Game review by Steve Cullum
Game – Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Developer – Level-5
Platform – Nintendo 3DS (MSRP $39.99)
Rating – E10+ for Everyone 10 and up
Obtained – Download Code from Nintendo of America
In a long line of great games for Nintendo DS, Professor Layton is back in his sophomore Nintendo 3DS release, which completes the series’ second trilogy. This time, Layton and his crew are after some secrets of the Azran civilization. Will this drama-filled puzzler succeed again, or is it time for the professor to go back to school?
NOTE: This is a spoiler-free review!
Story and Plot
For those unfamiliar with this series, it is important to realize that the storyline is one of the two main aspects of Layton games. (The other is the puzzles, which we will discuss later.) You will follow the protagonist, Professor Layton, a university professor and archaeologist. Your young apprentice, Luke, is along for the ride, as usual. You also have a number of other people joining your posse this time, including your assistant, Emmy, as you fly around the world in an effort to discover the secrets of the ancient Azran civilization before the Targent, a criminal organization, find them first. If this sounds like something out of an Indiana Jones movie or a Sherlock Holmes novel, it should. Along the way, you realize that Layton and many others in his world are obsessed with puzzles. Some of these puzzles are necessary to complete in order to progress, like figuring out the combination to a lock. Others are random riddles that seem like they are not really connected to the overall story.
This Layton game, just like its predecessors, has a great storyline that grabs you in, begging you to keep playing. Think of it as an interactive novel or a great movie that begs you to take a role yourself. Just when you think you know what is going to happen, the plot twists begin, and you get pulled in again. Even though Layton is setup for quick plays on the go, you might find yourself looking for more time so you can get in just one or two more puzzles, and figuring out what happens next. The Azran Legacy storyline also connects the two trilogies, so if you have been following Layton all along, you are sure to get into the plot even more than others, as there are many nods to other games. One other note, which I loved, is the short recap the game provides every time you start it. This is incredibly helpful when it has been a day or two since the last time you played.
Gameplay and Controls
Now, let’s move onto the other major aspect of a Layton game — the puzzles. In the midst of progressing through this huge story, you will need to complete puzzles. Most of these are set up by a very short story, and you are asked to find the answer on the touch-screen. For example, your first puzzle has you looking a grid of buildings and fuel stations as you try to figure out how an airship can hit every location by only moving to adjacent spots and also hitting refueling stations at the right time. When you complete the puzzle, you will win a number of Picarats, based on how many tries it took you. More importantly, when you complete the puzzle, you move on in the story. The puzzles range in difficulty, but you do have an option to get up to four hints per puzzle. Be careful, though, as hints cost “hint coins,” which you will find as you search each stage.
The vast majority of the game is controlled on the touch-screen. Picking which direction to go on the map, completing puzzles, navigating menus, and progressing through dialogue is all done by tapping the screen. If you don’t feel like using the touch-screen, you can also use the A button to progress through dialogue. This control style fits the genre incredibly well, and it makes it very easy to control. In fact, I cannot imagine a control method that would fit any better.
Graphics and Sound
Layton already stepped into the third dimension with the Miracle Mask, so it is assumed the developers already knew what it would take to make a great looking 3DS game. The results are very good – much better than its prequel. While the puzzles are usually quite simple, the cutscenes and dialogue sessions look fantastic. The cartoon style looks just like it would if you were watching it on television. This is especially helpful to draw the player into the story. Layton and his group are loveable, and the enemies are begging for you to hate them.
The music sounds like something you would hear in an elevator or a jazz lounge, and this is a good thing. It fits the style incredibly well, and it never gets old. The voice-acting is also spot-on, as usual. Everyone fits their character, which also helps to draw the player into the story. The only thing is that I wish there was more of it. All of the cutscenes were acted, which makes sense, but only some of the dialogue was also acted. These seemed odd to go back and forth between hearing a voice and then having to read it yourself. I would have preferred to do one of the other, but the combination made it seem like they just didn’t get around to finishing the job.
Azran Legacy also boasts several other modes that are tacked onto the main story. You can always go back and play previously completed puzzles. If you are looking for more puzzles, you can get one per day, available via free download. There are also a few mini-games you unlock along the way. For the sake of being spoiler-free, I will not go into exactly what those are, but I will say you begin to unlock them soon after starting the story. They are all quite different from each other, which means you may like one more than the others. StreetPass is also available, which has you going on treasure hunts with those you pass. You can create your own challenge, select from existing challenges, and earn rewards. All of these additional modes and features only add to the replay value, which extends the amount of time you will play Azran Legacy.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I was not able to test and review the StreetPass functionality, as I have been playing the game before it is released. Therefore, I have omitted a specific review on that feature. The concept, however, does sound like it should be fun.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy continues the series’ wonderful blend of story and puzzle. Not only will this game challenge players’ minds, but it will draw them in with its mystery. They will want to keep going back for more of both, and the extra modes and features will keep them playing for hours after completing the main game. Sure, one can nitpick the small stuff, but overall, this game is a definite buy!
+ Great story.
+ Challenging puzzles.
+ Plenty of gameplay.
+ Extra features and modes.
– Needed more voice-acting
– Graphics on puzzles could have been better.