Another journey for the prolific professor…through time?
Following your dreams into the world of archaeology can be something of a dangerous escapade unless you swallow pride and teach your trait to some gormless students. Indiana Jones may have a fairly dull 9-5 job, but his holidays are far more interesting than the typical tutors. A lifetime’s work in a dig site will probably only turn up a rock that kinda looks like Zippy from Rainbow. The renowned genius Professor Layton seems to have taken his tea break puzzles and professional know-how to invade some of the most bizarre locations to solve the most trivial of dilemmas. Despite his investigations into peculiar villages and ghost trains don’t quite match up to the newest mystery for the genius gentleman; saving the future of London…from himself.
Professor Layton and The Lost Future can barely pass the main menu before dropping an atomic bomb of a conundrum. The Professor receives a letter predicting the fall of London, (not down to riots), practically ruled and under the thumb of a powerful Crime Lord. What’s bizarre is that the letter is signed off by his assistant Luke…10 years in the future. What’s disturbing is the crime-lord Layton is requested to hunt down and stop is Layton himself. Perplexed, but not entirely convinced, the duo start an investigation, the letter as their only lead, the duo stumble upon something an answer that only revels in more bizarreness; the first ever time machine.
It’s a great premise which drives to get greater with an underlying conspiracy and fantastic plot twists which only deepen the mystery. The obvious query of how a time machine even works soon fades away as answers to smaller questions soon become overwhelming quests to solve. The great story is, of course, accompanied by a plethora of puzzles to solve, and works at a steady yet competitive pace. If the story doesn’t manage to hook you in, the great collection of puzzles that slowly build up your confidence in this world where lack of riddle knowledge leads you nowhere.
Though your brains are more integral to proceedings than your brawn, certain story related puzzles show that Layton’s ingenuity must extend to you every once in a while. There are some fantastic set pieces and inventive story related quizzes that blend incredibly well within each other, and simply feels rewarding narratively with the intriguing and occasionally hilarious results. You don’t quite see the point in recycling, until you can see what the Professor does with a broken, bullet ridden one armed bandit machine.
Not just the best game in the series, but one of the best games on the DS
Such sparks of inventive genius aren’t too frequent, yet only makes them even more of a pleasure when they do arrive. A majority of puzzles thankfully move away more from trick questions and dubious guessing games, and focus more on lateral thinking issues with conclusive solutions which challenge in most cases and even delight in a few. Although the puzzles lend a hand to drop the cherry on the narrative cake, the cake itself doesn’t even need the cherry. The cake is a monstrously large triple chocolate, caramel molten cored, 20 tiered desert surrounded by fountains of unicorn tears, angled just so to create a rainbow containing new colours. There is never a dull moment, never a segment without mystery, and always something to amuse, intrigue, and at times even make you well up a little.
As it stands on its own, though, you’ll definitely need to play the previous games in the franchise to care for the characters if you want to get the most out of The Lost Future. Though underneath lies the standard wacky plot with charming characters, this instalment really does a good job worming its way under the skin of the key characters of the franchise. It only really kicks in about half way through that this title is actually the last in a trilogy of adventures for the Prof, and though obviously doesn’t cut the series to a halt, it certainly feels like it ends an era in his volunteer detective work.
Apart from the thankful lack of trick questions and the more story related puzzles contributing to the narrative, not a lot has changed in terms of gameplay, but if it ain’t broke, just add a ribbon to it I guess. You can still earn hint coins off the streets to give clues for puzzles racking your brains and…select correct answers. If you decide to write memos over the puzzles now, you can now choose to write down notes in a variety of colours…which is nice.
A few more mini-games have nestled in to cool down the brain should you get overworked. A little toy car trail where you must lay out a path for a miniature vehicle to get from A to B in a set amount of moves proves fun, and a similar game where you must guide a parrot to its destination with lines of rope to bounce it about is equally average. A fairly simple third puzzlette takes the shape of a sticker book, where players must fill out the blanks of a story by slotting stickers into the corresponding pictures of the narrative. It gets a bit more tricky to solve with books later on, yet doesn’t make the trio shine as truly challenging past-times .These mini-games aren’t exactly as addictive as their quest puzzle counterparts, but are enjoyable in their own right if one wishes to take a break from their adventure.
The story is told through even more beautifully animated cut-scenes and when a conversation resorts to using cardboard cut-outs of characters to progress the plot with one dimensional discussions, Level 5 has made more use of the vocal talent. Seems with every title, we get fed more and more visual splendour, so hopefully it’s only a matter of time until they find some way of putting a fully fledged 8 hour film on a DS cartridge and interject it with puzzles to solve. That’ll be the dream, anyway.
A great collection of puzzles, a welcoming difficulty curve and an exceptional story make Professor Layton and The Lost Future not just the best game in the series, but one of the best games on the DS. An addictive outing which keeps you glued to the screen from commute, to office door, to firing, to jobless ride home, The Lost Future is a must-play for DS owners and a must-buy for Professor Layton fanatics.
The Bad: Mini-games still aren’t exactly on par with the rest of the challenges