Review: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)

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Review copy provided by the publisher

It has been about 18 months since the events of “Professor Layton and the Curious Village,” and it seems that the Professor is back in “Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box” with his same antics. What are those antics you ask? Hitting you with puzzles that would piss off The Riddler! I mean these puzzles were frustrating me to the point of wanting to break my DS! As frustrating as it is though, I have to admit that the feeling when you solve these brain teasers actually worth the frustration, and then some.

Like the “Curious Village” before it – “The Diabolical Box” (interesting titles in their own right, actually sound more like adult films than DS titles) is a mystery game disguised as a puzzler. The actual box referred to in the title is the “Elysian Box”, a box with mysterious power to kill those who open it. It starts out with the death of a local doctor who had sole possession of the box. When Layton and his apprentice Luke discover the Doctor dead with hints of foul play involved, they set off on a cross-country journey in search of the dark box. Along the way they meet many old friends from “The Curious Village.”

Throughout this 12hour plus title you will encounter over 125 puzzles as you journey through the main story arch. To help you out (and you’ll need the help) there is a 3 hint per question system. The only way to use the hints however is by trading in “hint coins” which are hidden and scattered throughout the games many environments.

The problem with Professor Layton is that the story you have to play starts out great but ends up so ridiculous, repetitive, and convoluted that by the end you find yourself just poking the screen as quick as you can in order to fast forward through the story segments just to get to the good stuff – the puzzles! The dialogue alone makes you want to poke your eyes out with your DS stylus. I’ll give you an example (overly exaggerated of course) of what some of this dialogue sounds like:

Layton: Luke? Did you just pass gas?

Luke: Why Yes, professor!

Layton: The smell of your shitty insides reminds me of a puzzle!

Luke: Let’s hear it!

Ok, so nowhere in the game is that said, but you get the idea. Like many other Japanese titles, sometimes things can get lost in translation. Graphically and sound wise this game can keep up with any DS title on the market, hands down. Developers Level-5 incorporate the “Mobi Clip Video Codec” to show off some pretty sharp cut scenes, that can rival any handheld – iPod Touch and PSP included.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box isn’t a bad game. It’s actually one of the best brain teasing puzzlers out there. The problem is that it tries to be more than it actually is. Incorporating a story mode to add varied play should be optional. As a player you should have the ability to just jump in and play through some fun puzzles, then jump out. Having to go threw 5 minutes of insane dialogue just to get one puzzle is deeming itself very annoying. I hope next time around we have “Professor Layton and his Crazy Puzzles” without the unnecessary storyline. All in all though the puzzles are top notch, which save this title in the end.

Game: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Nintendo
MSRP: $29.99
Release Date: 8/24/2009
Platform: Nintendo DS

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Joel Taveras

Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.

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