"Imagine a place where instead of going down the pub for a pint and pig snacks, you'd rather have your brain smashed by a perplexing puzzle than a pool cue, and that a test of a man's will is not a gun duel at dawn or glove slap to the face but by solving mind bending puzzles. Welcome to St. Mystere! Professor Layton and his happy-go-lucky assistant Luke are called into town to help settle an inheritance dispute, but gets tied up with a various other mysteries along the way including a murder, st..."
Imagine a place where instead of going down the pub for a pint and pig snacks, you'd rather have your brain smashed by a perplexing puzzle than a pool cue, and that a test of a man's will is not a gun duel at dawn or glove slap to the face but by solving mind bending puzzles. Welcome to St. Mystere! Professor Layton and his happy-go-lucky assistant Luke are called into town to help settle an inheritance dispute, but gets tied up with a various other mysteries along the way including a murder, strange disappearances and an ominous tower to the north.
The game is essentially a point-and-click (or tap) adventure broken up with puzzles offered by the bizarre residents of the town. The populous here love puzzles, and you will be up to your hat full in solving them - with over 120 to discover over the course of the game and more available to download, each and everyone serves to baffle a different part of your grey matter. They come at you in the form of riddles, tongue twisters, mental arithmetic, visual differences - there are huge amounts of variance between them and they always offer something to scratch your head at.
The most attractive aspect of the game is that the puzzles never stray too far out of reach - they are all in their own way solvable and never get too complex - math puzzles never require solutions to the nth decimal place and are often simpler than you think. However, this does not make them any easier to solve; the sheer variety of tasks, red herrings and the way riddles are worded keeps you on your toes, meaning diving into each puzzle is taxing but never frustrating, delivering a sense of satisfaction that Dr Kawashima could never deliver, even with his sexy arithmetic.
Completing puzzles earns you 'picarats' which serve as a numerical gauge for your brain busting prowess. Upon completing the game you unlock goodies according to how many you notched up, giving you more incentive to guess puzzles correctly on the first couple of tries. Unfortunately the penalty system for incorrect guesses is somewhat broken; you are only penalized for the first two wrong guesses by docking picarats you receive. While this is fine for most puzzles where guesses are extremely wide ranging, multiple choice puzzles are almost pointless as you will get past them within a couple of half attempts, with only a slight knock to your score.
The hint system operates by spending coins found throughout the adventure, a reward for your tireless exploring of the village, and while they are hidden in notable places such as pictures and flower pots, it does eventually succumb to simply tapping every pixel on the screen in a mad attempt to find more. The adventure itself is on the light side but engaging enough, especially when you know puzzles come at every corner, and the plot adds up to something special in its climax as the mystery is finally laid out.
The experience is lubricated with a lush European-Japanese art style, with full motion cutscenes that look rather impressive for a handheld system. The unique visuals serve up as a complimentary side dish to the bizarre plot, especially the intriguing tower that consumes the village skyline that is itching to be learnt about.
On a system that is oversaturated with brain teasing, training, taxing and general numbing down of your IQ, along comes a game that appeases both your mental and adventuring urges alike and straddles a happy medium between a casual puzzle game and an engaging mystery adventure. The game does not push the envelope in terms of using the DS features, but it goes hand in hand with the simplistic nature of the puzzle solving. A stunning addition to the already booming DS library and is something gamers, casual or otherwise, can take a lot of joy from and should seriously consider purchasing when it hits our stores. Now excuse me, I have a mystery to solve!
Community review by Crazyreyn (March 25, 2008)
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