Like many others, the Nintendo DS has a special place in my heart. This little plastic toy kept me busy for several years and accompanied me here, there and everywhere and with it my strange selection of games. As a kid, I was often promoted with games like brands Pokémon or Mario – Title certainly serious and family friendly – but one day Professor Layton and the curious village I noticed. My mother also had a DS and did not fancy the cartoony style and the dark implications it contained. So, hungry for a new challenge, I scrambled up to claim the cartridge and loaded it up. It was a fateful moment.
Since then, the Professor Layton games – just like the DS – have taken a special place in my heart. Although I think they were the sexiest on the DS and not on the 3DS, I do not think I can recommend a series to all ages. Although I played the original game a long time ago, I can still envision some of the puzzles that I liked most or that appeared full of pride after graduation. I could not have been older than 11 when I finished the Curious Village, and in the coming years I devoured other subsequent titles like Pandora's box (also known as Diabolical box in the US) and the Lost future (also known as A developed future). And then the 3DS appeared and DS games (and series) switched to their new platform. I also shuffled along, but on a PS4. That's why it took me years to finally play Professor Layton and the wonder mask, one of the 3DS sequels to the story, and after playing I realized how brilliant Professor Layton really is.
At the age of 21, I still love Professor Layton, but for a whole new set of reasons reflected in gameplay, puzzles, and history. Since a decade later I did not know how such a storytelling game could be so attractive to me, I've come to terms with my enigmatic attitudes, and I think that age will change your assessment of the situation. To illustrate what I mean, I've tried to find some good examples of puzzles where I think the age of the player is important.
Professor Layton and the Wonder Mask: A Dangerous Adventure, Puzzle 70
This puzzle first drew my attention to the difference between my age and my understanding of games. My tip to anyone playing a Professor Layton game is: If you do not believe you can solve the puzzle with the space available, or if your eyes glaze while reading the instructions, put a red flag. See, as a child puzzle with victory conditions felt like a challenge. An "Okay, you've come this far, how about it?" – Business.
As an adult, however, I saw the vast amount of text, grinned at the apparent complexity of the puzzle, and turned my attention to the true goal. Ant A wants to chill with Ant B. What are you doing to achieve that? The answer is: Ant A is already on a pencil. So move it a bit like in a real situation. A very simple solution, veiled with a complicated as possible explanation. Such a puzzle would have scolded me for hours, a decade ago, but today I snooped the solution out in less than a minute. Wisdom comes with age, they say.
Professor Layton and the curious village: The laziest man in the world, Puzzle 109
Okay, round two. Well, this is a puzzle that may depend only on your thinking process, but I can tell you that my rationalization for adults has actually prevented me from solving it. This guy (who, by the way, lives it) has made this room incredibly efficient, and theoretically he'll never have to leave his chair to achieve anything. The snag is that he has just overlooked a place he can not reach, no matter how hard he tries.
As a pedant, I looked at the picture and thought, "There are some places he can not reach, like behind the picture frame or in the lyre, and his claw is quite impractical." And yes, that's all true, but I would miss the point with my adult brain. The puzzle should not be overly rationalized, and if you could theoretically take a book with a claw behind your head, you should take the puzzle at par. The answer lies under his chair. His chair can not be intercepted, as his decor prevents him from getting under him without leaving and lifting him. So it's more of a breeze than an adult game, in which you may be overwhelmed to discuss the puzzle in real ways.
Professor Layton and Pandora's box: A ticket to where? Puzzle 59
In my gaming career, I cheated on an answer several times (and I mean Googled) that I could not figure out myself. I was not ashamed to look something up when I'm completely lost, and I still remember how I felt like mixed up when this important mystery was introduced years ago. It may just be my nostalgia, but this experience blew me away and made Professor Layton the perfect puzzle adventure series.
The puzzle is a bit like this. You have a ticket that you find in the apartment of a dead man. If you look at it the normal way, you can not see a target. However, if you look at it correctly, you will find out where to go. At the end of the description, you are told to look through your manual to find a clue. There is, as bold as brass, a replica ticket. Excited, I set to work and aligned the sheet of paper in all directions. In doing so, I made sure not to crumple or crumple my favorite game memorabilia. That, dear reader, was my mistake.
To "One ticket to where?" To solve, you have to fold the sheet of paper three times. For the first time halve the ticket horizontally and then put each segment on its own again with three lines drawn over the ticket. If you fold this way and the upper and lower quarters of the paper are facing you, the numbers that are there become letters and you get the words "For Folsense". As an adult, I would have less trouble solving the puzzle just because there is a lack of sentimentality. I loved this mass-produced piece of paper for no other reason than a game that I loved, and here the puzzle has kept me in my tracks.
There must have been other kids like me who, in their naivety, did not think a puzzle could be so literal. This required more interaction than a pen that knocked incessantly on a touchscreen. My expectations are now much higher, but I will never again have that feeling of wonderment. I would like to point out here that I am aware that this is not the only example of a manual that is used to advance the game. They used titles in the 80s and 90s to prevent the production of unofficial games. However, as a first experience this is pretty first-rate.
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box: Seal the Smell, Riddle 74
I laughed out loud when the solution to this mystery met years ago. I remember so well the giggle that I snorted when I reloaded Pandora's box for this article when I saw the picture. The puzzle is pretty simple: two cloves of garlic and a flower are in three different glasses with attached tubes. Your friend in the lower right corner really does not like the smell of garlic. So, what do you associate with the complexity of the tubes to stop the smell?
The puzzler has to look at this complex pipe work (similar to A Perilous Adventure) until he realizes that all three ends smell like garlic, so none of the clogged pipes work. You are stuck. I remember looking at the picture long and hard when I doubted I could see the trick. What did I miss? As I thought, I pushed the screen and my pen met the friend whose nose was roughly cut and his face was distorted. His face was not only distorted, but these plugs were now stuck in his nose – and that's the solution to the puzzle. I laughed so hard and I think that's partly because the characters are largely non-interactive during the games. The Professor Layton games have character models that they use regularly for their puzzles, but I never could remember that the character was important except for a small context. Evolution and a new perspective on such a well known concept that you forget it's part of the puzzle. Brilliant.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village: How many are left? Puzzle 15
Now there are a few puzzles like this in Professor Layton, where they are left out just enough However, if you want to have more than one reasonable answer, your age may change the answer you gave first. The title reads: "How many are left? That's also his question by chance. They have lit ten candles; Two are blown out of a window by the wind. They close the window and one last candle goes out. If no other candles are blown out, how many candles do you have left?
I repeated this puzzle after many years and both times gave the wrong answer before I noticed my mistake. In a very ordinary assumption of logic, I said ten times on both occasions. You still have 10 candles, they are just not lit properly? Ah, but the point of the puzzle is that the burning candles will not be candles any more, so the answer is three. Three candles went out, the rest was burning. Funny, both as a teenager and as a full adult. I misunderstood it both times. It is an assumption that you are too smart for such a puzzle before coming back to it despite your obvious cunning. That makes Professor Layton timeless.
I would recommend if you have not yet played the Professor Layton games to do so. Both the DS and the 3DS system are now quite inexpensive, and although a switch may be more eye-catching (and just completed its first Layton appearance), Professor Layton and the Curious Village are the best of the best in terms of quality. Also get the British editions of these games; The puzzles are almost always interesting to read and sound much less like a mathematical work.
What are your memories of the Layton series? Which puzzles are your favorites? Let us know with a comment,