developed by Level-5/published by Nintendo/2009.08.24
1 Player (3 save slots)/Flash ROM/Nintendo DS
Professor Layton and his peppy sidekick Luke are back in their 2nd grand adventure for the Nintendo DS. This time they’re hot on the trail of the Elysian Box, an ornamental artifact said to (gulp) kill anyone who dares open it. The Professor gets a letter from an old colleague about the box and, sensing something is amiss, he and Luke soon discover the old man’s body – with the Elysian Box nowhere to be found. The letter included a mysterious ticket (destination unknown) aboard the Molentary Express, which is where the investigation starts to pick up steam.
The Layton games are based on the puzzle books created by Akira Tago, who also designed some brand new puzzles for the video games. They use stylus input only, with the player tapping on characters to begin conversations and on arrows on the map to move around. It’s a very simple control set up that just about anyone should be comfortable with, including people who normally never play video games. And thanks to the game’s simple progression (talk to characters, solve puzzles, move around, repeat) the game is easy enough for anyone to complete from start to finish. As usual, if you get stumped you can buy hints using hint coins hidden like Easter Eggs in the storybook-like background illustrations.
While the game does present the player with an enjoyable mystery story and a fun cast of characters, the real meat and potatoes are the game’s 150 puzzles. They range in difficulty, with many having immediately obvious solutions, while others can be truly vexing requiring a mixture of trial and error and dumb luck. There’s a couple of puzzles with trick questions that were slightly annoying, but on the whole the puzzles are well done. There seems to be less logic puzzles in this one compared to the first game, with more puzzles that require you to move pieces (be they pegs on a board, chess pieces, or block mazes).
The Diabolical Box throws a few new ideas into the mix with some mini games you play on the side, that are generally more enjoyable than the furniture arrangement in the first game. The first is a fat little hamster (with a positively grating voice over – and yes, it speaks English) that you must coax into exercising by placing objects into a box. The hamster will move towards certain objects, others will cause him to run in the opposite direction, and more – and as you collect these objects (usually as rewards for solving puzzles) he’ll eventually lose enough weight that he can help you find hidden hint coins in the background.
Another mini game requires you to spot three differences in photos of the settings. When you find all three inconsistencies, you’ll find an extra puzzle to solve in that location. Of course, you’ll need to acquire all the camera parts and assemble them properly before you can begin this mini game.
The third mini game uses a tea set and ingredients. The player can mix different ingredients to brew different teas. You experiment by mixing three of the ten ingredients at a time, so there are many different flavors to be found. About half way through the game, you’ll find that the townspeople you encounter are thirsty for only a specific blend, and if you have the right one you’ll eventually be rewarded.
If there’s one thing I didn’t enjoy as much about this game compared to the first, it would be the story’s conclusion, which didn’t quite add up. That said, the game leaves you with a warm feeling and takes you to more places than the first (you won’t spend much time on the train), and it lasts longer as a result. The production values are also top notch; the artwork, music, and animated cinematic scenes are simply fantastic. Some of the puzzles are based on classics which have been around for centuries which were cool to see. All things considered, Professor Layton & The Diabolical Box is an enjoyable and relaxing game to play.
Quick Run Down
- More than 150 puzzles to solve
- Better mini games
- User-friendly controls
- Charming art style and music
- 20 hours long
- Free weekly downloadable puzzles
- Unlocks content in 1st game
- A couple puzzles are trick questions
- Less logic puzzles this time around
- Lots of backtracking if you’re a completionist
- Conclusion less satisfying than 1st game
One Sentence Review: The Diabolical Box provides hours of entertaining puzzles wrapped in an engaging enigma.
One Word Review: Relaxing.
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