Through its Touch Generations titles, Nintendo has expanded the audience of the DS beyond the traditional hardcore handheld followers and into the mainstream.
Over the past few years, tales of the success Brain Training continues to build upon have become commonplace and countless publishers have tried to tap into the same market by offering more cerebral experiences for the gamer on the go.
Nintendo raised the bar once again for such titles with Professor Layton and The Curious Village, released last November. As well as providing deeper puzzles than those found in Dr Kawashima’s titles, the game wove them into a rich narrative, creating a compelling storyline that gave brain teasers context.
It’s a formula that millions of gamers worldwide took an instant shine to, with the title racking up impressive sales in all major territories. Demand for more rose, and Nintendo has promptly responded with the first of two sequels. Entitled Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box, the game holds true to everything that made the original such a smash hit, while bringing in plenty of fresh puzzles to satisfy fans’ insatiable appetites.
There are more than 150 puzzles in the new game. Once again, they are all designed to encourage lateral thinking in gamers, with clever but not necessarily obvious solutions to all of them. Puzzles are controlled with the stylus, making for a comfortable system that can be played anywhere, be it on the couch at home or on the daily commute.
As with the original, gamers are not required to tackle every puzzle they encounter in order to complete the game and solve the mystery. While key teasers will be mandatory if they wish to progress, the majority of puzzles will be optional.
If players miss a puzzle on their journey, it will end up in Granny’s Shack, where they can attempt any of the game’s challenges over and over to their heart’s content. Also, following the example of The Curious Village, fresh puzzles will be available for download via wi-fi every week after the game has been released.
In addition to the puzzles, Pandora’s Box also introduces a number of mini-games that can be accessed through the Professor’s bottomless trunk. These can range from guiding a hamster around a chessboard to brewing the perfect cup of tea, and items collected throughout the rest of the game will be incorporated into these, providing gamers with new solutions.
Connecting these puzzles is a gripping storyline flavoured with murder. Professor Layton receives a letter from his mentor, Dr Schrader, who has discovered an artefact known as the Elysian Box, which is said to kill anyone who dares to open it. As Layton and his young apprentice Luke arrive at the man’s home, they find two things: the Doctor’s dead body and a ticket for the Molentary Express.
THE EXPRESS TRAIN TO MURDER
Boarding this elegant train in search of the killer, the two heroes travel to a fictional European countryside, visiting a variety of villages and speaking with the locals to discover anything that will help them find the box.
Once again, players wander the train and other locations with the stylus, tapping objects and people to interact with them. Doing so is the best way to uncover new puzzles, items and find the answers to the mystery.
Major storyline events are still told through charming full-motion animated videos, with quality voice acting that vividly brings the characters to life. Since this feature proved to be so popular in the original, Pandora’s Box boasts more voice work and movie scenes than The Curious Village, promising an even more complex and well-developed storyline.
Nintendo will be heavily promoting this throughout Q4 in all forms of media, raising awareness of the sequel to the colossal audience already gathered by the first game. The recognisable brand of Professor Layton will ensure plenty of interest from both loyal Nintendo fans and more casual DS owners, while bundling opportunites will more than likely see Pandora’s Box drive sales for the handheld in the run-up to Christmas.