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Professor Layton is back after his sell out first game on the Nintendo DS console, with his second adventure Professor Layton and Pandora's Box. Set on board the Molentary Express Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke are embroiled in a dangerous mystery concerning a fable deadly box. With over 150 new puzzles, a fully animated storyline and one new downloadable puzzle a week Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box offers almost endless amounts of head scratching entertainment for all.
Professor Layton is a series of Nintendo sponsored puzzle games for the Nintendo DS console. This long running series in Japan now sees the second instalment arrive on these shores. Each game tells its own stories and has its own puzzles. What they have in common are some ingenious puzzles, strong story and of course Professor Layton.
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box keeps the same format and high quality approach to its puzzles. But this is not just a repackaging of the first game, proceedings are streamlined here. Navigation has received a bump to make it clearer where to go and what to do next. Animations and story telling has also benefited from a little more investment - most likely funded from the huge success of first game, Professor Layton and Curious Village.
The puzzles and the story are also more integrated. Whereas the Curious Village often had tenuous links between its problems and narrative, although not quite as random as the equally excellent WarioWare Touch DS game, Professor Layton and Pandora's Box manages to offer conundrums that relate to the moment in the story. So there's a lot less of people refusing to help until you had solved their riddle. 'Hello, oh yes I can tell you were the house is, but I've heard you like puzzles, so can you solve this?'
The simple presentation of the first game also continues. Again, the puzzle instructions are kept to the top screen of the DS console, with the actual interactions and puzzle solving sticking to the bottom screen. This ensures you always have your instructions and tips to hand, and clears the clutter away from the thinking area on the bottom. It's a similar approach to the Nintendo first party Picross DS game and works just as well. As with that game though, this desire to provide all the information in one place can make the text a little small, but this seems a reasonable price to pay.
Visuals are again clean and clear, so it's just the infuriating problems that have you foxed rather than the interface. Both the general navigation and riddles themselves are depicted in a cartoon cell-shaded style that is easy to follow and understand.
The story is told with some of the best cartoon narrative I've seen on the DS. Think Glorious Cities of Gold meets Pokemon. The result is a cartoon series that is genuinely worth watching. Finishing a set of puzzles and unlocking the next stage of the story is actually quite exciting as you get to watch the next unfolding chapter in this full cartoon style.
For me, I loved taking Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box at my own pace. Rather than blasting through it, I'd take my time. In fact I'd often spend an evening with Layton on my lap whilst watching some evening TV. It felt much like flipping through the pages of a familiar magazine, sometimes I'd be watching the TV until one of the puzzles grabbed my attention and have me transfixed for half an hour, then it was back to East Enders for a bit.
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box will prove its real power as Christmas approaches. We expect it to mirror the popularity of the first game, The Curious Village, and be sold out weeks before the holiday arrives. Its simple visuals, strong art style and well paced puzzles make this a great game for both gamers and non-gamers alike.
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