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Professor Layton and the Unwound Future


Another Puzzle Solved!
Professor Layton is quickly becoming a staple on Nintendoís mobile gaming platform, not to the popularity level of Mario, but gradually growing with each release. Layton first hit the Nintendo DS in 2008 with the release of Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and then followed up with Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box in 2009. Fast forward to 2010 and we now have Professor Layton and the Unwound Future to digest from developer Level-5. This section of Professor Laytonís life is rife with time travel and, once again, more puzzles to tie your brain in knots. The Professor and Luke are attending a demonstration on time travel when the experiment goes haywire and makes a couple prominent city officials vanish. Layton gets a letter from the Luke of the future warning him of the dire consequences that are going to occur to London. Itís up to the Professor and young Luke to being their time traveling adventure to unravel the mystery. Itís a tremendous narrative, quite possible the most captivating Professor Layton title yet.



While the story is new, the gameplay is relatively untouched. You are still required to wander around the in-game word, talk to people and solve their puzzles. Solving puzzles leads into unwrapping the larger story as the people will open up with more information after the Professor proves his worth. The puzzles are varied, but you will notice some old favorites like pushing cubes around or some well-known brain teasers. If you need to take notes on puzzles for future reference, the memo pad been slightly improved with this version. You can alternate colors to designate the importance of your own notes / clues. I found this to be helpful in the latter stages of the game when trying to remember my previous thoughts on an old puzzle.

What has been modified in this go-around with Layton is the hint system. In previous games, you were allowed three hints for each puzzle assuming that you has the coins to spend on them. The three hints werenít designed to give away the entire puzzle, just nudge you in the first direction. Unwound Future has added a fourth hint, a mega-hint that basically solves the puzzle, but it costs 2 coins instead of just one. You could hypothetically end up spending 5 coins per puzzle if you want to gradually try to get the answer on your own.

There are some new additions on the mini-game side, namely Picture Book, Toy Car and Parrot. Throughout the game, you collect stickers that go into the Picture Book, but the game doesnít tell you where they are supposed to be placed. You have to deduce the flow the story and figure out where each sticker goes to read the entire tale. Toy Car is a racing mini-game in which you speed around a map picking up packages along the way and Parrot is similar to the recently released Ivy The Kiwi? for the Wii. You basically have a limited number of lines to draw on the screen leading the parrot from one side of the level to the other. Overall, the mini-games are nice additions, but you will likely want to race through them to get back to the puzzles in the game.


Graphics

  • The graphical anime style in Unwound Future is phenomenal and shockingly polished for a NDS title. The gorgeous, animated backdrops help tell the tale of the Professorís predicament and some of the ending sequences are the best animation work Iíve seen on the NDS. The touch screen works perfectly with the puzzles / mini-games and is quite clever with the implementation at times.

Audio

  • Iím always surprised at how much voice work developers can squeeze into these smaller capacity DS titles and Unwound Future has plenty of it. The professional voice acting is top notch and really brings the characters to life. Iím not as big a fan of the background music that plays throughout the rest of the game, both navigation and in puzzles, but it goes do a good job of matching the emotional layout of the presentation.

Conclusion

Nintendo and Level-5 hit another home run with Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. The highly involving storyline, strong group of puzzles and slight twists in the gameplay have taken the Professor Layton series another step up in quality. That being said, the series is still challenging for players of all ages and possibly frustrating for those without deductive reasoning skills. You are easily looking at upwards of 20 hours to complete all the puzzles, but itís not likely that you would replay the game again after learning all the answers.

Unwound Future is the best title in the Professor Layton series, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didnít play through the first two games to learn about the main characters. Still, itís not required to understand whatís going on in this game. If you like puzzles games or fairly enthralling stories, do yourself a favor and go pick up Professor Layton and the Unwound Future today.

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