I had planned on doing my usual long form review of Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracles, but alas, I just don’t have it in me. I apologize to my fellow Laytonites out there who feel I’m giving them, and the game, a short shrift.
I know this guy who once said that he’d love Halo if Bungie would only change everything about Halo that makes Halo Halo. That’s kind of where I am with the Professor Layton games right now. The Layton games follow a pretty strict formula of whacky characters, a semi-mystical story that ends up being explained away through non-mystical but no less fantastical means, great puzzles, interesting mini-games and beautiful, hand drawn animation. The puzzles change, the mini games change, the story changes, but everything else remains the same, which is great if you really like the established formula.
Unfortunately, for me, the formula has become somewhat stale and the stories of the past two games haven’t been strong enough for me to get past the things I”m less interested in. I felt that Professor Layton and the Unwound Future was not only the best game in the series but one of the best, most heartwarming stories I’ve ever experienced in a game. Since then, I’m just not as interested in the adventures of Layton, Luke and Emmy, despite the narrative that Level 5 is telling throughout these three prequels.
As I was playing this game, I found myself not caring about the mini-games, one which has you moving a robot across various maps and one that has you placing items on a store’s shelves so as to entice buyers to buy everything in the shop display, a game I found slightly tone-deaf what with the still ongoing economic problems facing various countries. In fact, I found myself completely uninterested in the puzzles as well, seeing them as nothing but barriers to my progress through the story.
Unfortunately, once those barriers were removed, the story left me cold. The identity of the masked man wasn’t a surprise and once revealed, the way everyone lined up to forgive his trangressions felt odd. I know forgiveness is divine, but this was crazy. Given how much the Layton games depend on the story, if the story doesn’t do it for you, a big part of the game’s charm is gone. I mean, at that point, if I don’t care about the story I could just do all of the downloadable puzzles I never finished in the previous games.
Sure the 3D looks great and it makes the environments pop and I certainly appreciated having a reason to turn the 3DS on after many months of non-use but in the end, this was the first time I was looking forward to being finished with a Layton game just to be finished with it. If that’s not a sign that I need to take a break, I don’t know what is.
Maybe the Layton – Phoenix Wright mash-up will be what I need to rekindle my love of the series, although I felt very much the same about the Phoenix Wright games when I was done with them. I have no doubts that Level 5 will make a good game, but whether that game ends up being enough to kick start my interest is another thing entirely.