Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Review

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The Professor Layton series has built a strong fan base with the fifth game in the series being released for Nintendo 3DS on October 28, 2012. Despite the series being around for roughly five years now – give or take two months – this was actually my first Professor Layton experience. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask continue the prequel trilogy that started with Professor Layton and the Last Specter. Other than continuing the overall story arc, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask also features a large set of logic puzzles and bonus content.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask begins with Professor Hershel Layton receiving a letter from an old friend. This letter details a set of dark miracles that a character known as the Masked Gentleman has been performing to terrorize the citizens of a town called Monte d’Or. Layton, Luke, and the professor’s assistant, Emmy set off for the carnival town to solve these dark mysteries.

Mystery is the best word to describe this story as you will be constantly unraveling details from the present and the past as well. You will learn plenty about Hershel Layton’s time as a teenager and plenty about his friends from that time. The story will jump back and forward between both periods of time, but isn’t hard to follow thanks to a lot of common elements. Elements like Layton’s high school friends and an ancient artifact known as the Mask of Chaos serve as a link to tie the story together.

You will learn about the story in a couple of ways. Of the two, the most prominent will be the conversations that occur during the game itself. These segments are split up with some including voice acting and other segments forcing you to read text. A lot of important details are revealed during those segments; however, you will experience most of the game’s major plot points during amazing anime cut-scenes. I enjoyed both of these methods, and the story as a whole, even after being able to predict most of the major twists, including the identity of the Masked Gentleman. I am very intrigued by the entire series now thanks to this game’s story. The great writing, believable characters, and overall emotion kept my interest until the very end. Of course, to uncover the story you must do some investigating, which includes solving a lot of puzzles and examining a number of locales.

The city of Monte d’Or is represented by a map on the touch screen which allows you the ability to travel between locales. The location that you are investigating is shown on the 3D screen, while all the inputs are assigned to the touchscreen. Each area is beautifully designed and that makes them easy to investigate. Investigating these areas is done by tapping a magnifying glass which allows you to search the environment. In these environments you will find plenty of people to talk to and a variety of hidden Hint Coins and collectables. To choose a person or thing to examine, you must move the magnifying glass around the touch screen and touch the desired item. People will give you clues about where you need to go and what needs to be done, while others will refrain from giving you information until you solve a puzzle. There are quite a few that are necessary to make progress, including those that are hidden amongst the environment. Not every puzzle has to be solved, but there are certain points in the game where you will need to have a certain number of puzzles solved to continue.

Puzzles come in a large variety with only a few being repeated over the course of the game. You will use the stylus and touchscreen to solve the majority of the game’s puzzles, but the 3DS motion sensors are used for at least one. Some puzzles will challenge you to solve riddles, while others will challenge you to use deductive reasoning. A lot of these puzzles are fun and challenging with quite a few stumpers amongst the mix. If you ever get really stuck you can use Hint Coins to buy hints that will help you solve the puzzle. Some hints, mainly the Super Hints, will even outright tell you how to solve the puzzle. I did use about 40 hint coins throughout the game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will. My favourites include the deductive reasoning, block sliding, and number puzzles. Even though I enjoyed the majority of puzzles, there were a few that irked me with vague descriptions and seemingly impossible solutions, though that number was quite low.

There is a ton of content to unlock in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. Most of this content will unlock by solving puzzles with some Top Secret bonus content unlocking after gathering a specific number of Picarats. Picarats are earned by solving puzzles. Each puzzle has a set amount of Picarats you can earn with more difficult puzzles giving higher amounts. If you solve the puzzle on your first try, you will get the maximum amount of Picarats possible. If you input an incorrect solution, the number of Picarats you can earn will decrease. This number will decrease until it hits the minimum, meaning you will always earn some Picarats for your efforts.

Other unlockable puzzles can be accessed in-game by opening the professor’s trunk. Inside you will find special items that you have found throughout the story, each with their own set of puzzles attached to them. My favourite of the bunch are the robot puzzles. The robot puzzles challenge you to move a robot from its starting point to a red pad. The challenge here is that you can only move the robot three squares at a time. There are also obstacles that get in your way and enemies that must be avoided. There are other mini-games/puzzles to find, including a pet rabbit simulation that kids will absolutely adore. You can also use the professor’s trunk to keep up on every detail, including new information from optional chapters, and to save the game of course.

In addition to the game’s extensive amount of content, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask also features puzzles that can be downloaded daily. There are a total of 365 puzzles to download which means there will be close to triple the amount of puzzles on the cartridge in a year than there were on day one. These puzzles are just as enjoyable as those featured in the main game. Solve these puzzles and you get to decorate a room with furniture. Not exactly exciting, but the puzzles are fun enough to warrant some brain power.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask isn’t just a great mystery with clever puzzles to solve, but also a work of art. The game’s artists did a wonderful job with every aspect of this game including the 3D character models, the beautiful environments, and the awe inspiring cut-scenes. Monte d’Or’s carnival setting allowed the artists to create a real sense of wonder that wouldn’t be as effective with another setting. Lately, it seems like Nintendo 3DS games have been impressing me with their 3D effects, and this game is no exception. The 3D effects are impressive across the board, including the cut-scenes. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask also features a strong soundtrack, with only one minor issue. The same song is used for every puzzle which can get irritating fast.

Final Thoughts:

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is a highly enjoyable game. It features a compelling story with a lot of fun and challenging puzzles to solve. The pacing drags in a few spots, but is never detrimental to the overall package. Expect to spend somewhere between 12 and 15 hours on the main story, and a lot more if you wish you unlock every piece of content. Fans of the Professor Layton series will definitely enjoy this game, and as a first timer myself, I would recommend it to others interested in the series.

8.5/10

Obtained by borrowing from Nintendo PR

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  • superphillip32

    I really enjoyed this one. I think it’s my second favorite, right after Unwound Future!

    • http://twitter.com/MiniFortress Mini Fortress

      That game seems to come up as the best amongst many Layton fans. I’m definitely curious about the series now, great game.

  • http://incompletegaming.blogspot.com Robert

    This game is definitely on my radar and I like what I’ve seen so far. Really like the music on the demo site, though I would tend to agree that hearing the same on each puzzle could get a bit stale.

    I’ve seen the previous Layton games, but never have really looked them for no particular reason. (well, mainly that I never had a DS) Like you I suspect I’ll be looking at the others if I like MM. Despite recommendations from others, I’m not going back to play them in order first.

    How many block sliding puzzles do you think there were? Typically those aren’t my cup of tea depending on how they’re constructed. For example I enjoyed some of the sliding in Spirit Tracks, but haven’t even bothered to install Cogs. (pc/steam)

    • http://twitter.com/MiniFortress Mini Fortress

      I’ll definitely be going back and checking out the series as well. I love the way they tell the story in this game, so I can’t wait to uncover more details about these characters.

      I can’t remember to be honest, but there were definitely a few. They also vary a bit, in difficulty and execution. None are impossibly difficult though, mostly enjoyable actually.

    • http://incompletegaming.blogspot.com Robert

      ..and I contradict myself yet again. Put about 3 hours into the first game, Curious Village, and I think I’m hooked. It’s not without some frustrations, but it’s alot of fun and such a quality game.

      Diabolical Box and Unwound Future have also shipped and will be here next week. :) I’m sure that’s plenty of content to wait for Last Specter and Miracle Mask to dip in price.

      • http://twitter.com/MiniFortress Mini Fortress

        I like the story telling a lot, it’s logical and well crafted with great dialogue to boot. I’m going to try and treat myself to a Layton game every few months, starting with Curious Village.

        Plenty from what I can see. Luigi’s Mansion if you’re into that, Castlevania, eShop games, Paper Mario if you haven’t already.

        • http://incompletegaming.blogspot.com Robert

          So far it’s certainly a light mystery, but that’s fine really. With my incomplete track record I’m sure CV, DiaBox and Unwound Future will keep me plenty busy. Though Luigi’s Mansion does have me interested. Probably will skip Paper Mario and Castlevania.

          Am just hoping Luigi’s Mansion turns out to be better than the hype with power of illusion.

          • http://twitter.com/MiniFortress Mini Fortress

            I think it will, or at least I hope it will.