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LTTP: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

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LTTP or ‘late to the party’ pieces are opportunities for me to catch up and write about games I missed out on the first time around. They may contain spoilers.

I didn’t jot down my thoughts on Professor Layton and the Last Specter but then again, there wasn’t much to report. It was a was a new trilogy that introduced some new characters and side activities but it didn’t further the series in any meaningful way. I enjoyed the story but coming from the finale of the last trilogy, it was a bit of a step down.

After the last game, I took a two year break from the series. I actually wanted to step back into the series with a new Nintendo 3DS title and when I saw Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy was on sale, I bought it. Unfortunately for me, this wasn’t the sequel to the last game that I played. The sequel was actually called Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask which was also the first Nintendo 3DS entry in the series.

As an early 3DS title, Level 5 and Nintendo felt the need to take advantage of the new hardware. Sprites and static backdrops were replaced with livelier 3D cell shaded models. I kept flip flopping between thinking the 3D models were fine to thinking they looked weird. The dynamic back drops were welcomed with open arms and thankfully I didn’t have to randomly tap in hopes of stumbling into a hidden hint coin. All I had to do was scan with the magnifying glass which was much less annoying than tapping from previous games.

Hint coins, puzzles and navigating through an area are the hallmarks of a Professor Layton gameplay cycle. Side mini games were another hallmark but I feel they’re becoming more and more random. In the Miracle Mask, I was filling the blanks of a play with rabbit gestures, stocking inventory to move as a shop keep and guided a dumb robot towards his goal. They were okay. I finished them but I have no desire to reap the rewards for doing so.

Five games worth of puzzles takes its toll on a developer. I felt they were scraping the bottom of the puzzle barrel with this one. I haven’t done the breakdown but I felt there were too many non-interactive puzzles in this title. I’m not a fan of puzzles that require me to visualize a 3D object in my head. I much prefer to interact, poke and feel my way into a solution. The Layton games are at their best when they were interactive and I wasn’t just solving word problems with the aid of the limited memo pad.

Speaking of memo pad, Level 5 finally gave us different pencils, erasers and colors to help us with those word problems.  But then they included puzzles that would have benefited with a layers function or multiple pages.

My problems with the puzzles didn’t end there. I felt the Miracle Mask was full of obtuse and unnecessarily vague puzzles. It was almost like they required the hint coins in order to even understand what they were trying to convey. I thought it was my own idiocy but I handed over those annoying puzzles to my brother several times throughout my playthrough to get his opinion and he too was flabbergasted by what they were asking. I was okay with math problems but puzzles like “Ace of Diamonds” should have been interactive.

The narrative of Layton games have been trying to recapture the brilliance of The Unwound Future’s most touching moments. The Last Specter was a strong beginning for the trilogy but they missed the mark with the Miracle Mask’s tale of lost childhood friends, fake marriages and amnesia. Henry and Layton’s good friend, Randall were unlikeable and as far as I’m concerned, they would have been better served if the tale ended with Randall losing everything. That would have been a memorable twist for an E-10 rated game.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the last title in trilogy but I’m taking a break from it for Ace Attorney vs Professor Layton: Dual Destinies. I hope the final instalment ends on a high note. I am a fan of the Layton series but if they’re just going include a bunch of obtuse and non-interactive word problems, I would be okay if the series went dark for awhile.

Worth a Try

Ratings Guide

For more information on Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, visit the official site.

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