The esteemed Professor Layton is evidently growing too weary for his globe-trotting, puzzle-solving escapades. This release – Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy – is the sixth and final in Level-5’s much beloved brain-taxing trips to charm-town. It aims not only to provide a fitting swan song for our top-hatted hero and chums but to also gently evoke the memories of past Layton outings in a way that neatly wraps up his sextet of smash-hit portable adventures.
If you’re a die-hard Layton fan, you’ll remember Mistahllery. You’ll reminisce about Monté D’Or and you might even learn some of the answers to questions you could have carried with you since the beginning of Layton’s adventures. There’s plenty of call-back here for the clued-up fan. That’s not to say it’s inaccessible though – quite the opposite. If this is your first Layton, there’s every chance to enjoy it on its own merits.
The game plays along familiar lines, with the exposition of the story (which we won’t spoil) taking place during conversations with your small band of compatriots or a large range of encountered characters along the way. Your goal is to unravel a big mystery by solving the many small mysteries that offer clues to the larger enigma’s meaning. You do this by gathering information from a series of settings that vary wildly from the streets of London to the frozen tundra and the tropical jungle.
For the first time in this series, you can choose the order in which you visit certain areas. After the game’s beginning, it opens up to offer you the chance to navigate the London-bound areas by bus and later you’ll be directing the Bostonius – a quirkily built dirigible provided by an elaborately-coiffured companion.
Along the way, Layton and Co. engage their almost fetishistic love for puzzles of all kinds by taxing each other with the quandaries they’ve formulated themselves and also by completing puzzles set by the often wacky characters you’ll encounter. The whole world in which Layton resides seems oddly obsessed with puzzles.
That’s certainly not a bad thing though, as it’s these puzzles which make up the vast majority of the gameplay. They appear in various forms and across a range of difficulties – rewarding you with a greater bounty of ‘picarats’ as they increase in difficulty. The more pica rats you gather along your journey through the game, the more bonus content you will unlock upon completion.
Don’t worry too much though, the puzzles all come with a range of hints that you can purchase using golden hint coins you find by exploring each location you find yourself in. The hints are unlocked incrementally so as to offer slightly more information as you purchase each one. The final ‘special’ hint practically tells you how to complete a puzzle so there’s little excuse to miss out on any.
If you fail to discover any puzzles along the way, an old friend is ever present to collect them for your later perusal. As you make your way through the game, you’ll gather up a collection of puzzles that you can then revisit at any time – or offer to your friends and family in order to tax their grey matter a little.
In addition to the puzzles which appear during the course of the game, there’s a daily puzzle section to the main menu which will allow you to download a new puzzle every day, plus 20 to get you started. Each puzzle requires logical thought and reasoning – perhaps some problem solving or mental arithmetic – to traverse, with only a few that occasionally try to catch you out with a cheap trick.
It’s not too egregious but there were a few puzzles that set up the premise and yet ignored their own stated rules in a kind of double-cross so that the solution was incredibly simple and yet nothing at all to do with the explained parameters of the task.
There are a few mini-games, as usual, which offer a little extra diversion. Dress Up offers a kind of fashion advice game whereby you’re given vague instructions about an outfit that a certain character might want and then you have to try to build the perfect costume from items you’ve found during your travels.
Blooms n’ Shrooms requires that you reinvigorate a garden by planting four types of flower in a particular way so that their energy bursts out and brings to life the next flower but avoid the spore-casting mushrooms. Nut Roller depicts various isometric landscapes that you must exploit in order to get your squirrel’s nut into his home. Each little game is nothing more than a brain-taxing diversion but they all add some extra longevity to what is already a significantly lengthy core experience.
It’s text-heavy as the narrative is delivered and some of the trademark charm comes off as a little cheesy and forced but that’s always been the case in Layton games. The animated cut scenes are a delight, as usual, with voice acting that just about manages to avoid over-selling the performance of a script which saves its most regular oddities for text-only sections of exposition.
While the power of the 3DS can occasionally be seen working to bring about the delightful art styles and adding some lovely depth to the animations, this is essentially the same substance as every Layton game so far. That is by no means a bad thing. The puzzles offer plenty of variety and there is a lot of content to get you started, even without venturing into the mini-games and the daily puzzle downloads.
Layton’s final adventure is a pleasure to take part in and his presence on Nintendo’s handhelds will be sorely missed.