The Professor Layton games have been some of the biggest cult hits of the DS and 3DS libraries. Now, with four games under its belt and one major spin-off in the works, Professor Layton is back for his sixth and apparently final adventure in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. But is the ultimate gentlemanly pursuit up to the challenge?
All the Professor Layton games have always been both incredibly charming, and immensely engaging. This is no doubt thanks to developer Level 5’s massive attention to detail visually apparent in the game. From the Studio Ghibli-esuqe 2D animated cutscenes and cartoony character designs, to the dozens of mind-twisting puzzles throughout, the games have always had no problem keeping players coming back for more, and Azran Legacy is no exception.
For those new to the series, the games basically center on the puzzle loving Professor Layton who goes out on exciting archaeological adventures with his apprentice, Luke, a la Indiana Jones. Except instead of getting out of scrapes with bullwhips and pistols, Layton instead solves a multitude of puzzles to get out of each sticky situation.
Cornered by a couple of dorky henchmen? Solve a puzzle to get them out of your way. Looking for the secret entrance to an ancient civilization? Puzzle. Just talking to a random little girl standing on the sidewalk? You guessed it—puzzle time.
The game retains the same odd, yet charming trend of placing puzzles at every dramatic crescendo. However, it never distracts from the exciting text-based story, though the puzzles do seem to come up in some of the most random or forced ways at moments.
This time around, Layton, Luke, his other rough-and-tumble partner, Emmy, and the eccentric Professor Sycamore are hot on the trail of the ancient Azran civilization after the revival of a living mummy in a block of ice—except it isn’t a mummy wrapped in bandages, but an ancient girl with mysterious powers of energy. It then becomes a race against time and across the globe to discover the secrets of remaining Azran structures before an evil organization gets their hands on it first and uses the advanced technology for world domination.
As the game goes on, the story is interesting enough to keep some players pushing onward to see all the twists and turns it eventually takes by the end. For a final entry to the series, it doesn’t necessarily feel like the stakes have been raised all that much, but there definitely are a lot of callbacks to the Professor’s previous adventures and acquaintances. This may make some elements of the story feel a bit distant for new players, but if you’re in it for the puzzles, don’t let that scare you away.
There are over a hundred puzzles over the course of the game, and they all range erratically in difficulty and quality over the course of the game. Most of puzzles come down to word problems, mathematical logic puzzles, and variations on sliding block style games. A few styles of the puzzles are repeated with slight variations and different visual skins, but many of the puzzles are all original conceptions.
The difficulty of each puzzle will vary based on the person playing it and their own capabilities for logic problems. That being said, there isn’t that much of a natural progression to the puzzles’ difficulties. After doing some of the hardest puzzles in the game, players are seemingly presented with the most insultingly easiest right after. I suppose it helps to keep the story moving along without hindering progress too much on overly difficult puzzles, but I can’t help but feel like a difficulty curve spanning the length of each chapter would’ve helped to keep the puzzles intellectually engaging all the time,
Solving puzzles earns you picrats, point that determine your puzzle solving aptitude, as well as a variety of mini-games and collectibles for these mini-games. Most of these mini-games are just extended versions of the more arcade-y puzzles, but there are also some side distractions such as a “Dress-Up” minigame.
Yup, that’s right, a game where you have to design outfits for varying girl characters you meet along the way. The mini-games like this one lack the sort of addictive and simplified nature of other more full-fleded versions of these games (might I recommend Style Savvy for those looking to get their designing skills on), but since they merely act as side distractions tucked away in the game’s start menu, it’s very hard to argue that their mere presence really hurts the game. If anything, it just feels a bit strange overall.
Azran Legacy both looks and sounds very whimsical. Everything in the game has a slight sepia tone to it, giving it the mood of a children’s adventure book, especially with the stylized visuals that accompany the puzzles on the top screen. Traversing around the world in the game let’s players get a first-person detailed look at everything, moving a cursor around by using the bottom screen as a trackpad. The same light European music is still backing the game and makes even the most jaded players feel like a regular Sherlock while solving puzzles and listening to violins and pianos playing in the background.
The 3D effects in the game are surprisingly solid as well. Poking around in the overworld feels like a tiny version of Myst and the 3D effect helps to add some depth to the visuals. Where the 3D looks best though is in the occasional animated cutscenes that punctuate the highlights of the story. The cutscenes feel like they were animated around the 3D with layered layouts and large visuals. It just goes to show that the 3D really works best with 2D objects to give an almost paper-doll effect over the full 3D stuff.
Those coming into the game looking for more of the same Layton they’ve come to know and love certainly won’t be disappointed. The same gameplay is there, the same loveable characters are still loveable, and there’s plenty of puzzles to keep you scratching your scalp until the sun comes up. First time players would be best advised to start with one of the original DS games if they’re interested in getting into mysterious storylines, but for those looking for something to think about on the 3DS, you really can’t go wrong with Azran Legacy.
[+Great selection of puzzles][+Good graphics and beautiful cutscenes][+Highly effective use of 3D][+Hours of gameplay and puzzles][+Interesting story][-Erratic difficulty curve][-Some puzzle explanations are too confusing][-Forgettable minigames and sidequests]