Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Back to the future puzzler
MtAMinutes to Action 6
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is the third game in the popular point and click puzzle series on the Nintendo DS. Since I love the series and was going to play the game no matter what, I've decided just to play the first half hour for my readers so you can get a taste of what's to come. Having just been released last week, Unwound Future appears to be another great entry into the series.

For those unfamiliar, the Professor Layton series is developed by Level-5 (yeah, the developers of Dragon Quest IX, these guys are on a serious portable roll) and the first two games in the series were also released on the Nintendo DS. Curious Village saw the North American light in early 2008 and Diabolical Box about this time last year. The games, like the Ace Attorney series before it, are always seeming to play catch up with the Japanese releases; Unwound Future was released two years ago in Japan and the unannounced-outside-Japan Specter's Flute was released last year. The one nice thing about playing catch up is that you know the great games will continue rolling our way for at least a few more years.

Professory Layton is a fun mix of the point and click genre and Mensa-like brain teasers. The story progresses as you discover clues and solve puzzles, and will seriously push your brain to its limit as the game progresses. As someone who enjoys this kind of challenge, this series has quickly become one of my favorites.

So can Unwound Future continue the series' success with me? Let's play and find out, here's its first half hour.

Minute by Minute

00 - I poke New Game and the first half hour of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future begins. First thing is to enter my name... G-R-E-G! "This is a work of fiction..." Oh really? Big Ben chimes as the opening cutscene kicks off. A bunch of poeple are walking around London in the game's distinct anime look.

01 - Luke and the Professor are on one of those double decker buses reading a letter from someone. The note says that "London has been thrown into absolute chaos." Looks fine to me. Oh, it's in an alternate dimension! No! 10 years in the future. That almost makes less sense.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Luke bus02 - Oh yeah, forgot to note this game has voice acting. Sounds great too, just like I expected. We're supposed to go to the clock shop on Midland Road... HOLY CRAP! The letter was from Luke! Or is from Luke... or will be from Luke! Mind blown. He sounds all grown up too.

03 - Though the duo recognizes this as a great mystery, they sure seem to be taking this time traveling stuff in stride.

04 - Layton wonders if this strange occurrence is connected to the terrible events from last week. Tell me what happened!

05 - A flashback of some guy talking in front of a crowd of people, including Layton and Luke. He's talking a bunch of gibberish about wormholes and space-time. The focus switches to a conversation between our favorite Inspector Chemey and his underling Barton.

06 - And after that worthless conversation I get control, well, I can click around the area to investigate stuff.

08 - After a bit of poking around a guard appears and the Professor says he must be looking for an uninvited guest. My first puzzle: Puzzle Crasher, worth 10 picarats.

11 - Just needed to put some clues together to point the guard at the right table, not too difficult, but I didn't want to mess up on the first puzzle! Well, that didn't really have anything to do with the story, but it's advanced the main event.

12 - Dr. Alain Stahngun is going to demonstrate the time machine! He's a very pale and sickly looking man, as if Robert Downey Jr. was a vampire. He's invited Prime Minister Hawks onstage. Will something go wrong Chrono Trigger style?

14 - Hawks has agreed to help with the demonstration and steps inside the time machine. Stahngun pulls a lever and the doors close on our esteemed PM.

15 - Well, that wasn't good, the time machine just blew up! Everyone panics and Luke points out that Dr. Stahngun is gone too. He had a fishy look on his face when he pulled that final lever.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Puzzle 116 - And back to the present with our heroes on the bus. There are other people missing in London, I'm sure it's all connected.

18 - The title card flies by as they arrive at their destination. Luke narrates what's happened so far about the letter from the future. Yeah, that just happened, Luke.

19 - Prologue - The Clock Shop on Midland Road. And Puzzle 2 involves Luke looking at the map to try and find the clock shop. Not much of a shop if regular people can't even find it.

20 - An interesting puzzle, there were a list of times on the side of the map that were actually the directions. Like 12:00 meant head north, 3:00 east, etc. I can see that kind of being difficult for someone who's never seen times used as directions like that before. There are hints though if you get stuck.

22 - The game shows a quick tutorial on how to change screens and find hidden things. Nothing really new so far for Layton veterans like myself.

23 - My incessant clicking finds a few hint coins, but there don't appear to be any puzzles on this screen. We head up the alley. Now a tutorial on how to save.

25 - A fat dude named Vito says he might know where to find the clock shop... if we help him solve his puzzle. Puzzle 3 - Bus Scheduling.

26 - Another easy puzzle, not worried about the difficulty of the overall game though as these can get nasty later on!

27 - Vito runs off without giving us any information, so we continue to move down the alley. I click on some stairs and it initiates another puzzle. Puzzle 4 - Moving Day.

29 - I might have been a little quick on my math on this problem and get the answer wrong. I need to calculate it will take two men to move boxes when they move at different speeds and can carry a different number of boxes at a time.

30 - All right, got it! That was actually a bit tricky, but I was overthinking it for a little bit there. And that's the end of the first half hour of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future.

Half-Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 6

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Luke StopwatchGameplay: Simple, clean, and efficient. That's Professor Layton's gameplay. It hasn't changed in three games because it works. If you've played one Layton game, you've played them all. Well, except you missed out on all the different puzzles and cool stories behind them.

Fun Factor: I'm sure there are people that just don't like this series. The endless brain teasers and point and click gameplay isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a fan of crossword puzzles, sudoku, Mensa, or you just enjoy solving brain teasers, Professor Layton is the series for you. This is like crack for me.

Graphics and Sound: The style hasn't changed at all but it's still a sight (and sound) to behold. The anime style is simple but attractive, and the voice acting is still excellent. British guys sound British, and there's nothing pretentious about it.

Story: I usually don't count story into my final verdict very often, but so far, Unwound Future easily has the most interesting story of the first three Professor Layton games. Letters from the future? Letters from one of our heroes from the future? I'm definitely curious. Prime Ministers getting blown up? Yeah, now we're talking.

Would I Keep Playing? Yes. I will admit, they're really not messing with the Professor Layton formula at all. There doesn't appear to be anything "new" in this game, though that's not necessarily a bad thing at all. The story is intriguing, and just knowing that there are hundreds of tough puzzles at my fingertips has me salivating.