Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Review

That famous puzzle-solving gentleman and his faithful sidekick are back in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box from Level 5 and Nintendo. The sequel delivers nearly the same, familiar experience as in Professor Layton and The Curious Village, but still makes enough positive changes to keep players interested without sacrificing any of what made the first game great.

Like its predecessor, Diabolical Box is a hybrid of a point-and-click adventure and a collection of logic-based, visual, and mathematical brain teasers. The overarching goal is to follow the trail of the famed Elysian Box and an anonymous perpetrator whose involvement in the death of Layton’s mentor is unclear, but like the first game, the story is less a focus than the puzzles players encounter along the way.

Puzzle difficulty ranges from confusingly simple (I found it difficult to understand why certain puzzles were even included, as they didn’t seem like puzzles at all) to decently challenging. The average player should have no trouble breezing through the game, however, especially if they decide to take advantage of Layton’s hint system. Hidden within the game’s background illustrations are “hint coins,” which are revealed by tapping on their hiding places and later exchanged for hints to puzzles that manage to keep players stumped. Also helpful is the new memo feature, which allows players to use an overlay effect on the DS screen as a piece of scrap paper while figuring out a puzzle’s solution.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical box

This time around, a greater number of the puzzles are better tied into the plot, creatively related to the current in-game situation and surroundings. This ultimately makes for more original puzzles and a more cohesive overall experience. There are also fewer difficult-to-find puzzles; most are discovered by talking to characters and tapping prominent background features as opposed to inconspicuous details.

Players advance smoothly through The Diabolical Box, which already feels like more of an adventure than the last game thanks to the variety of locations to which Layton and Luke travel over the course of their investigation. There is little time spent repeatedly wandering the same locales, and new areas add variety and obvious evidence of progress. Unfortunately, this makes the game feel more guided; players spend less time searching for the next plot trigger, but may also feel like they are just going through the motions to do so.

Aside from the puzzles and the main narrative, which includes many hand-drawn, beautifully animated cutscenes, excellent music, and stellar voice acting, there are a number of minigames that players can divert their attention to. These can be an enjoyable break from the puzzle grind, and have relevant in-game rewards, but end up feeling more like an afterthought than a legitimate pursuit because participation in these games is limited by progress in the main game. Players can’t really do anything with these minigames until they have collected the prerequisite items from the main adventure.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is essentially more of the same as last time, but is clearly the objectively better game in the series. The choice to pick up one or the other should be simple for newcomers, and Layton veterans will find plenty here to enjoy once again. A solid mix of story and puzzles make this a perfect game to enjoy in both small chunks and marathon “just-one-more-puzzle” sessions, which can be extended further with the help of weekly puzzle downloads over Nitendo Wi-fi.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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