A True Gentleman Never Leaves a Puzzle Unsolved
The Layton games are officially considered adventure hybrids. I’m not so sure I agree classifying them as adventures in any way. They do include dialog, a plot, and moving through various locales like cities, trains, villages, etc. But there’s just something missing – a vital core – that keeps it from adventure gamedom in my book. I understand why it’s been slotted into this genre, adventure/puzzle hybrid, as that does seem the closest one that fits, but I think maybe it needs its own genre completely.
I actually played the original Layton trilogy out of chronological order, starting with the last one, Unwound Future, and making my way through Diabolical Box all the way to the beginning, Professor Layton and the Curious Village. It’s easy to see the progression (or, in my case, reverse regression) the series has made in its first three installments. I’d have to say that Curious Village is by far the most uninteresting of the three in terms of plot. The puzzles…well, that’s another matter entirely.
Now this is not to say that I disliked Curious Village. Not at all. Saying it’s the least interesting is like saying which of three golden apples has the dullest shine. (And speaking of golden apples, that’s going to launch us into the story in just a moment.) In fact, I’d be lying if I said the game’s narrative was transparent or flimsy – it certainly had me stumped ‘til pretty much the very end. In case it needs to be mentioned, beware of SPOILER ALERT below.
The game starts off innocuous enough, with Layton and sidekick Luke arriving in a small out-of-the-way hamlet to participate in a treasure hunt – an eccentric millionaire has passed, and has hidden clues to his inheritance, a “golden apple”, for any would-be fortune seekers wishing to test their mettle in his game of wits. Of course, immediately upon arriving, Layton and Luke are beset with riddling townsfolk, eager to have someone solve their enigmas. And so it goes. Pretty standard stuff, where Layton games are concerned.
But once additional characters “drop dead” while others are snatched in plain daylight by a mysterious man, only to reappear soon after with apparent memory loss, I was terrifically puzzled. A mysterious, dilapidated, unreachable tower in the middle of town didn’t help matters any. I don’t consider this to be exactly the most memorable Layton plot thus far, but I certainly didn’t see the ending twist coming!
In the end, the game had a heartwarming and satisfying conclusion, and it was a treat to see how Flora ended up as part of the team. All in all, it does lack the presence of a strong antagonist like Diabolical Box‘s vampire, and doesn’t quite tug at the heartstrings like Unwound Future‘s love story sub-plot. I’m sure it serves as a nice introduction to the series when played in its proper order. Playing it backwards like I did though, it was slightly forgettable, and its fun didn’t extend far past the innate enjoyment of solving its puzzles.
I now plan on taking a bit of a break from Layton and spending more time getting further into the Phoenix Wright series, which I’ve only played one game in so far. Perhaps by the time I conclude that, there’ll be a whole new cycle of Layton games to riddle through. (Not to mention the crossover between the two franchises!)
There is just something very comforting about these games – they’re a great place to relax your brain after a day of work. They’re warm, good-humored, and proof positive that there’s no situations that can’t be overcome with a dose of gentlemanly behavior. Also, I am now certain that all Brits walk around solving riddles for each other.