For those unfamiliar with Professor Layton video games, they star Professor Hershel Layton, a renowned archeologist with an agile mind for puzzles, and his young assistant Luke Triton. Players take on the role of these two characters within a mystery story. Players explore their surroundings, investigate curious happenings and solve puzzles which pop up everywhere.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future starts with the Professor receiving a letter that is supposedly from 10 years in the future. What is even stranger is that it is allegedly written by his current assistant's 10-years-older self and pleads for the Professor's help to fix a London that has been thrown into chaos.
The story involves a cast of characters that includes a scientist who is working on time travel, the Prime Minister of England, a prominent Inspector, talking insects, thugs and miscreants, as well as a wide range of regular folk (who all love puzzles).
As the Professor and Luke try to figure out if the baffling letter is from another time, they find themselves transported to a London that appears to be set 10 years in the future. While there, they experience a set of bewildering situations including discovering that most people have heard of Professor Layton but that they are afraid of the top hat that he wears. What is even more bizarre is meeting the 10-years-older Luke while playing as the younger Luke.
The story unfolds through a series of animated videos. In between these videos, you direct the characters to explore London. On every street and around every corner, you will encounter charming characters who can provide you with clues. But they will do so only if you solve their puzzles. Some puzzles must be solved to move the story forward, whereas others can be skipped and tackled later.
A Mystery Full of Puzzles!
The puzzles take many formats and range from easy to brain-numbingly difficult. There are mazes where you step on banana peels which force you to slide until you hit a wall. Some involve decoding, like figuring out how the scribbling "RHB" could be a number equation. In others, you will figure out calendar dates based on complicated language like "yesterday's day after tomorrow." Some involve math, while others are purely visual.
Since several of these puzzles can be quite challenging, the game cleverly hides hint coins within most scenes. You find them by simply tapping around the scene with your stylus. The hint coins can buy you up to 4 hints per puzzle, with the last hint (called the "superhint") revealing most of the solution. This hint system is brilliant, because without it, many players would be stumped and not be able to continue the story.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is a great game on many levels. The overall mystery, with its time travel theme, is complicated and fascinating. It's recorded in Layton's Journal so that if you put down the game for a while, you can refresh your memory. Plus, the game contains many smaller mysteries which are recorded in a chart, with explanations, and stamped solved when you find the relevant clues.
Also good is the way that many of the puzzles are incorporated seamlessly into the gameplay. For example, when being shot at by thugs in a casino, if you assemble pieces that fall off of the slot machines into a coin-shooting gun, the thugs will run away. Plus once you solve a puzzle, it gets put into your puzzle index for replay or sharing with others. In addition to the puzzles found in the game, more downloadable puzzles are available.
Players will enjoy the game's memorable characters, lovely watercolor graphics and a score of pleasing, haunting music. They will also find, hiding in the Professor's Trunk, three fascinating mini-games which involve more logical thinking.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is best played by kids twelve and older because the puzzles can be tricky and this story includes thugs with machine guns (although no one is ever hurt). It is also a game that any conundrum-loving adult will greatly enjoy.
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