Since the release of Professor Layton and the Curious Village way back in 2008 for the Nintendo DS system, the Professor Layton series of games has quickly become a favourite with Nintendo fans. Bringing us a mix of interesting stories, loveable characters, and testing puzzles it wasn’t really a surprise that the series would take off as it has. Four years since the release of Professor Layton and the Curious Village outside of Japan, we have the fifth game in the Professor Layton series, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, but this time the game is for the 3DS and not the DS, offering us a refreshing change.
It’s true that I’m quite a big fan of the Professor Layton series, but by the fourth game in the series I didn’t hold as much enthusiasm for the series as I originally had purely because, while they do polish everything game after game, nothing really changes and we’re going through the motions, and thus I didn’t get my hopes up for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask changing that. However, I’m happy to say that I was wrong, and that the move to the 3DS has offered the series a refreshing change to regain my interest. While the gameplay hasn’t changed, we still go through the motions of exploring, solving puzzles and trying to unravel whatever mystery Professor Layton and friends have gotten themselves into; the 3D effect really has helped the series out, not to mention the game featuring a much stronger story than those seen in the last game or two.
As far as the story goes, this time around Professor Layton has been sent a letter by an old friend of his, asking for his help in solving the case of the “Masked Gentlemen” who can seemingly perform miracles (he may call them miracles, but what is afoot here is far more dangerous than any of them could have guessed), and, as you would expect, is causing chaos in the city of Monte d’Or where Layton’s friend lives. Monte d’Or is a city built in the middle of a desert, but despite this the city is booming and the mayor, Henry Ledore couldn’t be happier, expect of course for the trouble being caused by this Masked Gentlemen. However, this isn’t the only story Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask has to tell us, the story is split in two and while Layton tries to solve the case of the Masked Gentlemen, we also get to learn a little bit more about his past and how the Mask of Chaos being used by the Masked Gentlemen caused the death of a good friend eighteen years ago. Just how do the events from eighteen years ago tie to the current day? Well, you’ll have to find that out for yourself, but I can say that the story offers a number of twists and turns that you won’t expect, which for a game that relies so heavily on its story can only be a good thing.
The story being split in two is one of the things which makes this game so much fan, because we don’t hear about Layton’s past through a series of cut scene, we actually get to explore and play through it all, which makes it much more engaging. Of course we still have more than enough time to have fun exploring Monte d’Or, which is a far more interesting city than you first suspect, and is a joy to explore, especially in 3D which offers a real sense of depth to everything. In fact, as far as the use of 3D in a 3DS game goes so far, I think Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask has done it best and I really appreciate the game much more for it. That said, the 3D is largely only a huge factor when you’re exploring and hunting for information/clues/puzzles, because the puzzles themselves rarely make use of the 3D as strongly, nor do the anime style cut scenes but that’s somewhat expected.
As far as the puzzles go the game doesn’t seem to pack in as many as normal, with only 150 in the main game, and you can get away with only solving 100 and still be able to complete the main story. The puzzles which are key to the story are actually a bit easier than those we’ve seen in the past too, but that might not be a bad thing for the younger fans of Professor Layton, or the fans that ended up stuck on a certain puzzle for a long period of time. Of course, for those looking for more of challenge the game does offer free downloadable content in the shape of a brand new puzzle every day for a year from the games release, which gives you another 365 puzzles to test your wits against. If that wasn’t enough the game also has a number of extras for you to work through, such as a Rabbit young Luke obtains while exploring Monte d’Or which you can train up to take part in a number of different plays. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask really does make sure you’ll still have a number of things to do long after you’ve completed the main story, ensuring this is a game that you’ll be playing for a long time to come. I got through it with about twelve hours of playtime, but that was without spending much time on the extras and not being focused on completing every single puzzle, so that twelve hours could easily be doubled for someone wanting to find and complete every little thing, and that’s without taking into account the daily puzzles!
In closing: The game doesn’t offer any huge changes to the Professor Layton series, but it once more offers another layer of polish on an already impressive series and the switch from the DS to 3DS makes for a very refreshing change, with the 3D offering added depth and life to the characters we’ve come to know and love so well.