Riddles are an integral part of keeping an active brain. They help shape one’s mind and force you to think outside of the box; expanding the horizons of thought thusly making you smarter, wiser, better.
…At least, that’s what I tell myself after spending far too long on a simple riddle that tricked me into seeing past something that sits blatantly in front of my inept eyes. Luckily, it’s not about how dumb I might feel directly after. And it’s certainly not about feeling cheated on something that could have taken a fraction of the time had I allowed myself to see it in a different light.
Plenty of games have tried to give you riddles that offer this same kind of feeling, but none of them have given a true and fundamental riddle experience as well as Professor Layton did back in 2007 on the Nintendo DS. Level-5 provided a stunning collection of riddles that scaled back to the times when riddles were based on their merit alone and not about what kind of unique video game mechanic can be implemented into it. Layton, and it’s many sequels and spinoffs, have offered plenty of unique riddles and puzzles that are grounded in other tried and true riddles that have been around for dozens and dozens of years. If you were never lucky enough to play it on its native platform, you’re in luck as Professor Layton and the Curious Village is now on iOS and iPad in its new HD format that offers some updated visuals and the same wonderfully challenging puzzles as before.
While the puzzles are indeed at the forefront of Layton, you can rest assured that the main story thread is just as engaging and rewarding to go through. You play at Professor Layton and his trusty sidekick/apprentice Luke as they solve mysteries and riddles. This particular mystery finds you both headed to St. Mystere to meet with a Lady Dahlia regarding her late husband Baron Augustus Reinhold. In his will, he offered up his entire fortune to the person who solves the mystery of the Golden Apple. You follow the story through some twists and turns that are elevated by some wonderfully animated cutscenes.
What’s great about the town of St. Mystere is that nearly every character you run into has as much love for puzzles as Layton and Luke do. If you’re looking to get information from a person as to someone’s whereabouts, there’s a high chance that they will give it to you once you solve a riddle. Not only that, but even the objects in the various parts of town can cause Layton to bring up an interesting puzzle to Luke as a way to teach him about even more types of puzzles.
The puzzles are as challenging as they are unique. There are a few that are easy enough to understand but once I started to feel confident, I realized that I might have missed a very important detail and that caused me to reevaluate the work I’ve already put into it. They’re tricky and vague in the purposeful way that those old Variety puzzle books are and Layton also has the same unique collection of various kinds of puzzles that will keep the game consistently fresh puzzle after puzzle. Where a lot of games rely on a singular puzzle mechanic to propel you forward, Layton does a tremendous job in offering diversity. The only thing I seen a lot of were puzzles related to matchsticks, but even those felt fresh each and every time.
It’s easy to recommend a game that’s filled with puzzles wrapped around an interesting story but on top of those two things it succeeds in, the game also offers some collectibles that add even more puzzles to the mix. One of which is a unique inventory management puzzle that involves setting up two separate hotel rooms the best you can to meet the requirements of each person in your party. It’s a clever little puzzle that follows you throughout the game as you collect the items along your journey.
The mobile version plays just as well as the original version. I only personally played the first four or so puzzles the first time I played the DS game back in 2007 and it’s just as intuitive as it was back then using the DS stylus. They really didn’t change much at all from the original game as they even kept in the split screen that was a built-in feature with the DS; the top serving as the clues or the town background where the bottom serves as the puzzles or the ground-level view.
While the DS was a mobile device, having it on a much smaller platform like an iPhone makes it work so much better to lug around. It also makes it easier to pop into the game during a quick break in my schedule to play a quick puzzle or, at the very least, load up a puzzle so I can spend an hour or so pondering the answer or solution.
If you have yet to play any Professor Layton game, this is certainly the best place to start as it is the first of a trilogy and since Professor Layton and the Curious Village is on iOS now, there’s even less excuses to not pick it up and tease your brain.