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Professor Layton and the Lost Future DS Review

10/01/2011 Thinking Story Gamer Review
Guest author: Mags L Halliday
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Professor Layton and the Lost Future DS

Professor Layton and the Lost Future




Further reading:
Mags L Halliday
Curious Village
Pandora's Box

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Family Gamer (DS)

Further reading, films and books that create similar stories:

Professor Layton and the Lost Future fills in a lot of back story whilst telling a time-travel tale that fits together neatly. And we finally see him without his hat.

The first Professor Layton had a very straightforward plot beneath the twists and turns of the alleyways. You started outside the Curious Village, and ended at the top of the tower in its centre.

The second one, Pandora's Box, provided more locations, starting with a murder in a city before ending up in a lost town in a fold in time on a railway line. Apparently.

Professor Layton and the Lost Future also journeys between locations, albeit temporal ones rather than physical. Layton, Luke and what seems like an ever-expanding cast jump between contemporary London and a London ten years from now. And there are flashbacks to Layton before he was a Professor as well, before he got the hat.

I say contemporary, but what I mean is the pre-existing Layton-verse. This is an imaginary Europe, one in which gentlemen wear hats and drive deux chevaux, schoolboys wear shorts and can talk to animals.

One of the joys of all this is the French/Japanese animation elements to the design of the game. It's very much the sunlit steampunk of Kiki's Home Delivery Service and other Studio Ghibli films.

This is an expansion of the mythology, with a lot of the emphasis placed on events in the past.

The consistency of design and voice talent mean the story comes to the fore: this is an expansion of the mythology, with a lot of the emphasis placed on events in the past. Don Pedro, the villain of Curious Village, turns out to have once been Paul, a fellow student in love with the same woman as Layton.

There are lots of other plays with identity: can we really trust Future Luke? Why has Future Layton become a villain? How come Clair, Layton's lost love, never mentioned her younger sister Celeste?

There's also a mecha robot attacking London at one point, just in case this is all starting to sound a bit girly. And Professor Layton uses violence to knock out two thugs: the gaming equivalent of the Doctor pulling out a gun in Doctor Who - it's Just Not Right.

This all makes me wonder how this well defined worldscape will cope when it's collided with the modern psi-powers Japanese world of Phoenix Wright (ed: in Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright)? But unless that crossover game gets an American/European release, we won't ever know.

Annoyingly, there's also Flora. She was the passive 'treasure' in Curious Village, and a brief - and rather pointless - guest in Pandora's Box.

In Lost Future she insists on following Layton and Luke to the future and then acts as a complete drag. She's scared by everything, and only solves a handful of puzzles. It's not clear what purpose she serves other than to reinforce poor stereotypes of girls.

It's clearly a London through the distorted lens of the Layton universe.

The main games are the usual combination of block puzzles, maths and logic. The minigames are not as integrated into the main game progress as they were in Pandora's Box, which is a relief as I still have nightmares about blending tea to unlock a clue.

Annoyingly, once you're into the final chapter, you can't go back to solve any missed puzzles. This was a flaw in Pandora's Box as well, and one I'd hoped had been fixed.

The localisation remains a delight. Layton and Luke talk about liking Routemaster buses, 'not those bendy ones', and there's a Scot talking in dialect. It's clearly a London through the distorted lens of the Layton universe.

Guest review by Mags L Halliday

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Mags L Halliday wrote this Story Gamer article under the watchful eye of Mark Clapham.

"I love a good story. Games tell many different stories: the stories told through cut scenes and dialogue, but also the stories that emerge through gameplay, the stories players make for themselves."

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