Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo DS games
Newest Review: ... your way through the game puzzles. The second feature is even better. Pandora's Box has a fairly open structure. If you can't s... more
The Professor of Puzzles
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (DS)
Member Name: isobelj
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (DS)
Advantages: Good, challenging game, interesting puzzles, good longevity
Disadvantages: Nothing major for me but you do need to enjoy puzzles to like this
Most of the cast of the first Professor Layton series are back for this second instalment. Professor Layton is a British professor with a penchant for puzzle solving. When he gets a mysterious letter from an old friend about the mysterious Elysian box - also known as Pandora's box - he and his apprentice Luke set off immediately to visit said friend. What they find there will send them on a journey on the legendary Molentary Express, where they will meet some larger than life characters and, of course, solve plenty of puzzles.
There are a lot of twists and turns in the story, and certainly very little of it is predictable! Unfortunately the final denouement is a little...well...unlikely, to say the least! This does feel a bit disappointing but luckily the rest of the game is good enough to cancel this out!
The game is recommended for ages 7+. I don't have children but would guess from playing with my cousins that some seven year olds would definitely need occasional help with this, but it would certainly be enjoyable for them.
Playing the game is extremely easy. You're basically tapping on anything that you need to interact with, whether it be a person or an item. You also tap an icon at the bottom of the screen to move to a new scene.
There are over 150 puzzles to solve. Puzzles are usually given to you by people you meet along your journey, or you may have to solve them to get through a door or to find out what you should try to do next.
The puzzles vary in both content and difficulty. They might involve working out a mathematic problem, moving blocks to make a clear path, or interpreting logical clues. If you are struggling, then there are three hints with each puzzle to help you out. However, in order to access the hints, you have to spend a hint coin. You start the game with ten hint coins, and you have to find more to help you in the quest by tapping on items that could conceal them. They tend to be hidden in things like light fittings, bushes, stones on the ground and signposts - you easily get the hang of where to find them.
A couple of the puzzles are very frustratingly worded. It's extremely annoying to input your answer, be told it's wrong and have to spend valuable hint coins to finally realise they meant something completely different! Also, each puzzle is worth a certain number of 'picarats'. Once you've made an incorrect guess, the number of picarats that you win from the puzzle is decreased. This doesn't matter a great deal until the end, when you can use your picarats to unlock things like the ability to watch all the video sequences. Also, if you're a perfectionist like me then you'll want to get as close to a perfect score as possible.
You don't especially need any general knowledge to help you out; it's more like you have to be able to spot connections and use all the clues that are available to you to get the answer. Some of them just involve persevering until you've tried as many different combinations or movements until things click into place! You have unlimited time to solve each puzzle, so occasionally I find putting the game down and coming back with a fresh mind does help.
In addition to the main game and puzzles, there are some 'side games' that you can work on as and when you please. One involves looking after a hamster, which you need to collect toys for and exercise. Once your hamster has lost some weight, it will sniff out hint coins that you have missed. Unfortunately this isn't incredibly helpful as you can't collect enough items to get the hamster healthy until near the end of the game, when you could already have missed tons of hint coins. Another minigame involves putting parts of a camera together to unlock a spot the difference game, which, when completed, unlocks bonus puzzles. Finally, you get a tea chest and collect different tea ingredients which you can blend together to help people out by cheering them up or curing their cold. Hopefully you will then get something in return! These minigames add interest to the game and are something a bit different to work on if you've got stuck or you want a break from the main game.
It's worth noting that there are further bonus puzzles that can be downloaded via your DS's Wi-Fi connection, but this isn't the easiest thing to get set up.
The game is done in a Japanese cartoon type style; the drawings are eccentric but the landscapes are rather pretty. The British countryside is very nicely depicted. To be honest this really isn't the kind of game where you have extremely realistic graphics, but neither do you need them.
The sounds are pretty irritating; I usually play in silent as when characters are speaking during normal game play, there is a really irritating beeping noise. The background music is nice enough and blends in, so you don't especially notice it; it can get a bit repetitive though.
Brand new this game was retailing at around £30-£40. It was quite difficult to get hold of because the first game had been such an incredible success! Because it's so successful, it's not gone down by that much - it's still about £25. I'd say go second hand if you can, you'll probably pick it up for between £10 and £15.
The game logs how many hours of play you put in, and the average I've seen the game completed in is usually 12 to 15 hours - but obviously if you do it in a few long blocks you'd probably get through faster than if you keep dipping in and out. There's plenty of scope for replay, and it is a bit easier the second time round because you can generally remember the mistakes you made last time!
Because I really enjoy this game I was happy to pay over £30 for this. I consider it good value for money because I enjoy puzzles and I think this is a good quality game with decent longevity. I'd say if you're not familiar with the series or if you haven't tried a puzzle based game before, then pick up a second hand one if you fancy giving it a try.
I think this is a great game although it's probably not for everyone. It's very addictive - you find yourself doing 'just one more puzzle' again and again! But at the same time, you do have to enjoy puzzle solving to enjoy the game! The storyline is gripping and the puzzles are varied and keep you thinking. If you enjoyed the first game, this definitely won't disappoint. The characters are pretty likeable - and ladies, watch out for Professor Layton sword fighting. Oh, yes.
Recommended if you want: a fun game with a good variety of challenging puzzles.
Not recommended if you: prefer super realistic shoot-me-ups.
Summary: The Professor does it again!