For the past several months, I have noticed that very few games have had ad time on television. This is a shame to me. There are many great games out there waiting to be discovered. Most of them will not even be acknowledged. All I remember of the aired TV ads were Rhythm Heaven, Kingdom Hearts 368/2 days and the one I was greatly anticipating: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. Is the good Professor still worth your time? Yep. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is the most refined puzzle/adventure game to date. And that is no small statement.
The Diabolical Box picks up some time after The Curious Village . Luke and Professor Layton are hanging out in their London flat when the professor gets a letter from his old mentor. He has been doing some research on a mysterious artifact known as “the Diabolical Box.” According to legend, all who open it die (sort of like the Ark of the Covenant). When the duo finally get to his apartment, the mentor is dead, and Chelmy, the chief inspector, believes Luke and Professor Layton are responsible for his demise. Furthermore, the two quickly find a ticket for the luxurious Monetary Express. But where does the ticket take the holder? Who killed the professor’s mentor? There are also many more mysteries to solve.
Those who have played the original Professor Layton will feel right at home. The game uses the touchscreen completely, so hypothetically, Grandma could easily pick it up and play this game. By clicking on the shoe icon, you can clearly see which directions you can go; the top screen holds a map (and who’s traveling with you), so you won’t get lost. Puzzles are still a tumultuous twist of logic, optical illusions and creativity. While this is not new, fans of the original game will greatly appreciate the constant presence of the “memo” function in all puzzles. You can work out any puzzle on the touchscreen if you want. Picarats, the game’s currency, are earned as you solve puzzles. This predetermined amount decreases a bit each time you get a question wrong, but it never exceeds the decreased value twice. You need coins to unlock bonuses.
The Diabolical Box revels in its puzzle prowess. You can unlock four additional puzzles: fixing the camera, spot the difference (Highlights Magazine has nothing on the Professor! These pictures are HARD), a chubby hamster trying to get fit, and tea time. As you solve the various puzzles, you could earn an item for one of those puzzles (except the pictures). Fixing the camera unlocks the hidden pictures function. Finding the differences between scenes can help you find hidden puzzles. Helping the hamster get fit is cute and adorable. And tea brewing is just a fun way to chill out (the British way!) and occasionally help the various characters you encounter. As you create various teas and serve them to Luke and Professor Layton, you can earn a hint coin. I think it’s a great way to reward patient gamers.
If there is a theme for The Diabolical Box, it is “patience.” My previous statements make it sound like the difficulty has been reworked. Nope, it is still difficult. Like any good game, The Diabolical Box eases its way into your thoughts and soul. But after awhile, the difficulty quickly ramps up. It is easy to get stumped, even if you work it out with other people. The cube puzzle that is seen on the television commercial is one that springs to mind. The puzzle has you placing symbols in their correct places and rotations. I could not work it out in my head or on the touchscreen. I had to re-create the cube with pencil and paper.
Graphically, The Diabolical Box looks almost identical to its predecessor. That’s not a bad thing, though. The game looks gorgeous and retains its signature style. However, the biggest additions to the game are the various locales. You are no longer “chained” to a single village. You’ll explore the train, a rural village and a mysterious village that suddenly came to life on arrival.
There are more movies to watch in The Diabolical Box than there were in the original game. This directly connects into the audio as there is more voice acting to be heard. Voice acting is not limited to movies. Sometimes it is heard in plot conversations. It is still well-done, and kudos to Level 5 for smooshing in more content without compromising gameplay. The same few musical tunes from the first game are also heard. You’ll still hear the kaleidoscopic puzzle tune as you work out the solution. The mysterious Parisian accordion music can be heard as you travel. And of course, what would a Professor Layton game be like without the wonderful victory music you hear when you solve a puzzle? I feel intelligent when I hear it.
Overall, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is just as engaging as the first game. It may not tread new ground, but it does everything a good sequel should: more locations with their own cultures, more puzzles and an overall refinement of the system. The Diabolical Box is just as strong a game as it predecessor. Fans who loved The Curious Village will love this game. If you didn’t get into The Curious Village, The Diabolical Box will not change your mind. It is still a tough game. Regardless, I believe that it is worth checking out. All aboard the puzzle train!