Starting from total obscurity in 2007 the Professor Layton series has grown into a cult classic among gamers looking to solve a few good puzzles. Now on its 5th installment, the series has finally reached the next generation of handhelds. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask represents the first attempt on the 3DS.
The formula for Professor Layton is rather simple. You’re introduced to a mystery that the dear Professor must investigate. In this case, the theft of a mysterious mask that’s rumored to have great power. Shortly following this theft, a nefarious character calling himself the Masked Gentlemen appears in the city of Monte d’Or, a fictional city that’s only been in existence for 18 years. He is causing havoc and chaos and it’s up to Professor Layton, his apprentice Luke Triton and his assistant Emmy Altava to solve the case. This case will not only have you explore the present but this will also unravel parts of Professor Layton that been left untouched for over 18 years until now. To move the storyline forward, the game uses a combination of cutscenes and reading dialog boxes. You will spend a great deal of time exploring Monte d’Or every nook and cranny for items and characters who can assist you along the way and just one other thing.
That one other thing being dozens of different puzzles, ranging from math word problems to matters of logic. If you like a good puzzle Professor Layton has you covered. As for the quality of the puzzles, There are over 100 puzzles included in the game proper from math word problems to matters of logic and they are generally clever and well done. This game will keep you busy for hours with the story mode alone. In addition to the story mode, Level 5 has promised to support the game with a downloadable puzzle a year after release, leaving you with 365 puzzles of free DLC to keep you coming back for more. From my limited look into this DLC, the puzzles I’ve tried weren’t quite as interesting as those in the base game, and they lacked the same variety. But one can’t fault free content too much, certainly not in this quantity. Finally, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask offers a few mini-games. These range from quite clever and addictive, to rather fleeting and easily forgettable.
The one thing I have to say about the 3DS game is that they’ve taken a major step forward in presentation from the original DS games. The game looks a lot crisper, all the cutscenes are of much higher quality and the voice acting’s sound quality has improved ten folds. A great amount of effort has been made in trying to make this game look it’s best which definitely shows. The 3D in Miracle Mask is some of the best usage I’ve seen on the 3DS where I found the game didn’t look quite as good than when I had it turned on. The 3D lets the environments pop letting you enjoy a new level of care made that would otherwise miss without the 3D enabled.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is great addition to the franchise. While there’s nothing to encourage new fans to jump in, there’s plenty for current fans to enjoy in a game with terrific presentation and solid puzzles. The story is engaging though the mystery isn’t the hardest to figure out on your own. If you’re the sort that enjoys puzzle games, Miracle Mask is a definite buy.