Professor Layton & Pandora’s Box review

April 24, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Posted in DS Review, Game Review | Leave a comment
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The sleuthing Professor returns to solve another puzzling mystery. It’s yet another cracking adventure too.

Title: Professor Layton & Pandora’s Box

Format: DS

Developed by: Level 5

Published by: Nintendo

Genre: Investigation

The success of Professor Layton and the Curious Village in the UK took everyone, including Nintendo, by surprise. It managed to strike a chord with both the casual crowd brought into the DS market by Brain Training and long-time gamers and has sat happily near the top of the DS charts for most of the last year (stock levels permitting). So the release of the second Layton game in the series (Japan has already had three, with the third of a new trilogy due by the end of the year) was inevitable, but very welcome; the second adventure of gaming’s most charming gentleman, subtitled Pandora’s Box, is an absolute cracker.

Like many good sequels this takes everything that made its predecessor successful and builds upon it. Developers Level 5 have stuck to the foundations laid in the first title so there is very little difference in terms of structure between the two games, and even some familiarity in the types of puzzles on offer. As before the story revolves around a major mystery to solve, in this case the mysterious death of Professor Layton’s mentor and the disappearance of the eponymous box he had been investigating. In order to get clues and push the story forward you need to complete puzzles based around arithmetic, logic and spatial thinking doled out by the characters you meet on your journey or revealed in the areas you explore.

One of the criticisms directed at the first game was that the puzzles themselves felt abstracted from the environments and story, and Level 5 seem to have made a concerted effort to tie the two together more closely this time around. There are the odd improvements in other areas too: most backgrounds are now animated, there is more voice work and there’s a handy memo sheet that can be overlaid onto puzzles for you to jot down notes. The side puzzles are also improved in this game, there’s a camera to rebuild, herb tea ingredients to collect and a fat hamster to slim down.

With these adjustments it’s strange Level 5 haven’t addressed one of the biggest issues. The first game regularly required you to skip from one side of the village to another; as it lacked a quick-jump feature, you were forced to back-track through every screen between your current and desired location. It’s the same in this game too; it’s not so much a problem early-on as there are plenty of hidden puzzles and hint coins to find, but once screens have yielded all there is to offer there’s no reason to have to traipse through them. It’s not a game-breaker by any means but as the rest of the game is so polished it’s an over-sight that should have been picked up on before release.

But despite these grumbles, this really is a game that has something for everyone. Fans of the previous game will lap this up, and newcomers will enjoy getting to grips with the puzzles, meeting all the kooky personalities and surrounding themselves in the sumptuous environments. It’s a great title to bridge the gap between inquisitive adults and their games-mad offspring, providing ample moments and challenges to discuss around the dinner table or desk at work/school.

Pandora’s Box manages to better its predecessor in nearly every way which is some feat considering the original stands as one of the best titles on the system. The delightful scripting and art-direction in particular transcend the limits of the hardware and are as good as anything home consoles have to offer. If you own a DS this really is a must-have.

8/10

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