Returning to the world of Professor Layton is like Alice returning to Wonderland. There’s never any real threat, while you engage in puzzle after puzzle amidst wondrous anime cut scenes, reminiscent of Baccano! Although you’ll never lose your head, you’ll probably get stumped a few times with logic-based conundrums. But have no fear; Professor Layton and his plucky young sidekick Luke Triton approach every brainteaser with a smile.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask comes to the Nintendo 3DS just a year after The Last Specter debuted on the DS. Not much has changed in Professor Hershel Layton’s world. Wherever they go Layton and Triton go, some kind of nefarious mystery comes to light. In this game, Professor Layton visits Monte d’Or. It’s a bustling commerce town that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. Layton arrives in town just in time for an anniversary celebration, complete with a carnival and clowns.
Unfortunately, misfortune strikes when a masked man shows up, who magically turns several of the city’s residents into stone. Needless to say, Layton is hot on the case, with his assistant Emmy Altava and protégé by his side. Miracle Mask also serves as the second prequel in the Professor Layton series. Part of the game will explore the origins of the Miracle Mask and the Layton’s time at the university. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the present day story. When Hershel solves puzzles as a youth, he’s less confident. Often times, he appears surprised when he gets a puzzle right. In the present day story, every puzzle is a breeze to the Professor.
The Professor Layton series of games subscribes to the saying: if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. There’s nothing intrinsically new about the gameplay, just more puzzles to rattle your brain. Also, puzzles still come up in the oddest places. Sometimes you’ll find puzzles in a trashcan, while other times Hershel’s mom will have a puzzle on her apron (which happens in the prequel section).
While the 2D anime cut scenes are still there, this is the first Layton game designed in 3D. Navigating through the streets of Monte d’Or is a treat of resplendent visuals and 3D character models. With the magnifying glass, players can Sherlock Holmes their way through each locale via the touch screen. When the magnifying glass turns amber, the player can tap the screen for more information. Sometimes you’ll just get information, other times you’ll pick up hint tokens or find additional puzzles to solve.
There is one cool enhancement to exploration. While looking at one section of the street, you might see an alleyway off to the side. Typically, your magnifying glass will turn blue, allowing you to travel into said alleyway.
Puzzles feature the same tried and true motif. They range from sliding object puzzles to math and logic conundrums. There are also a few puzzles that take advantage of the 3D, one of which is a corn maze. You can use hint coins when you’re stumped, but if you get the puzzle wrong or solve it in too many steps you will earn less Picarats (the game’s point system).
The fun mini games you’ve come to love from the franchise are back in Miracle Mask. There is a pseudo-Nintendogs game, where players raise a bunny to be a stage performer. You’ll unlock it after Triton saves the bunny its former master. Secondly there is a robot mini game, where you navigate your robot through an obstacle course. Finally, there is a shopping mini game, where players are given items of various styles and colors. The goal is to arrange the items in such a pattern that a customer will buy all the items at once. For instance, a customer may come in looking for just yellow teacup. However, if they see a similar item adjacent to that teacup, such as a dinner plate of the same color or another teacup, they might buy that as well. If you convince the customer to buy all the items on the shelf at once, with your arrangement, you win.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is another delightful puzzle adventure from Level-5. Although the chipper story hasn’t changed much, the gameplay and puzzles continue to remain fresh and challenging. The developer releases additional puzzles regularly that can be downloaded to your 3DS.