgrounds and art from previous entries have not been fully abandoned, the introduction of visual depth to the series has warranted some expected changes while still maintaining what fans could recognize as a Professor Layton game.

But, is it fun? Absolutely! If the mystery story making ties to Layton’s past and the present doesn’t keep you intrigued, the hours of puzzles definitely will. Disregarding any completionist urges to find all the collectable items and Hint Coins, or playing the mini puzzle games you obtain through the story’s progression, and if you’re as clever as the good professor, you’ll have at least a solid twelve hours of gameplay from the story alone. But including a year’s worth of puzzles you can download for free, the search for all collectibles, and finishing all the mini games, and want to complete all 150 puzzles within the game proper, you’ll have countless hours of enjoyment, well worth the full retail price.

If you’re new to the Professor Layton series like I am and you want a great game to give your 3DS some use before some bigger titles come out this year, this game is a good entry point, as the game is self-contained and has only a few references to prior games. If you’ve been playing the series since The Curious Village, you owe it to yourself to buy this game and even a 3DS if you want to see the series come to its completion with the final Professor Layton game, The Azran Legacies (working title). And, if you’re the sort who doesn’t enjoy puzzle games, thank you for reading.

Rating: 8.2

Visuals: 9
Audio: 8
Controls & Mechanics: 6
Atmosphere & Experience: 9
Entertainment Value: 9

  Consoles: Nintendo 3DS

  Developer: Level-5

  Publisher: Level 5/Nintendo

  Release Date (U.S.):  Oct 28, 2012   Release Date (U.K.):  Oct 26, 2012

  Release Date (JP):  Feb 26, 2011

Final Verdict:


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