If you own a DS, you probably know that the acclaimed Professor Layton series has been one of the most highly regarded on the system. But if you don't and are looking into getting into the DS game prior to the release of the 3DS, then you may be interested in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, a very typical yet different Nintendo DS game. And yes you'll find out that that paradox does make sense if you keep reading after the jump.
After receiving this review sample of Professor Layton from the fine folks at Nintendo, I was fired up to see just what all the fuss was about when it came to this series. Everyone who owned a DS raved about it. Outside of that very specific realm, absolutely nobody has heard of it. There hasn't been a Wii showcase or anything like that. I would say that it is because this was made 100% for the DS, but so was Warioware and that received releases on both the Gamecube and Wii. People really love the Professor, but something always seemed to be missing and I wanted to figure out what it was.
When first firing up the game, you see full motion animated video, one of much higher quality than the cut scenes in Kingdom Hearts for example. It looks like a mix of anime and something typically of Britain, where the Professor and his young ward hail from. There are full voiceovers during the scenes with just dialog boxes when for the most part in DS games, this feature is absent, and even in still motion scenes, which I'll unfortunately get to, you can see movement and the characters stand out. The graphics, especially the full motion cut scenes are the crown jewel of the Professor's franchise.
Now let's get to the story. I'm not sure if the Professor's entire world is within some kind of sick trip, but in this game it is. There are time machines, the Prime Minister being abducted, letters mysteriously arriving from the past and a clock shop that's been open for years but has never had a customer. Maybe they planned out this story with the same care as David Simon did with the Wire but somehow I'd doubt it. Nintendo DS games aren't exactly known for their intricate storylines, and Professor Layton can be added to that list.
The gameplay is usually where Nintendo DS games make up for flaws such as story. There's usually some kind of innovative battle mechanic or new kind of gameplay a la the aforementioned Warioware. Not in Professor Layton. Every scene is still and the game, after showcasing fantastic visuals through the full motion animation, pulls the bait and switch and turns into a standard point and click adventure. CSI: The Game it's not but you eventually just have to click on the part of the screen the Professor wants, and then you do one of his puzzles.
If you like puzzles and only puzzles, then you're going to absolutely love this game. If you don't, then stay away. The game's story functions as just an excuse for the professor to throw puzzles your way that do not pertain to anything, anywhere. Sometimes he and his partner will be talking and that'll just remind him of one of his puzzles and BOOM here comes another one. They gradually become more and more complicated, but they're still just puzzles and get old fast.
There's no movement in this game, no walking, no fighting, just solving the Professor's puzzles after clicking on the right area of the screen. Puzzles in small doses can be fun as in the Zelda games, but when they function as a whole game, you can see why this game hasn't received a big time opportunity on the Wii yet. Nintendo knows what they've got and has no intention of blowing it with an ill advised port.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is a quintessential DS game in that it has its own unique mechanic through puzzles but when it's restricted to just puzzles, the game grows stale. There's no pizzazz, no gimmicks, no fighting; just dialog and puzzles. Lots and lots of puzzles.
So if you're into puzzles, by all means, this is the perfect game for you. But if you're not and you want to get into the Nintendo DS before it breaks off into the 3DS world, go for something more in the casual vein like MarioKart or New Super Mario Brothers.