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
Professor Layton's box of mystery
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (DS)
Member Name: Munchkin2009
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (DS)
Date: 05/12/11, updated on 05/12/11 (70 review reads)
Advantages: Engaging storyline and gameplay, stunning graphics
Disadvantages: Needs autosave after each puzzle and better access to bonuses
Having really enjoyed playing Professor Layton and the Curious Village, it was an obvious choice to get the sequel Professor Layton and Pandora's Box, which is the second game in the popular puzzle and mystery solving series. In the US, the game is known as Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box.
(I am planning to review Professor Layton and the Curious Village, but I need to play it again first!)
I bought the game from an Amazon Marketplace seller for £17.99 in the Summer of 2010, but it is still available from all good video game stockists. At the time of writing the review, most places are selling the game for around £24, the home shopping catalogues seem to charge far more with Littlewoods selling it for £37, so it is worth shopping around to get the best deal.
The game is rated 7 and like the first game, it carries the fear warning.
It's published by Nintendo, developed by Level 5, and was released in 2009.
COME ABOARD THE MOLENTARY EXPRESS......
As with the first game in the series, I take on the roles of Professor Hershel Layton and his young apprentice Luke, this time they're investigating the mystery of the Elysian Box, also known as Pandora's Box, which was claimed to kill anyone who opened it. The story begins with the Professor receiving a letter from Dr Andrew Schrader stating that he was in possession of the box, and to continue his investigation if the box lived up to it's dark reputation. Unable to shrug off the feelings that something terrible has happened, Professor Layton and Luke head to Dr Schrader's house to find him murdered, and all that remained was a ticket for the Molentary Express, said to be the most luxurious train in the world.
As the story unfolds there are several mysteries to solve, and along the way, I'll meet loads of different characters and also some familiar faces I met in the first game. I won't say any more about those to avoid spoiling it if you haven't played Professor Layton and the Curious Village.
~Another puzzling time...~
As with Professor Layton and the Curious Village, the game involves solving some perplexing puzzles to earn those all important Picarats. The box states that there are over 150 of them to solve this time around.
The navigation system is pretty much the same as the first game, the overview is located on the top screen and I move my characters around the touchscreen by tapping on the shoe and arrow icons. When I want to save the game, I just tap on the trunk icon and save the game to one of three save files, I can then either go back to the main game, the solved puzzle index, play one of the mini games once unlocked, or turn the console off. The game is saved automatically at the end of each chapter, but at all other times, it's manual save time. It's best to save often otherwise I have to start again from the point I last saved (with the exception of completing a chapter) if the battery goes which gets very annoying. If I want to resume the game after restarting my console, I just tap on 'continue' when the game loads up and then select my save file.
Once again, I carry out my investigation by asking various characters by tapping on them and on my surroundings to find out information, earn hint coins (which can be just about anywhere on the touchscreen), or have to solve a puzzle. There are a couple of differences this time, firstly there are more locations in this game, and secondly some of the puzzles are more tightly integrated with the storyline and characters which I thought was a nice addition.
As with the first game, there's a host of logical and lateral thinking puzzles, which once again got me thinking. The puzzle task or question is located on the top screen, and I enter my answer via the touchscreen, then have to wait to see if the answer is correct. When I'm wrong sometimes I'm given a comment that makes me feel like a naughty schoolchild! The puzzles are challenging, sometimes annoying, to downright frustrating where I spent days or evenings trying to fathom out the answer, and putting the game away for a few weeks and going back to it with a fresh mind. The Patterned Box, the flag one, and Shoe Maze spring to mind as a few examples of puzzles that gave me the most grief, as with the first game I couldn't progress on to the next stage unless I solved certain puzzles. I felt on the whole the puzzles are tougher than the predecessor, even taking in to consideration the number of Picarats they're worth. Getting the right answer is still very satisfying. I still think 12 is a better rating than 7 for these games, I just cannot imagine many 7 year olds being able to solve these puzzles - I'm in my mid 30s and I got stuck several times!
The vast majority of the puzzles are new, but there are some from the first game but put in a way that's fresh and new and blends in with the game, so it doesn't feel like lazy programming. The best example is the Get the Ball Out puzzles, which became putting rubbish into a bin and a few other things on Pandora's Box, they still had the annoyance of moving blocks around in circles getting nowhere! There are also a few puzzle series which get harder each time such as Piles of Pancakes, and Disappearing Act.
~At first if you don't succeed, try, try, try again.....~
The number of Picarats gauges the difficulty of the puzzle, say for example puzzles worth 50 Picarats are harder than 20. Once again if I get an answer wrong, the number of Picarats depletes, but don't go down to zero, which is just as well really, so I kept trying to get the answer.
Each puzzle has three hints available which costs one hint coin per hint. Sometimes they can be a useful means to solve the puzzle such as a starting point or part of the answer, and sometimes they are as much use as an umbrella with holes in on a rainy day or give a bit of trivia about the puzzle. I found the puzzles were a lot tougher than the first time round, so I found myself using more hint coins.
~Where do unsolved puzzles go?~
Granny Riddleton puts in an appearance from the first game. As the story progresses, it's easy to miss puzzles and at the end of each chapter, many puzzles end up in Granny Riddleton's puzzle shack which you can visit at any time to solve them, which is somewhere with in each location I visited. Not all puzzles end up in there, and I had to revisit some of the sites again to solve them.
As with the first game, there's a range of mini games available which I unlocked as I played the game. I felt this time, some of them played a much greater part in the game than the ones in the predecessor. These are all located by tapping on the trunk icon.
~Exercise that hamster!~
Early on in the game, I'm given the task of looking after an overweight hamster and helping him to get fit. As I solve the puzzles, sometimes as a reward I'm given a toy to help set up a playground to help him get the exercise he needs. There are five stages, and each requires the hamster to walk so many steps to achieve his goals, when I finally did I was given a reward. I found this really addictive, and I spent ages setting out different courses to achieve his goals, and latterly break my record, so there is great longevity there afterwards.
~Cup of tea anyone?~
Here I'm given a tea set, and I have to collect different ingredients to make the different herbal blends, again as with the hamster game they are awarded after solving certain puzzles. I had to work out all the 12 different recipes which suit different moods, tastes and situations on the basis a good cup of tea can help solve different problems, and periodically a character in the game wants a cup of tea to help them out. This is not as easy as it looks, as it took me forever to find the correct combinations, and I spent a lot of time creating as the game described as 'poison' and I lost count of the times I didn't serve up the correct blend to certain characters, though I put that down to not having all the correct ingredients due to the order I solved the puzzles in.
~Smile for the camera~
The final mini game is the camera, again I'm given pieces of a broken camera after solving certain puzzles which are then fitted together like a jigsaw. Once completed the camera is used to take photographs where the camera icon appears, which is used to play a spot the difference game.
~Piecing together an old diary~
I wouldn't classify this as a mini game, but I also collected keys to unlock parts of a diary which helps with the mystery.
There are opportunities to unlock various bonuses as I complete certain tasks such as Layton's challenges, and there is also the opportunity to download a weekly puzzle via wi-fi for a limited period. By the time I had the game, they had stopped the new puzzles. The weekly puzzles do not form part of the main game. They don't earn any Picarats. There is only one hint available for these puzzles, and I can't use any hint coins.
There is also a password to unlock content in Professor Layton and The Curious Village, and also an area to unlock after playing the sequel Professor Layton and the Lost Future, which at the time of writing I haven't got. As with the first game, I can't access the bonus content through the trunk icon, and that means restarting the console to access the Bonuses section. I had hoped this would be improved in the sequel.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
I really like the graphics used in this game, the elements of this game are all beautifully drawn and animated, and brought the characters to life. The game controls and input were excellent, and made good use of both DS screens.
The soundtrack, as with most games got annoying after a while especially the tinkling music when solving the puzzles, but that's what the DS volume control is for. I liked the fact that music score changed in the different locations and situations which really set the ambiance of the game.
Overall, I really enjoyed playing this game. Once again there was an engaging storyline which I think is rare for a game, and I could not predict the outcome of the story with plenty of twists and additional mysteries along the way. A gripe for me, is that I felt some of the dialogue was a bit longwinded in places which resulted in what felt like endless tapping to get on with the game.
I think it does have some replay value as it isn't possible to remember all the answers, and I can play again to increase my Picarats score, but maybe not as much as other games in my collection such as Bookworm which is played at a much faster pace.
I've awarded a 4 star rating, as I think autosave after each puzzle and easier access to the bonus content could have been implemented given this is a sequel. Other than that, the game is excellent and offers a very solid sequel that's worth buying.
Summary: More mind bending puzzles from the Professor