Published on November 28th, 2012 | by Cliff Bakehorn III, Contributor
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Review
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Released Date: October 28, 2012
Price: $39.99 (eShop and retail)
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
To be honest, I really didn’t know much about Professor Layton before taking on this review of Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – the first 3DS-exclusive installment in the popular puzzle series. That fact aside, it was only a short matter of time with Level-5’s clever little brain-stumper that I fell in love with the charming characters, art style, and tricky puzzles. Needless to say, Miracle Mask turned this reviewer into a fan.
My apologies if any part of this review is common knowledge for fans of the Professor Layton games; again, this was my first experience with the series. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what makes this one so special:
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask opens up in the city of Monte d’Or, with the titular professor and his young companion, Luke, attending a big festival. Things quickly take a turn for the worst when a mysterious, masked figure flies over the town, turning most of its inhabitants to stone.
The Professor and Luke set out on a mission to discover clues and solve the mysteries surrounding the masked antagonist. Along the way they encounter all kinds of characters needing their quick wits and puzzle-solving skills for a variety of situations. In addition to this story arc, there are portions of the game that go into detail about the background of our favorite top hat-wearing professor.
Unfortunately, my unfamiliarity with the series made these moments harder to follow, but by no means is it lacking a compelling narrative or a solid script – in fact, while the puzzles are obviously the core component of the game, I felt like exploring the world and characters was equally fulfilling. I enjoyed being able to read more about the events in the professor’s trusty journal.
Again, the puzzles are the focus of the game, but you actually spend a great deal of time exploring and ‘investigating’ the different areas of the world. From conversations with chatty NPCs to discovering hidden Hint Coins and secret puzzles, the game yields a lot more layers to discover than simply stumping your own brain.
That being said, the puzzles are fantastic – always keeping you guessing, always making you pay for making a rash guess at the solution by taking away from the ‘Picarats’ (essentially your score in the game) you earn for finding the correct answer. Some of them are pretty simple, such as navigating a 3D corncob maze from the perspective of a bug, or finding the tool within a group of items missing its twin. Other challenges really force you to take a closer look, thinking pretty hard to find any sort of solution to the riddle.
One early puzzle reminded me of the word problems I used to solve in grade school, providing vague clues and asking you to fill in multiple answers. These tricky ones really tempt you to dip into your collection of Hint Coins, which never fully reveal the solution…and can often provide another tricky layer of thinking games to get through.
Solving the puzzles is always rewarding, even when you blow through Hint Coins and still can’t earn any Picarats when you’ve finally figured out a tough one. If I have any complaint, it is that being stumped really halts the pace of the game – there were moments I simply wanted to progress the plot, but couldn’t move forward because I was legitimately at a loss for a few solutions. The pace of the plot is otherwise very good, and the game keeps you busy between all the puzzles and cut-scenes.
If there is anything that really surprised me, it was the amount of additional content, hidden puzzles, and the handful of mini-games within Layton’s menu.
For instance, if you need a break from the story, there is an entire portion of the game involving navigating a robot through various stages and finding the path to the goal within them. There is also a ‘Rabbit’ mini-game with almost as much depth, trick-learning, belly-rubbing and competing as you would expect similar to that of Nintendogs. I wasn’t a huge fan of the rabbit game, but it is actually pretty extensive, and undeniably adorable.
In a nutshell, that very statement summarizes the visual style and the inherent charm of this series. Miracle Mask has something special about it, almost Disney-like, that is very appealing and can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.
I admit that I am still trying to wrap up the story of Miracle Mask, but I am no less confident in recommending it. If you are a fan of the series, waste no time in checking this one out.
Additionally, it seems like the perfect game for a slightly younger audience, and would make the perfect holiday gift for any 3DS-owning kid from 8-years and up.
Finally, anyone that enjoys a good brain-teaser can’t go wrong: it is absolutely gorgeous, full of quirky charm and lightly-humored dialogue, and provides plenty of content beyond its riddling puzzles. You really can’t ask for more, and I can’t wait to see more of this Level-5 series in the future.
+ Charming characters, engaging storyline, fantastic voice acting and soundtrack
+ Beautiful artistic style, with great use of 3D effect – locales are brimming with detail
+ Puzzles are tricky, but solving them is fun and feels rewarding
+ The extra content adds replay value and a surprising amount of depth
– Getting stuck on a certain puzzle can prevent progress & breaks up an otherwise well-paced game