Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Puzzle Point and Click
MtAMinutes to Action 9
Keep Playing? Oh Yeah!
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A year and a half ago I had the distinct pleasure of playing Professor Layton and the Curious Village, a mystery game packed with puzzles set in, well, a very curious village. The game was a hit with me and many others, and while Level-5 has doled out three Layton games already and is a few months away from the fourth, they're just getting around to releasing the second outside of Japan. We wait patiently, however, and are rewarded with Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. Nintendo is serving as the publisher in North America, Europe, and Australia, and has done a magnificent job releasing a potentially very niche puzzler to a wider audience. Honestly, the series is filled with such ultra-politeness and quirky British voice talent it's a wonder that something like this has taken off. Professor Layton is simply a perfect storm of great puzzles and marvelous atmosphere.

Level-5 is of course also the developer of Rogue Galaxy, an RPG I recently reviewed for the PlayStation 2. I'm becoming more and more impressed by their range of games they're developing and publishing, and other companies are too, including Square Enix which trusted them with Dragon Quest IX.

The release schedule of the Professor Layton series seems very similar to that of Phoenix Wright, with the West just starting to get the series after a few of them had already been released in Japan. In some ways, this is great because we know that there are a whole slew of games coming, but I just hope it doesn't start feeling stale like Ace Attorney did. Well, here's the first hour of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I tap New Game and the first hour of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box begins. First things first, I have to write my name, letter by letter, pretty good writing recognition. A young boy is talking about a box that can bring death to whomever opens it... spooky.

01 - Layton and Luke are at a train station, about to head off to some distant land again. There's a really fat lady trying to get on the train too, some guy is trying to shove her through the door. The boy's English accent is extreme, I forgot about the great voice acting in the series.

02 - The train takes off, the cityscape is very well detailed and hand drawn, now we're back in the train with Luke and the Professor. The duo is discussing the box, I guess they're on a mission to find it or something.

03 - Prologue: The Elysian Box. Luke is narrating again, talking about the devilish box, the pair didn't believe in its power, until they received a letter... It's a letter from Layton's mentor, Dr. Andrew Schrader.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Schrader

04 - Professor Layton's first name is Hershel? Haha. The letter is about the Elysian Box and how it will kill anyone who opens it. Sounds like The Ring and the videotape. The whole letter is being narrated by the good Doctor Schrader, who currently has the box in his possession!

06 - Oh man, I think he opened the box! The letter was sent two days ago, he could be dead by now! I guess that's where the Professor and Luke are off to.

07 - I'm investigating the Professor's office now looking for his car keys. I play the role of Luke, Layton's apprentice. You tap around the room like a 2D adventure game looking for stuff. I find the key and get a quick lesson on traveling, just click the shoe icon and a side of the screen to move that direction.

09 - The Professor gives me a map of the town, but it has some areas missing! Luke sees this as a challenge and can't wait to take a crack at it. Puzzle number 1 is worth 10 Picarats. I need to rearrange some pieces of the map so that all the streets line up, doesn't sound too difficult.

10 - Ha! There was actually an extra piece to the puzzle, that Professor is tricky. "That was almost too easy," Luke says.

12 - Professor Layton and Luke take the car to Dr. Schrader's place, hope he's not dead. Oh, puzzle number 2 already! It's a puzzle about which room the doctor is in at his apartment.

14 - Either I'm missing something totally obvious, or I'm just being stupid, as I guess the wrong room (you guess by circling the window in the picture presented). My award has been reduced from 15 to 12 picarats.

15 - Okay... got it. It was still kind of a guess, the clues seemed rather vague in my opinion. Oh well, time to move on.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Key Puzzle

16 - We're still standing outside the building, I tap a guy named Damon to talk to him. He tells me about tapping stuff to find hint coins. Tap everywhere, my friend!

18 - We head into the building and up to the doctor's floor. We knock but no one answers! He might be dead, but the door is locked! Gotta solve the puzzle! We have three keys to pick from and one lock, need to find the key that fits the lock.

20 - Well, that wasn't hard at all, you actually had to rotate the key around and stick it in the wrong way.

21 - We burst in the door, but we're too late. Andrew Schrader is dead on the floor. Dang. We also find a train ticket for the Molentary Express (must be the train they're on after the prologue). We add it to our list of mysteries along with the Elysian Box itself.

23 - Haha, the inspector arrives and Luke tries to rip his face off (a hint to the last game). The inspector is suspicious about the Professor's "apprentice." It really is a bit creepy.

25 - The professor and inspector are arguing about how the doctor could have died. We're on the eighth floor and the door was locked... and puzzle number four begins. I have to show the professor how the room isn't completely separated from the outside world.

28 - I really have no idea what I'm looking for, no trap doors or hidden doors that I can spot. Guess I'll try a hint. I take a guess at the open window, obviously wrong.

31 - The final hint is that the escape route is often found in pairs.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Luke Ticket

34 - This is embarrassing!

38 - Oh man, it was a ripped curtain. This whole time I thought it was a spider web. Total fail on my part. Someone used the curtain to get out of the windows to a balcony nearby! So there was a murderer!

39 - We find a torn photograph and take it. Sounds like obstruction of justice by tampering with the evidence! Ha, the inspector took it from us and kicks us out of the room, this guy is quick.

41 - We're back on the train now, obviously the Molentary Express that the doctor was planning to take. A new, female narrator warns us of the dangers ahead for the duo on the train. I wonder if the whole game takes place on the train? That would be cool, like The Last Express!

42 - Chapter 1 - The Legendary Molentary Express. We're back on the train with the Professor and Luke, they decide to explore and I regain control. I poke at a bag... and a puzzle is triggered! I need to clean up Luke's trunk.

43 - I need to fit all the items back into the trunk without overlapping any, feels like Diablo 2's inventory screen.

44 - After moving stuff around a bit, it looks like this one might be tough.

45 - Never mind, got it! 30 picarats! Another moment of poking around the cabin and another red exclamation point. I know what that means now.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Menu

47 - It's a longest path kind of puzzle, as opposed to shortest path. Have to navigate some basic "roads" and find the longest path from point A to B without overlapping.

50 - This one's a bit of a brain teaser, I make a few guesses but they're all incorrect. Got to be close. Yep, got it!

51 - Back in the train, just noticed on the top screen of the DS we get an isometric view of the train car we're in. I leave the safety of our cabin and head out into the hallway.

53 - I wander to the next car and barge into the middle room. On the table is a teapot which triggers a puzzle. It's a poison drinking contest that seems straight out of The Princess Bride minus the witty dialogue.

56 - Man, still trying to decipher these directions, though the puzzle has only two possible answers, I'd still like to get this on the first try. Whoops, I accidentally tap one of the pitchers and... it was the right one!

58 - I enter the dining cart that is simply packed with passengers. I tap the waiter and a puzzle kicks off.

59 - It's an overhead view of eight diners, I need to figure out which one is Mrs. Hadley from the given clues... I like these.

60 - Ha, too easy! Well, that's the end of the first hour of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Hamster

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 9

Gameplay: Do you like mind-bending puzzles wrapped in a friendly point and click world? Then Professor Layton is the game for you! The puzzles, of course, are the highlight of the series, and Diabolical Box seems like it is continuing the trend of serving a balance both easy and difficult enigmas.

Fun Factor: Simple, fun, and challenging. That is the premise of Diabolical Box and it works. Not to mention the game's cutscenes which are gorgeous and the superb voice acting. The accents are awesome to a quaint American like me.

Graphics and Sound: Well, I kind of covered this above, the game has charm, that's for sure. While the game is a bit of a point and click at heart, at least it isn't dissolving into find-the-pixel-to-move-on.

Story: Kind of creepy so far (and that's not even mentioning the professor and his "apprentice")! There's a box that when opened, kills them. It's like Pandora's Box meets The Ring. While it seems a bit serious for what is masking as a kid's game, I'm sure it will be handled appropriately. The Professor and Luke can be very eloquent about these kind of things. Plus the game takes place on a train! That is so cool, in my opinion.

Keep Playing? Heck yes! I've been waiting for this game since I beat the first one and I have no reason to be disappointed so far. If you're new to the series, there doesn't seem to be any particular reason you can't start with Diabolical Box either.

Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Art
The professor and his apprentice... it all still kind of creeps me out.