February 21, 2008

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Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Level 5, Feb. 10
By Glenn "Critical thinking is the key" Given production@hippopress.com

Elementary!

Who wouldnít want to wander about the Triplets of Belleville-ian Ur-Euro village of St. Mystere dragging trivial bits of information about where lost cats have scampered off to out of the populace by solving their riddles and puzzles? Apparently nobody, ícause Professor Layton is a delight.

Layton, with precocious ward Luke in tow, is summoned to the titular curious village to suss out the location of a golden apple that will determine the recipient of the late Baron Dahliaís fortune. While Layton maeuvers the village in a Maniac Mansion-style point-and-click adventure format the (sometimes) plot-advancing puzzles eschew the early CD-ROM-era inventory management gymnastics and instead bombard you with a host of algebra word puzzles, mazes and the like. While a more direct presentation would put this collection of retirement home Alzheimerís vaccines into the bargain bin, it is the charming nest of animated Sherlock Holmes-ery that brings Professor Layton to the top tier of DS titles. Every time I divide 8 gallons of wine into two equal portions using only eight-, five- and three-gallon pitchers and ďLaytonís apprentice saves the day!Ē chirps out Iím a happy sleuth. Do I mind that every fixture of St. Mystere I tap to uncover hint coins (used to purchase hints, duh!) reminds Layton of a puzzle? Hell no. Bring it, Poirot.

Professor Laytonís easy interface and variety of challenge stretches its potential audience across decades. Itís a perfect 15-minute play, although the trickier bits may send you scouring gamefaqs.com for a crib sheet. As an added bonus for those of us tech-savvy enough to have lashed the tiger of WiFi network creation into domestication Level-5 has slated new puzzles to be available for download through your DS. St. Mystere is a wonderful place to visit (although considering the investigatory heights one must engage in just to get a freaking meal Iím skeptical about moving in). A+ ó Glenn Given