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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Video Game Connoisseur

“Professor Layton and the Curious Village” has an interesting concept: everyone you talk to gives you a puzzle to solve. And by puzzle I don’t mean you have to find them a magic orb of something-or-other in the dungeon of some-kind-of-doom. I mean they give you a brain teaser along the lines of “find which weight is lightest using a scale only twice,” or “find two coins that make 35 cents and one of them is not a quarter.” It reminds me of Myst in a way, only without the whole “you’re-on-an-island-by-yourself-and-have-to-travel-through-books-and-think-you’ve-been-doing-acid” thing.

The story: brilliant puzzle-solving archeologist Professor Layton and his assistant, Luke, are asked to the mysterious village of St. Mystere to solve the puzzle of an inheritance. The Baron who owned the town passed away, and his will states that whoever finds his family treasure, the Golden Apple, will inherit his estate.

No one has ever heard of this Golden Apple, so the late Baron’s wife asks Prof. Layton to come solve the puzzle. In the meantime, a murder and other mysteries start cropping up. In fact, you have an inventory window devoted to tracking your encounters, including strange sounds and artifacts found near a murdered relative of the Baron.

Everything in the game is a puzzle: You are given an empty picture frame and have to find the missing pieces of the picture throughout the game. Your hotel rooms are empty, and you have to find furniture as you go and give them to the two characters to make them happy. You have to find the mysterious Golden Apple, which no one knows anything about.

You do one of these brainteasers every five minutes or so. I consider myself fairly good at brainteasers, but I was averaging 7 to 10 minutes per puzzle (this number is a little inflated because a couple of difficult ones took me around 20 minutes).

The puzzles, created by a Japanese puzzle master, are impressive. Having a puzzle master, rather than some interns looking for puzzles on the internet, definitely adds to the degree of difficulty. Actually, the Japanese puzzle master is Akira Tago, an 82-year-old professor emeritus of Chiba University, who, in his spare time, wrote a series of puzzle books called “Head Gymnastics.” This guy is the puzzle master.

Game play consists of wandering around town with a specific goal to complete: find a cat, track down a certain person, etc. These small tasks divide the game into chapters with each chapter consisting of a single mission. You also gather clues and other items by solving the various puzzles presented to you, which help you as you proceed. Also in the game you can find “hint coins,” which are used to buy hints when solving a puzzle. Each puzzle has three hints you can unlock, but be advised there are only a limited number of coins throughout the game, so it’s best to use them sparingly.

“Professor Layton and the Curious Village” is the first in a series of three announced games starring Layton and his assistant, Luke, solving puzzles. I really like this game; it’s easy to pick up after putting down, and the story is interesting enough to keep me wondering what’s going to happen next. I recommend getting a copy, and with the ability to download new daily puzzles with Nintendo WiFi, it has considerable replay value. This game is going to be staying in my DS for a while, and traveling with me on my commute.