Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre More Portable Puzzles
Score 8  Clock score of 8Gameplay: 9
Fun Factor: 8
Gfx/Sound: 9
Story: 7
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Professional puzzle-solver and tea lover Professor Hershel Layton and young Luke, his apprentice, are back to solving the ultimate mystery in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the sequel to 2008's Curious Village. The game plays as a Myst-like point-and-click with brain-teasers thrown in every couple of minutes; and not the random, bumbling puzzles of Myst, but random, Mensa head-scratchers that will have you reaching for the nearest bottle of headache medicine. Diabolical Box is not just about solving puzzle after puzzle, however, there's a series of unsolved mysteries at hand along with a big cast of characters to help and hinder along the way. The game is chock full of wit and charm, and it is truly hard to put down.

Developers Level-5 seemingly got the formula right the first time, as not much has changed for the sequel (the third game was released last year in Japan and the fourth is almost out there too!). We still have the lovable British accents, the endless number of puzzles, and nearly the same enticing soundtrack. Let's get into my review of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box.

What was awesome: It's amazing how Level-5 managed to keep both the quantity and quality of the puzzles in Professor Layton. There is no shortage of challenges in this game, and the game ups the difficulty pretty quickly. Many puzzles are optional, and some of those will really rack your brain.

The game's soundtrack is also very well done, Diabolical Box is about a 20 hour game and you'll be solving puzzles for at least half of that, and to not get sick of the puzzle solving music after all that is a real triumph.

What I liked: The game's story starts off great, the Professor and his apprentice Luke are investigating the mysterious death of Layton's old mentor. Rumor has it when you open the Diabolical Box, you will soon die! Since the Professor is a rational thinker, this kind of magic doesn't make much sense, and after finding a recently used train ticket stub in his mentor's office, he and Luke decide to take a ride on the same train, the Molentary Express. Riding on the train was great fun and reminded me fondly of The Last Express, a great adventure game from 1997. I was really hoping we'd stay on the train the whole time, but about a third of the way through you arrive at another curious village, Folsense. This is where the real story kicks off, and through a variety of crazy revelations (if I said it, you'd be spoiled and you wouldn't believe me!), Professor Layton and Luke figure everything out and move on.

Besides the regular puzzles, the game features many more mini-games that can be played nearly any time from the menu. Most of them are driven from solving puzzles in the main game: you collect certain items as rewards and they apply towards the mini-games. One of them involves collecting pieces of a camera, putting it together, and then taking pictures of particular areas of the game and playing the "find the difference between the two pictures" game. While I'm not particularly fond of that kind of puzzle, there is always something to do in this game! Never a dull a moment, and everything only takes a few minutes. Like I said in my original Curious Village review, this is one of the best kinds of portable games: pick it up, play a few minutes, and put it down again. The game even features a convenient cutscene when you load your save to remind you of the current events.

I've raved about it plenty already, but the voice acting is great! The accents are excellent, and I have no idea what the Professor and Luke sound like in Japanese, but they're actually making an anime based on the series.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Train Art

What I didn't like: Diabolical Box is almost too similar to its predecessor, it can nearly be described as a remake of Curious Village with new puzzles and a new setting. There's really no offense in that, however, as the first was a very good game. And since I was really more interested in the puzzles than anything else, I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. It would have been nice if they had made a few more attempts at something new though, I fear the next few games will just continue this trend. The Phoenix Wright series greatly suffered from this, in my opinion.

I mentioned the mini-games above, and one of them is the tea serving game. You can collect different tea ingredients, such as spicy, sweet, or bitter, and then try to combine them in different ways to create various flavors of tea. Then as you wander around on your puzzle solving travels, people will be a little out of it and request a bit of tea. They'll describe how they're feeling and what would be the best pick-me-up, and you and Layton have to figure out which tea to serve them. That's all fine and dandy, but you can only unlock a series of final puzzles if you served everyone in town at some point with tea! The problem is, you keep no in-game record of whom you have served, and not everyone wants tea at all times. Unless you kept track from the beginning, you'll have no idea which townspeople you have left! It's quite unfortunate, and all the related message boards just say to keep trying everyone repeatedly until you know for sure. No thanks.

Don Paulo: Professor Layton's arch-nemesis, or so the game would like you to believe. I can't believe I complained about this during the original game too, but the series keeps tossing out this Don Paulo character like we should care. I believe it may actually be some kind of in-joke, where Don Paulo declares he's Layton's adversary but Layton doesn't even recognize him, and then in Diabolical Box he's back and while you think he make actually be a key character, it's just another joke and thrown away within one minute of him revealing himself. I just don't get this one, honestly.


Gameplay: 9
Not much has changed, but that's not a bad thing. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is completely stuffed with fun and challenging puzzles, and what more can I ask for?

Fun Factor: 8
There's still a ton of backtracking and re-tracking through the same areas over and over to find everything and keep the story moving, but there's always a puzzle right around the corner. Like a carrot on a stick, it keeps me hungry for more.

Graphics and Sound: 9
Excellent, hand drawn backgrounds and a colorful cast of characters makes for a great looking game. And then there's the music, sound effects, and voices: some of the best I've ever heard on a portable system.

Story: 7
Every location and character is important in Professor Layton, and by the end of the game, they'll all be wrapped together in a spider web of intrigue and mystery. The story is a bit heartbreaking, but the leaps of logic I'm expected to take to get to the end are a bit much for me.

Overall: 8
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is a great game, but I'm just yearning for something a bit more from the series. A friend asked me if Curious Village was required playing for Diabolical Box, and I would definitely say no. There's very little carry over from one game to the next, besides the main characters, and the game pretty much starts with a clean slate. Give it a try regardless if you've played the first one or not, you'll have a lot of fun, and get a headache.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Cast