Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

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Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Aug. 24, 2009
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

0:00 I loved working through the first Layton game, even though a few of the puzzles were a bit too obtuse. Of course, the grassroots viral promotion for this sequel has only increased my interest.

0:01 A boy and a girl stand with their backs facing each other on a woodcut. The title appears over them with elegant strings and light piano backing. "New Game" is my only option, so ... I choose it!

0:02 After writing in my name, white text appears on a black background with a gentle female narrator: "There are tales of a box that brings death upon any who dare open it. Tell me, do you think those rumors could be true?" An whimsically animated cut scene in a train station, now. "Hey look, there it is," young Luke cries.

 Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

0:03 Luke and Layton give over their tickets and walk onto the platform. A woman in a yellow headscarf follows, lowering her sunglasses to see if anyone is watching her. Workers are trying to squeeze a fat lady into a train car. On the train, Layton calls the train "a cruise ship on rails." And away they roll. Layton's voice sounds a bit different than in the last game ... slightly more menacing, slightly less carefree. Is this a new voice actor?

0:04 Luke and Layton chat about the Elysian Box. "All who open it die, eh?" asks Luke. "The answer is out there, Luke ... but we just need to find it." "We will ... I know it," says Luke, cloyingly. "Prologue: The Elysian Box." Can't say the intro has hooked me as of yet.

0:05 Luke talks about receiving a letter from Layton's friend and mentor, Dr. Andrew Schraeder. In it, Schraeder repeats the rumor about the box killing anyone who opens it. That's the third time the myth has been mentioned in just five minutes! OK, game, we get it! Anyway, Schraeder is dubious but curious, so he tracked down the box. He says "on the cusp of unraveling a great mystery tied to this box, but his curiosity is overpowering, so he's going to open it before finishing his research. "Should anything happen to me..." he wants Layton to investigate.

0:09 The letter is two days old. "I can't shake the feeling that something awful has happened," says Layton. "Well, your intuition's usually spot on." God, Luke is SUCH a brown-noser!

0:10 The dialogue is now just text, no more spoken words. That's all right ... the voices were creeping me out. The game teaches me how to tap a desk drawer to find some keys. Nice, quick and unobtrusive, like a tutorial should be.

0:12 Tapping around the office, just for kicks. "Apparently uncomfortable chairs make you smarter," says Luke. Come on ... hasn't Layton taught you about specious reasoning yet?

0:13 The map to Shraeder's house is is "Puzzle No. 001." There are four square holes in the map, and I have five pieces to put in them. Oh, actually the piece in the very center of the map can be moved too, so it's six squares for five slots. Since the squares can't be rotated, it's a simple matter of guess-and-check to get the roads lined up ... takes roughly 30 seconds. "Let's see if this works ... that was almost too easy!" says Luke. Indeed! I earned 10 Picarats, which I'm told can be spent on bonuses ... but only after I've beaten the game.

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0:16 Back to the cartoon cut scenes. Luke and Layton drive up to the Shraeder's building, but they don't know which flat he's in. Puzzle No. 002 asks me to figure it out based on a description from his letter. His flat is near a singing woman, has a flag outside, and faces the sunrise. Using this info and a picture on the bottom screen, I deduce the right house rather easily.. only one flagged house is near the singer and in the sunlight in the photo. "Consider this puzzle solved," says Layton. "A true gentleman never leaves a puzzle unsolved," he continues. Really?

0:21 After I save my progress. A no-good punk in an orange-and-blue tracksuit tells me to tap the mailbox for ... a hint coin! Ooh. I guess he wasn't a no-good punk after all.

0:22 Quote of the moment: "There's no time right now to examine cleaning supplies!" Is there ever?

 Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

0:23 We knock on Schraeder's door, but there's no answer. Apparently the doctor left some keys in his letter, but none of them work. It's Puzzle No. 003, of course!

0:24 So the front end of the keys just jiggle in the lock, but apparently they can be rotated (I stumble on this fact completely by accident as I tap around the touch-screen.). Flipping one around makes it slide in with a click. "That was almost too easy." Yup.

0:25 We rush in the door in an animated cut scene. The doctor is dead on the floor. "No, Andrew ... how could this have happened?" I dunno, maybe the CURSED BOX that you all REFUSE TO LEAVE ALONE has something to do with it? Anyway, Layton finds a Molentary Express train ticket with no destination on it. "Very strange indeed..."

0:26 The police show up outside. It's Inspector Chelmey! From the first game. And the Twitterverse! "Hey, it's you," Luke exclaims before attacking Chelmey's face, trying to pull it off his skull. "Oh my gosh ... his face doesn't come off. He's the real deal!" Oh, Luke ... you're such a dumbass.

0:28 Trivia time: Professor Layton is "a professor of archeology at Gressenheller University." So there you go.

0:29 "Interesting," says Chelmey. "So if I understand correctly, you keep a child around as an 'apprentice' do you?" The suspicion on his voice is worthy of Dr. Wertham.

0:30 Chelmey says the cause of death must have been a heart attack, since the door was locked and the only entry point. Luke is skeptical, and Layton says it's obvious that there was another way in. Nope, answers Chelmey, it was a scaled model of a Kronosaurus skeleton that scared the doctor to death. "But this is the doctor's own home. Why would the bones he put up himself scare him?" asks Luke, reasonably. "People have a way of becoming forgetful with age ... not that you'd understand, boy." Wow ... irrational, dismissive, cocky... I think Chelmey is my new favorite character!

0:34 For Puzzle No. 004 I have to find the "obvious" error part of the room that shows how wrongity-wrong-wrong Chelmey is about the door being the only way in. Well, there are windows, but we're on the eighth floor, so that's not it. Hmmm...

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0:40 After staring at the four available views of the room for five minutes, I see nothing unusual. Time for a hint: "Take a good look at all the views. You're looking for something unusual. There are lots of odd objects in the room, but while many may be strange, they aren't the brand of unusual you're searching for." Wow ... that is the least helpful hint I've ever read. Thanks for nothing, game!

0:41 The only thing even a little strange is a fuzzy box that looks like a green computer tower. That can't be it ... I'll take one more hint. Hmmm, it's "not in the areas Layton or Chelmey are inspecting." That eliminates half of the four views, including the one with the computer. HMMMMMM...

0:42 I guess the big bookcase could have a fake back into a wall tunnel? Nah, too obtuse. I decide to take a third hint rather than risk losing my Picarats on a wrong guess. "The object in question is often found in pairs." Hmmm ... there are no shoes about... AH HA! There's a torn curtain on the window. Could it be... "Here it goes..." CORRECT! "Piece of cake." Well, I wouldn't go that far, Luke.

 Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

0:44 Once we look out the window, we see the torn curtain has been turned into an ersatz bridge to a landing across the way. So the puzzle could have been solved by ... opening the window? *headdesk*

0:45 Layton finds a mysterious torn photograph that was in Schraeder's hands, but Chelmey confiscates it. Damn police ... think that just because it's evidence at a crime scene, they have a right to keep it.

0:47 Back on the train, "Layton and Luke speed away from the city, each with no idea of the mysteries that awaited them down those iron tracks." Thanks, mysterious narrator. On to "Chapter 1: 'The Legendary Molentary Express.'"

0:48 Luke says the train is "so posh, I feel like I should be wearing a monocle." I am going to work this phrasing into every conversation I can from now on!

0:55 Puzzle No. 005 involves reorganizing Luke's trunk. Thrilling... Actually, it takes quite a bit of fiddling to get the Tetris-piece-like belongings to fit in the case. Eventually I get them all in there, with absolutely no room to spare. "A bit of planning will prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future." "Take a hike, you insufferable prat!" Luke responds. Well, at least he does in my head. In reality he mutters some polite thanks for this advice.

0:59 Sugar covered with ants inspires Puzzle No. 017. Hmmm, seems we skipped a few between 5 and 17. Anyway, I have to find the longest possible path through a maze for a little ant. There was a similar puzzle in the first Layton game, I recall. Anyhoo, I pick out one a suitably circuitous route and look at it for a while before being satisfied it's actually the longest possible. I submit the answer and ... "INCORRECT!" "Well, I'm stumped," says Luke. Me too, Luke. Me too.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.

Why? While the introductory puzzles were a little too simple, they're already getting tough enough that I'm stumped. Looks like more of the stuff I loved from the first game, which is all I really need.

This review based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.

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