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Professor Layton and the Unwound Future - DS Review

Game Info
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

DS | Nintendo / Level-5 | 1 Player | Nintendo Wi-fi Connection DLC available | Out Now
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18th October 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

I would like to start off by offering LEVEL-5 my sincerest thanks and appreciation for this series. They've already released two titles towards this new IP that have skyrocketed to being among the ranks of the best DS games I've ever played. Layton's debonair, sophisticated mannerisms and utterly compelling personality all grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let me go from the start. This in conjunction with a brilliant approach towards gameplay, and Professor Layton has left a mark on me that I will never forget. With this backdrop in mind, it's of little wonder then why I was so motivated to get the final title in this threesome set of releases as soon as I could. After seeing it to completion, I can honestly say that Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is one of my favourite puzzle-adventure games ever created. It's absolutely and most assuredly worth purchasing.

    The story for the game picks up as Layton and Luke are off embarking on a new adventure, once again. Just like with the other two games before it, the plot begins to take hold with a letter that catches their attention. As it turns out, the two of them are briefed in on a perplexing tale that transcends time and space. From precisely 10 years into the future, a more adult Luke writes to Layton, informing him of the grave, unbelievable situation that has befallen the London. To make matters worse, shortly before this letter was received, Layton and Luke witnessed a demonstration of a prototype time machine that went horribly wrong. With his vast intellect and foresight, Professor puts two and two together and believes the two incidents are connected in some way. With additional correspondence coming in, it's only a matter of time before the two of them are plunged head long into a complexing adventure. The mystery that follows is nothing short of engrossing.

The Professor proceeds to conduct a thorough investigation surrounding an intriguing set of events and circumstances that come to light. Early on in the game, you'll wind up exploring London of the Future, with alleys, streets, and buildings taking on a layout that clashes with London of yesteryear. As you explore this vast environment, you'll come across a wide mix of inhabitants. Conversing with them will lead to important clues that advance the story, or you may be presented with a puzzle to complete. Sometimes it's just for the sheer fun of it, but other times it may lead to a pivotal discovery. But either way, as the Professor so aptly states, a true gentlemen doesn't turn down a person in need - especially when it comes to puzzles. And you'll come across a ton of them.

    As you could probably already tell, the game's setting is quite big, with lots of areas to explore. In addition to the main streets of both Present and Future London, you also have bus terminals and secret passageways that link you to other areas. If you were to compare the amount of places you can visit here to the first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, you'll really appreciate how much stronger this exploration aspect is. But conducting your investigation isn't the only area where the game shines.

    True to its nature, the series has become known for its devilishly clever puzzles and brain teasers, and this remains true here as well. The mechanics of the puzzle-solving have stayed the same for the most part, with a few changes. Each puzzle is rated in difficulty by the amount of Picarats one can obtain. With each incorrect attempt towards a solution, the number of Picarats will decrease, sometimes by large amounts. So it's important that you put some thought into it before submitting your answer. More than likely you'll give up on a good number of them and try again later, and that's perfectly fine. But with each passing chapter, some puzzles you missed will congregate in a store with a peculiar flower inside of it. All other puzzles will remain in the spot you found them until they are solved.

There's a good mix when it comes to the types of puzzles you'll encounter. Some will employ the "process or elimination" principle, mathematics or just good old logic. However, this element of "logic" may take a form you may not be expecting. When this happens, you’ll need to flip switches in your brain, forcing yourself to consider possibilities from different points of view. When you're able to work this out on your own (as opposed to obtaining help), it's incredibly gratifying. But to be fair, it's to be expected that there will be a number of puzzles that will stump you completely. Don't worry though; you do have a series of lifelines that have been implemented to assist you when you're in this sort of predicament. 

    The biggest lifeline comes in the form of hint coins that you've gathered from the adventure field. You can find these just about everywhere if you make the effort to search them out. So with each new scene that you visit, it's good to make a practice of tapping different spots where you think they might be hiding. And sometimes, you may find hidden hint coins or puzzles as a reward for being curious. Each puzzle has 3 normal hints that can be accessed using these coins. The first one usually suggests a thought pattern that may differ from what you have previously considered. Hints #2 and #3 are much more useful, but there are times when even these may still leave you confounded as to the correct answer. And since this also occurred more than a few times in the previous games, the developers evidently decided to take some action. In an unexpected move, Unwound Future makes use of a new "Super Hint" feature, where the answer is practically handed to you on a platter for two coins. 

    Every puzzle you complete adds Picarats to your overall total. More than just serving as a means towards bragging rights, accumulating these "credits" will award you with bonus unlockables after the game is over. These include artwork, and other bonus materials that relate to the development of the game. Additionally, completing the game opens up even more maddening puzzles to complete. And as if that wasn't enough, there's also a healthy supply of downloadable puzzles available through Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Overall, I'd say they stepped up the puzzle factor a bit above what was already above-average execution. Admittedly, some have been rehashed from previous games, just with a different problem to solve. And as a whole, I'd argue that Diabolical Box was trickier on the brain when compared with the puzzles seen here. But this aspect doesn't make Unwound Future dull to play. The fact of the matter, this is a really fun game, particularly for puzzle-crazy gamers.

At any time during the exploration phase, you can access the Professor's Trunk, a treasure chest full of goodies, some of which must be unlocked at a later point in the game. First up you have Layton's Journal where the Professor will record entries based on what's transpired in the game. Then there's the Mysteries menu where you'll eventually find 10 different unsolved mysteries that all point to the climax of the adventure. From the Puzzle Index, you can see all of the puzzles you've discovered, select your favourites, or even show completed puzzles friends. Players also have a tiny green book for note-taking purposes, which can come in handy for memory purposes. It may not see much usage over the course of your journey, but it's still a nice new addition.

    At some point in the game, you'll be able to access three different mini-games. In Picture Book, you use stickers collected from completing puzzles to create a story that fits as a whole. Toy Car has you placing tiles to direct a miniature version of the Professor's car across a 3D course using tiles. And finally, you use rope to create platforms that will allow your parrot companion to make deliveries to townsfolk. All of these are fun to play from time to time, and in the case of the latter two, they can be quite challenging. While they may not be as inventive as serving stressed-out citizens bags of tea, they're still great extras that serve their purpose in breaking things up a bit.

    Taking time to ponder over the storyline and all the events that occur in the game, I was thoroughly pleased with everything the developers threw in to make the game exciting to play. The plot does a nice job at tying things up and incorporating elements from past entries. For instance, I felt that Flora had a bigger role to play as part of the team than in preceding games where you could argue that she was put on the bench a bit. Then you have some other familiar faces, including Stachenscarfen (one of the first people you meet in Curious Village), Pavel the foreign traveler, and the ever-so-kind Granny Riddleton. Not one to give up so easily, Don Paolo makes yet another appearance in Unwound Future. More importantly, towards the climax of the game, we learn exactly why he decided to make Layton his arch-nemesis in the first place. And it was great to see this back-story play out when it did. There were also three situations in the game where the player had to engage in a spur-of-the-moment puzzle battle in order to advance the plot. These, too, were nice changes of pace, even if they were on the mild side. All of these details exemplify just how much of a complete finish Unwound Future is to Layton's trilogy of games.

The storyline has a lot of twists to it, and this is something I've quickly grown fond of in this series. While the first game had a relatively few number of surprises, both Diabolical Box and Unwound Future featured a good number of parts where I was genuinely surprised at what had taken place. If you're paying keen attention, there are plenty of opportunities where you'll start to become suspicious of certain things, much in the same way that Layton shows signs of his intuition telling him something is up. The doubtful thoughts that come from feeling this way get you really involved in the game, so much so that it's incredibly hard to pull away. And really, if you've played all three games like I have, I think this says a lot about what the developers have been able to do. In essence, they have you thinking a lot like the Professor himself, and sometimes without even realizing it. By the end of the game, you feel an amazing sense of attachment to both the Professor and his self-appointed apprentice. And you really see this come to the fore when you see the game's absolutely superb ending.

    The dialogue that goes on here is top-notch, on par with (if not better than) what was seen in Diabolical Box. The voice acting is terrific in certain areas, and moments where you may perceive a hint of cliché expressions are quickly rectified with a more mature or humorous comment. Now, I've grown to love Luke's silly antics over the past three games, and this has spilled over to some of the lines he delivers. Just like in previous games, there are times when Luke overreacted to a particular situation, or spoke misguidedly (yet, confidently) trying to defend the Professor. I can think of multiple instances where Luke made me laugh out loud over something he said, and I'll always carry those moments with me. The music complements the events that are taking place extremely well. Many of them grow on you over time, while other tracks may not have as much exposure, but still feel very forceful. Scenes where much tensity or suspense exists are effectively captured thanks to wise decisions on the part of the developers.

Unwound Future is definitely the longest of the three games. Although this took 15 hours for me to complete, I definitely did not feel like it was too short, since I found myself totally wrapped up in what was going on. This entry is also impressive for its puzzle count (over 150 in total), and the significant chunk of well-pleasing animations used to convey key points in the story. All in all, it's one amazing adventure that never once disappointed me in any way.

    Although Unwound Future may be the final entry in this set of games, I don't feel as though I've been ripped away from these two lovable characters. I know they'll be back for more adventures, and I will wholeheartedly continue to support this fantastic IP with open arms. But until then, I must express that Professor Layton and the Unwound Future impressed on so many levels. Addicting gameplay mechanics, a solid storyline, high quality presentation values, as well as a seamless sense of attachment and interaction are all some of Unwound Future’s many highlights. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better way to end this memorable trilogy of games, and I can't thank Nintendo and LEVEL-5 enough for that. These games have successfully managed to fill my heart with joy, and I will never forget the experiences I've had. Until we meet again, Professor!

30/30 - Outstanding

Gameplay 10/10 - Brilliant mechanics, multiple styles in one rock-solid package, new features including Super Hints, feels very harmonious with other titles
Presentation 10/10 - Impressive visuals, animations and dialogue are very well done, great music, lovable cast of characters, a wholly memorable effort
Enjoyment 5/5 - Contains a lovable cast of characters that will form a bond with you, solving tricky puzzles can be very gratifying, story is very engrossing
Extra Content 5/5 - Over 150 puzzles, fun mini-games, additional downloads, very challenging bonus puzzles, more than 15 hours long, a must-have title

Equivalent to a score of 100% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
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