professor layton

2011 Game of the Year Awards

Game of the Year Awards

Game of the YearAnnouncing the 2011 Game of the Year Awards from First Hour!

These aren't your normal awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour. We also don't sum up votes on categories or anything either, we simply present each writer's thoughts on their pick, so if you don't like something, you know exactly who to blame! Of course, we do all this just for fun (spare time!) and buy all of our own games (real money!), so most of us don't even touch some of the big releases of the year. Woe to the unpaid game critic!

Professor Layton and the Last Specter

First Hour Review

Professor Layton and the Last Specter CoverI’ve played and beaten the first three Professor Layton games, and while I continue to return to them every year like clockwork, they have been essentially the same game every time. Sure, the stories change, and the puzzles are a bit different, but the core gameplay has remained the same: move around town poking at stuff, solve puzzles, talk to people, eventually linearally solve the overarching mystery that ends in some bizarre manner. I don’t hate it, it’s just repetitive.

But I love the puzzles, and the characters and setting are so charming, I can’t help but play. The fourth game in the series, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, has finally been released in North America after being out in Japan for nearly two years. Though we’re slowly catching up, the fifth game was just released earlier this year on the 3Ds, so we’ll hopefully be playing that come next fall.

Last Specter also holds a special surprise: London Life. I don’t know much about the new game, let alone this super-minigame inside it, but there’s plenty of buzz around it on the internet. So for a special first hour, we’ll be playing the first half-hour of the main game, and then switching over to London Life, whatever that may be. Let’s get right to it.

The Worst Box Art of 2010

Blog Post

Cabelas Dangerous Hunt 2011 CoverFirst impressions do make a difference. Here at The First Hour, reviewers examine with scrutiny the very first sixty minutes (or thirty in case of Nintendo DS carts) of a videogame, determining whether or not it properly sunk its hooks in them. Imagine if games were based solely on their box art; sometimes, depending on the buyer, they are. Box art creates an uninformed gamer’s vision in milliseconds, solidifying a buy or bust. Or possibly even befuddlement. Gaming companies, certainly at this point in the industry, know this, and yet a good number of horrific box arts are produced, effectively becoming counterproductive.

So how many would truly sink versus swim? Pretty sure all of the following examples would be spending a lot of time at the bottom of the (videogame industry) ocean. Also, quick apologies to Nintendo Wii and DS fanboys as they get the bulk of bad cover boxes year after year.

Let’s hope we see no repeats like these in 2011!

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Full Review

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future CoverHere we are back for the third year in a row with another Professor Layton game. The series has definitely become an annual event that I look forward to as the games are enjoyable to play and chock full of challenging puzzles. I’ve compared the Professor Layton series to the Phoenix Wright series before, as both sets of games offer unusual types of gameplay on an annual basis. But some other similarities are starting to creep in, and that’s the feeling of staleness.

The series hasn’t evolved a lot in three games, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the puzzles are great and the stories always intriguing, but it’s starting to feel like I’m playing expansion packs instead of brand new games. I awarded the first game, Curious Village, a 9/10 and its sequel, Diabolical Box, an 8/10, and I’m about to hand out a 7/10 to Unwound Future. I put a lot of value in mixing things up and trying something new, and the Professor Layton series just isn’t going anywhere. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my 20 hours with Unwound Future, but I’d really love for something more.

If this is your first Professor Layton game, you can expect a point and click style story-driven game with tons of unrelated puzzles to keep you interested. There isn’t any prior knowledge required to play Unwound Future, so it’s definitely a series someone can jump into at any point. Here’s my full review of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. If you’re curious, I also have a half-hour handheld review up too.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Half-Hour Handheld

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future CoverProfessor 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 Spectre'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.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Full Review
Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Cover

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.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

First Hour Review
Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Cover

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.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Full Review

Professor Layton and the Curious Village CoverProfessor Layton and the Curious Village is a Nintendo DS point and click adventure puzzle game. The game features 135 brain-busting puzzles that will seriously give you a headache by the game's end, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience beating them all. In between all the puzzles is a somewhat interesting story about Professor Layton and his young apprentice, Luke, exploring the village of St. Mystere and uncovering its many secrets. There's a wide cast of characters and all the art and backgrounds are hand-drawn and looks really great. There's even some voice acting thrown in that's actually good, but the real star in Professor Layton are the puzzles.

Within the curious village, residents will constantly offer you challenging puzzles to tackle, and clicking on certain items also triggers a puzzle from either the Professor or Luke. The puzzles range from 30 second quickies using pattern and object recognition to 30 minute Tylenol-taking nasties using advanced techniques such as shortest path, eight queens, playing card probability, and moving one giant block through a mess of smaller ones. Since there are so many puzzles, there is a ton of variety and only a few "repeats with new conditions."

None of this probably makes any sense, so let me just get to my review.

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