Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future [Available only on Nintendo DS]
ESRB Rating: E10+
Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Level-5
Release Date: September 12th, 2010

Parent Talk: Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is ideal for gamers of all ages.  The characters are incredibly likable and family-friendly, and the content is solid for any audience.  The puzzles and brainteasers are well-thought-out as well, making a fun and rewarding experience.  Professor Layton is one of few franchises that entertain your brain.  Young children may not understand some of the puzzles and have difficulty solving them, hence the E10+ rating, but there is no foul language here.  The violence is all stuff you would see in a Pixar movie.

Professor Layton is a dapper gentleman with razor-sharp wit and an insatiable thirst for solving puzzles.  His previous two adventures on DS, Curious Village and Diabolical Box, combined the satisfaction of tough brainteasers with a legitimately enjoyable story.  Most puzzle games give players a list of tasks to complete, but PL’s unique hook is that the characters and story sell the game.  Unwound Future maintains that expectation, and raises the bar.

The Great:
The characters.  Professor Layton and his assistant Luke are wonderful personalities, in design and writing.  Though the story and content are strong enough to stand on their own, the protagonists make the game shine.  It’s like the virtual realm of Sherlock Holmes.  The characters piece the story together logically, with its clashing supernatural and scientific ideas.  This series should be required playing for any well-rounded gamer.

The Good:

+ Satisfying puzzles.  A puzzle game would be nothing without…quality puzzles, obviously, and Unwound Future delivers.  Most early on are simple, while those later (along with several hidden projects) are noodle benders.  Better yet, many of UF’s puzzles are relevant to its script.  For example, during a sequence when Layton and Luke are escaping from thugs in a casino, said foes destroy a slot machine.  Immediately after, a puzzle pops up: remake the broken slot machine into a weapon to fend off the thugs.  Layton then assembles a makeshift coin launcher.

+ Balanced.  Professor Layton is never challenging per se, though the later puzzles can be tough.  The developers avoided cheap tasks with clever design.  Over the course of action, there are checkpoints that require players to have completed a certain number of puzzles.  It isn’t mandatory to complete every puzzle, but it’s a wise thing.  Any puzzles skipped can be tackled at another time.  Also, the Hint Coin system affects the difficulty.  While exploring, players can find coins scattered everywhere.  They can be spent on three hints and a super hint, which outright says how to solve a riddle.

+ Wonderful story.  As its title suggests, this game deals with the science of time travel.  It’s a novel concept, but the game does excellently to handle handle the material intelligently.  The narrative does well to string you along just enough so you make fun conclusions without knowing the truth.   At the start, Layton and young Luke receive an invitation to attend the unveiling of a new invention.  During the exhibit, the scientist in charge asks for the prime minister to come on stage.  The machine explodes, with not a person in sight.  Layton then receives a letter from what he believes to be the future Luke.  The best aspect is that the plot explains more about the professor’s origins.

+ Strong artwork.  Professor Layton games past never relied heavily on graphics, but the strong character design, impressive animated scenes and cool environments make the game appealing.  Most of the game is comprised of static images, but the colorful presentation more than makes up for it.

+ Added modes.  Unwound Future adds a few mini-games to enjoy, which offer different puzzles to solve.  The three new modes are: Toy Car, Parrot, and Picture Book.  Picture Book is a fill-in-the-blanks mad lib puzzle.  You collect stickers associated with specific story books to compile a full story.  Toy Car is about guiding Luke’s little vehicle around a course and collecting the items.  Parrot has you make deliveries to people around town.  Parrot and Toy Car are tougher than they appear, while Picture Book is just a matter of collecting stickers and putting them down.  These are fun distractions.

+ High-production value.  The cutscenes and voice work bring the story to life.  Unwound Future is comparable to an animated film.  Not every segment is voiced, but the key moments are.

The Bad:

– Low replay value.  There’s plenty of content, with well over 100 puzzles to solve and bonus content to sift through.  However, there’s no reason to return to any of it.  The enjoyment comes from the “Aha!” moments when working on a difficult puzzle or witnessing the plot unfold, both of which are most satisfying on the first playthrough.

– Been there, done that.  Unwound Future plays very similarly to the previous first two games in the series.  Any non-fans of them won’t have a reason to change their minds.  Fans then may argue that there’s no reason to mess with a good formula and the developers should just continue to refine things.  On the plus side, you don’t need past Professor Layton experience to enjoy this entry.

The Lowdown:

Unwound Future is a great addition to the PL series, fun for all people.  Even if you don’t like puzzle games, I think Unwound Future is a quality game worth anyone’s time.

2 thoughts on “Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review”

  1. My DS is starting to break… Makes me think twice about buying DS games. I would like this one and Golden Sun though.

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