Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
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Game Reviewed: Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Developer: Level V
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
ESRB Rating: E10
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The Professor Layton series is a unique one. Whereas most puzzle games tend to be abstract concepts that cannot easily fit with a story (Tetris, Bejeweled), and most adventure games tend to create puzzles within the environment (The Walking Dead, Broken Age), each Professor Layton game weaves over 100 brainteaser puzzles into a story with fleshed-out characters, twisting storylines, and the occasional hand-animated cutscene. It really is something unique in this modern landscape ruled by casual puzzlers and action-based shooters, and each game is a welcome experience for me.
This is the sixth game of the series, and wraps up the prequel trilogy (taking place before the events of the first three games). With the previous two games and the movie (yes, there’s a movie, and yes, it’s actually relevant to the games’ storyline, but I’ll talk more about it later) building up to this conclusion, this game seeks to unmask the secrets of the Azran civilization, an ancient civilization with technology beyond our understanding.
The series resumes its art shift to 3D graphics instead of 2D animated characters, and pulls it off just as beautifully as when it first tried in the last game. If you turn off the 3D you could swear the characters are hand-animated like before. And as usual, the excellent voice acting and character design bring the characters to life, and the gentlemanly Professor Layton is just as enjoyable a protagonist as always.
But despite the series’ lighthearted tone, it’s not all fun and games, and the stories don’t always stay light and fluffy. Is this latest brainteaser mystery appropriate for your children?
What Parents Need to Know
All violence is quite cartoon-like, and rarely disturbing in the slightest. There is gunfire, but no one is injured. There is also a swordfight, but again, no injuries are suffered. One scene depicts partial destruction of a village, but no one is seen in these scenes, so it’s unclear whether anyone is hurt. In one cutscene, a character is stabbed with a knife, but the wound is entirely covered and no blood is ever seen.
There is no foul language in this game. What with Professor Layton being a world-class gentleman and Luke hoping to learn from him, there’s really little room for that sort of thing.
A man in a saloon tries hitting on Emmy, one of the main characters. It’s only a sentence or two, and it’s as mild as it comes. I’m honestly not even sure why I bothered putting it here.
The Azran civilization bears technology so advanced and unexplained that it could be mistaken for magic, but it is not. Everything in Professor Layton is explained scientifically. Rarely with anything that’s actually scientifically possible, but still. No magic involved.
There is a plot thread regarding human sacrifice (by locking people in a temple, so no killing is directly witnessed), but it is later revealed to have never actually happened, as the victims have been broken out of the temple. Consequently, of course, there is no actual reason for said sacrifices, just a misguided village.
Characters enter a saloon at one point, and a man there is clearly drunk.
A Child’s Perspective:
My nephew played a bit of the game, and enjoyed it. The action-packed animated cutscenes excited him, and the puzzles were fun to try and figure out (even though some of them certainly flew over his head). The only major problem I saw is that the game requires a lot of reading (most of the dialogue isn’t voice acted, and the puzzles rely on written instructions and hints), and he’s not the most patient of readers. If your child isn’t one for reading, don’t be surprised if they commit the heinous sin of skipping story scenes or have trouble with the puzzles.
In general, my thoughts are mixed on this entry in the series. On one hand, the puzzles have never been better. Ever since they made the nonsensically scattered puzzles in the environment into a part of the story in the first game, the games have taken a more tongue-in-cheek approach to that strangeness. In this game, however, they far more often create the puzzles based on situations the characters are facing, like crossing a river or avoiding attacking drones. This ties the puzzle-solving into the story in a wonderfully seamless manner, making the gameplay far and away the best of the series. And of course, the art and presentation is fantastic as always.
But the story, while it shows immense potential in the first and third acts, fills the entire middle portion of the game with five quests that are unrelated to the main story except for the items you get at the end of them. That’s a common time-padding trick for Level V’s role-playing games, but this is the first time it’s happened in this series, and the story certainly suffers for it. I didn’t expect the story to reach the emotional highs of the third game (believe it or not, Unwound Future brought all the tears at the end), but I was disappointed by this step backwards despite the immense promise the beginning brought.
In the end, it’s still a great game and an enjoyable entry into the series. And it still sports its lighthearted tone and endearing visual style, along with a fun story about a gentlemanly puzzle solver and his assistants discovering long-buried archeological secrets. I think it’ll be fine for any kid who can read the dialogue and solve the puzzles.