Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Review for Nintendo 3DS

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.

I snagged Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask back in the early days of last December.  But, with Christmas rapidly closing in and having to shop for gifts for friends and family, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to pick it up and play it like I had planned to.  For over a month, it waited for me patiently in the plastic wrapping before I was able to tear it open and give it a whirl.  It’s probably for the best that I did put off playing it when I purchased it, because I likely wouldn’t have gotten anything else done.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is a puzzle game developed by Level-5 and is the fifth game in the series, as well as the first developed for the Nintendo 3DS.  Throughout the game, you’re required to figure out various puzzles in order to progress the story of Professor Layton and his trusty assistant Luke.  The series takes place in Victorian-era style city of Monte d’Or, the City of Miracles.  It’s here that the Masked Gentleman has been making a series of appearances that consist of his “dark miracles”.  Summoned by his old acquaintance, Angela, to investigate these tragedies, Professor Layton and Luke arrive in town to witness the latest catastrophe, as the Mysterious Gentleman has somehow managed to turn a group of festival-goers to stone!  Knowing that there surely must be a reasonable explanation for these occurrences, the Professor and his assistant embark on their investigation to find the culprit and solve the mystery of the Miracle Mask.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask features a very compelling story wrapped in mystery and intrigue, but in order to progress through the game, you must find and solve a series of brain-teasing puzzles along the way.  These puzzles are found by interacting with the objects on the two screens of the 3DS.  Using the stylus on the lower screen to tap the magnifying glass icon and scrolling around allows you to control the magnifying glass on the top screen which depicts the scene that you must investigate.  Whenever you cross over a point of interest, it will either turn orange to interact with it, or blue to indicate that there’s another scene to zoom in on and investigate further.  Talking to people will often unlock puzzles to be solved, while other points of interest can yield items such as hint coins to be spent on purchasing hints to solve puzzles, as well as collectibles to add to your gallery.  To move throughout the town of Monte d’Or, all you have to do is hit the Return to Map button on the touchscreen and tap your stylus on any points on the map that have been unlocked for you.

Puzzles found throughout the game are generally your basic brain teasers, often requiring a keen eye and logic skills to solve on the first try.  Puzzles vary greatly and do a great job of keeping you on your toes as they range from pattern matching, counting objects, matching, and finding objects that don’t belong.  Additional puzzles, such as the Robot and Shop puzzles, are unlocked as you progress to give you some additional variety.  The Robot puzzles have you guide a small toy robot through a series of obstacles to the goal, which is a little red button on the floor.  The robot, however, takes three steps at a time in a grid-like maze, so you must not only guide him past enemies such as toy mice and the like, but you must land on the goal on the third step or else the robot will overshoot the mark.  The Store puzzles consist of having to stock shelves in a manner that will entice a shopper to buy all of the items in stock.  These puzzles consist of color and type matching; for example, the store owner will leave a red apple on the shelf.  Next, you’ll place a larger green apple on the shelf below it.  Because you have a green pineapple, it’s logical to place it next to the green apple.  Then, having a yellow pineapple in stock, it will be logical to place that adjacent to the green pineapple, and so forth.

Another mini-game available in the menus is the Rabbit game.  Luke has rescued a circus rabbit from the Ringmaster and promises to teach the rabbit tricks worthy of allowing him to return to the troupe’s rabbit show.  By learning different tricks, the rabbit will be able to perform in plays which you’ll receive from the Ringmaster throughout the game.  To perform the choreography for the play, you’ll select from a number of tricks that the rabbit has learned to match the given situation in the play.  Complete all ten scripts, and the rabbit will be able to return to the circus.

While the puzzles themselves are highly addicting and are enough to keep any puzzle fanatic drawn in, Miracle Mask also features a superb story that will capture just about any gamer’s attention and keep a firm hold.  The characters, Layton and Luke, are reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuthing duo, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.  The story too presents itself much in the same ways that Doyle’s novels did, slowly piecing together all of the evidence for the audience  to follow to its conclusion.  All of the characters that you meet along the way are likeable and lend themselves to the story exceptionally well as a result of fantastic writing and superb voice acting, with the return of Christopher Robin Miller as Professor Herschel Layton and Lani Minella as Luke, along with a wonderful supporting cast.

The music is masterfully written by the series’ composer, Tomohito Nishiura.  Many of the tunes that you’ll hear throughout the game seem to take cues from great JRPG compositions, such as the early Final Fantasy, Chrono, and Mana series, and are just as delightful.  It is unfortunate that, around the third chapter, repetition starts to kick in, especially during the puzzles, which feature the exact same tune of bells.  After a couple of hours of puzzling, you’ll find yourself ready to jab pencils in your ears to make the bells go away, or at least turn down the volume on your 3DS.

The visuals in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask are some of the best that you’ll find on the 3DS.  Cutscenes are beautifully rendered in 3D for the platform, but look just as stunning in 2D as well.  The characters are brought to life by Level-5’s fantastic animation with both the toon-shaded 3D models, as well as the animated cutscenes.  The environments, too, are colorful and creatively drawn, taking elements of Victorian England and old European architecture and melding them together with touches of Middle Eastern that really fit together nicely.

On top of a compelling story, tons of collectibles, and an immense wealth of puzzles to play throughout the game, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask also features the Puzzle a Day add-on.  By going to the Bonuses section of the main menu, you can access additional puzzles through the Daily Puzzle selection.  Puzzles will be downloaded via your Wi-Fi connection, with new ones becoming available daily until October 25th of this year.  That’s an additional 365 brain teasing puzzles to play!  Not only do you get the additional puzzles, but you also get rewards in the form of furniture and items for your own little virtual space for Professor Layton.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is one of those rare gems in the seemingly endless ocean of Mario titles and shovelware that seems to swallow the Nintendo 3DS whole.  It’s these ultra-rare titles that make owning the platform justifiable, giving my 3DS a long deserved break from the solitary confinements of its case to do more than pass time on a cross-country plane trip.  It’s easy to lose yourself for four, five, and even six hours in the game, exploring the city of Monte d’Or and teasing your gray matter with a plethora of puzzles.  I would say that it’d be great to pass time on the subway or between meetings, but you just might find yourself on the other side of town, or figuring out a darn good excuse to give your boss for taking a four-hour lunch break.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask receives a 4.75/5.0.


Our Rating
out of 5.0

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