A fine game for a gentleman!
Look, I’m the skeptical kind when it comes to these games. They’re story books with a few puzzles scattered in between the pages. There isn’t really much in terms of gameplay, and to the common bystander it’s easy to look at these games and call them boring. But those who think that way have clearly not played Professor Layton.
Miracle Mask is the fifth game in the Professor Layton series, and the first one to land on 3DS. Despite the fact that the game claims to let players “step into the shoes of young Layton” – implying that Miracle Mask is a prequel to all Layton games – it still is, chronologically, Layton 5 2, with portions of the game returning to the past to solve the mysteries of the present… much like real life, no? But I say this because, as a person who’s never played a Layton game before, the game’s story was immediately confusing once I stepped in, and even more confusing once I stepped out. That being said, I’m happy to say that Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is a fine game for any gentleman, whether you’re new to the Layton series or not.
For those unfamiliar with the Layton games (or other games of similar nature), this is how it works. The game plays like a point and click adventure, using the stylus as a cursor. Tapping on certain objects in the environment will trigger certain events within the game, for instance a story sequence or a hidden collection item or, occasionally, a puzzle. These puzzles make up the core of the Professor Layton games, and they range from simple connect-the-dot exercises to complex mathematical equations. On the outside, these puzzles may seem simply, but they are deceptively difficult (some even borderline ridiculous), even for a mastermind as me, if I may say so myself. Luckily, hint coins found throughout the game will aid you in your puzzle-solving quest.
For a game about puzzles, you need a great story in order to string all of them together. Miracle Mask follows the titular Professor Layton and his sidekicks Luke and Emmy as they try to uncover who is behind the Masked Gentleman, a man who has been terrorizing the city of Monte D’Or with “dark miracles.” It may seem silly, but the story does take a few unexpected (and dark) turns and by the end, without spoiling anything, becomes a surprisingly emotional experience. Part of this comes from the player’s attachment to the characters; they feel so believable, despite the absurdity of the story.
Presentation-wise, the game is an absolute masterpiece. Beautifully hand-drawn animation sequences and environments that look like they were pulled straight out of a pop-up book add so much charm to the game. Though only parts of the campaign are fully voice-acted, each character has a unique personality that really does bring them – and Monte D’Or – to life. It’s also important to note that this is the first time a Professor Layton game has been modeled completely with 3D polygons, which makes for a very cartoony and interesting experience. And no, I will not make a joke about how Hershel Layton looks like a… never mind.
Perhaps the one thing that is stopping you from purchasing Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is that you’re afraid it’s not worth your money. I sure did; I only picked the game up because it was on sale. But man is this game packed full of content. The main story mode took me 20 hours to beat, and that’s with all the puzzles found and most of the minigames completed. Aside from that, there are hundreds (hundreds!) of extra bonus puzzles for players to solve. Honestly, if you’re a fan of puzzles, this is heaven for you, even if a few of them seem a bit unfair.
I do not hesitate one bit to recommend Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask to anyone looking for a great game on the 3DS. Those who check it out will find its story and puzzles to be a pure joy to play. Those who don’t will be missing out on a great addition the 3DS’ ever-growing library.