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Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Review: Keep on Puzzling
Professor Layton is a series for the thinker. I want to preface that if you’re looking for an action game, this isn’t the type of game you need. However, if you’ve ever found yourself in need of a great variety of puzzles, coupled with a solid plot, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is the game for you. And with Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy coming out later this month, now is the time to get caught up with the series.
As the fifth game in the series, Miracle Mask is not substantially different from the previous games in the series. As you progress through the story, you’ll be given puzzles to solve – and developer Level-5 still has the knack for making them interesting. With 150 puzzles to be found in the main game, you’ll certainly find this game scratches your puzzle itch.
To make use of the 3DS’s 3D features, navigation in Miracle Mask is different than previous games. Rather than directly clicking at the environment using the touchscreen, Miracle Mask lets players use the touchscreen to move a magnifying glass around the top screen, looking for sweet spots.
And search for those sweet spots you will. Finding them will net you collectible items, hint coins, hidden puzzles, and of course, make you progress through the game. If you’re as obsessive as I am, you’ll be touching every pixel of the screen until you find everything on every screen.
Other than puzzles and screen navigation, Miracle Mask has a few other tricks up its sleeve to entertain the player. Like the other Professor Layton games, the player is given various minigames they can choose to play.
In Miracle Mask, you can control a toy robot inside various mazes, or arrange a store’s products in ways that are most enticing to the customer. Or, in one of the cutest minigames of all time, you can control Layton’s apprentice, Luke Triton, as he befriends a rabbit and helps him perform in plays. Yes, that is a thing.
In another interesting part of the game, both for its story purpose and the gameplay, you will lead a young Layton through a maze in a top-down perspective. It’s no Zelda game, but it lends another nice change of pace to the game.
Story wise, Miracle Mask is the second part of the prequel trilogy of Professor Layton. While The Last Specter showed off the origin’s of Luke, Miracle Mask deals particularly with Layton’s beginnings in archaeology. I don’t intend to spoil the story, but it’s definitely interesting and the animated scenes that help to drive it along are great. They’re well voice acted and drawn, and another nice way to break up the gameplay.
The art in Miracle Mask, like the rest of the Professor Layton series, has a great style and an interesting take on character design. While characters like Layton, Luke, and Emmy are drawn normally with regular proportions, some characters look downright goofy – like the hilarious Inspector Grosky, who fills every scene he’s in with his over the top antics.
While I didn’t find myself humming any of the music tracks after putting my 3DS down, I felt like the music did its purpose. It helped set the mood for the animated scenes, and the tracks didn’t feel phoned in. I do remember the music for puzzles being nice, and I’d say it is good thinking music. That’s exactly what you want when you’re just working on puzzles – music that helps you think, but doesn’t distract you.
Speaking of thinking, let’s talk about the difficulty of the puzzles in Miracle Mask. I’m a veteran of the Professor Layton series, but I found several puzzles gave me a hard time. To offset this, the game allows you to spend your hint coins to receive up to four hints on each puzzle.
As a purist, I resisted using the hint coins as much as possible. When I did, I found the hints to be pretty helpful, although sometimes I needed to buy every hint just to get something helpful. There are plenty of hint coins to be found, so unless you’re dropping all of them on every puzzle, you shouldn’t be running out. Balancing the hints to be useful without solving the puzzle for you isn’t easy, and I feel like they did as best they could to keep the hints from being solutions.
I recommend checking out Miracle Mask even if you’ve only got a passing interest in the series as a whole. If you’re looking for a great casual game to play and exercise your brain, here is a well crafted game for that purpose. It may even inspire you to start finding the older DS Professor Layton games – the series can be pretty addictive. Unless you’re the kind of person who needs action in every game they play, I can see you enjoying any of the Professor Layton games, and Miracle Mask is no exception.
And if you need any more convincing, remember that Professor Layton stars alongside Phoenix Wright in Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney, which is also coming out in 2014. If Layton’s cool enough to hang with Phoenix, he should be good enough for you.