While adventure games have seen a resurgence on PCs and consoles alike as of late, it’s nice to see the Professor Layton series continuing to go strong on the DS. The series is known for essentially blending adventure games full of charm with a plethora of brain-bending puzzles. Fortunately, the series’ third iteration, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, continues this practice, delivering both a challenging and enjoyable adventure for players of all ages.
This time around, Layton and his young apprentice Luke are present at the demonstration of what is billed as a fully functioning time travel machine. Of course, something goes horribly wrong and both the Prime Minister and the head scientist in charge of the demonstration vanish during the explosion. This is followed by Layton receiving a call for help from an unlikely source, a letter allegedly sent from his apprentice Luke ten years in the future. Following the instructions on the letter, Layton and Luke find themselves in the future, trying to unravel the mysteries of both the past and future. It is an entertaining hook and story to be sure, and thankfully, newcomers will still be able to follow the plot, as Unwound Future doesn’t require knowledge of past games in order to understand.
Whether in their current London or in the dingy futuristic version, the world comes alive with detail. As an adventure game at its core, you won’t be running around the environments in real time. Instead, the game is presented to you as a series of still images that can be interacted with or moved between. Still, these scenes, which have a lovely painted appearance about them, do a good job of creating a world in which to solve mysteries and puzzles. Players will also be treated to an impressive amount of cinematics and voice work, given the small memory capacity of the DS carts.
Stepping into a scene, you’ll be able to use the touch screen in order to interact with virtually everything you can see. Tapping on some objects will only result in a line of text from either Layton or Luke describing it or commenting about it to one another, however, there are plenty of doors, passageways, hint coins, hidden puzzles, and people to interact with. While the doors, passageways, and people are usually easy to find, hint coins and hidden puzzles can be more elusive. Finding these two items usually requires a keen eye, finding odd looking or out of place objects within a scene and tapping them. Since both of these items can be quite useful, it makes all the scene scouring more than worthwhile.
As I already mentioned, Unwound Future is a game that relies heavily on its over 150 brain teasing puzzles for gameplay. It can actually verge on comical how the game continues to set up scenarios in which it deems it appropriate to throw another puzzle at the player. As examples, here are just some of the ways you’ll find yourself tasked with solving a puzzle: you’ll find doors with no locks, people who want to test your identity, have to trade puzzle solvings for information, and even discover people who just randomly throw a puzzle your way to get your help with solving it. While this can seem a little questionable at times, it is quite hilarious to be playing in a world where puzzle solving is the key to everything, from gathering information to proving your identity.
Still, unlike the way puzzles are presented to you, the puzzles you’ll encounter in Unwound Future are all well done. You’ll find everything from number to logic puzzles throughout, and since there are a wide variety of them, it helps to keep you interested in finding and completing all of them. The game will start you off rather slowly, with more basic puzzles, and throughout the course of your adventure, gradually increase the challenge. The rate at which the puzzles pick up in intensity feels just right, with a gradual difficulty curve rather than sharp spikes that can be difficult to overcome.
Fortunately, even if you do find yourself having issues with any of the game’s puzzles, Unwound Future does a good job of helping the player out. It does so by letting you use the hint coins you’ll find scattered throughout the game to purchase hints for puzzles. Each puzzle comes with a series of hints that can be purchased for a set number of coins (one or two) that can give the player small clues as to how to figure out the puzzle. The first hint you purchase will give you a small clue, with each hint getting closer to handing you the answer outright.
Every puzzle in the game is worth a certain amount of Picarats, which you gain by solving them and can use to purchase extras once you complete the game. A puzzle with fewer Picarats will be easier to solve, while those worth a large sum of Picarats will require a firmly worn thinking cap. Giving the incorrect answer to a puzzle will result in a reduction of the possible Picarats, but this can usually be avoided by making good use of your hint coins. However, the number of hint coins in the game is finite, so using them wisely is key to collecting the maximum number of possible Picarats.
If the lengthy story and initial mound of puzzles aren’t enough to keep you busy, Unwound Future provides plenty of additional content to extend the life of the title. First off, within the game itself, you’ll find a series of mini-games that will unlock throughout the adventure. These will have you doing everything from plotting a vehicle’s driving path to walking Layton to an exit while trying to avoid banana peels. There are also three picture books to be found in the game. You will unlock stickers while playing that can be used to fill in these books’ missing stories Mad Libs-style by sticking them in the correct places. Finally, there are also additional free puzzles being made available for download, with one appearing every week for the first thirty weeks after the game’s launch.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is a cute and clever game that is constantly challenging the player, without being so difficult that it becomes frustrating. If you’re a fan of the previous titles, you will definitely want to pick up this title for the continuing storyline and the familiar puzzle gameplay. However, if you’ve never played a Professor Layton title before, this game doesn’t require an extensive back catalogue of knowledge, making it a perfect place to start. Either way, Layton’s latest title is a ton of fun and an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
Both the in-game graphics and the cinemas look great and exude charm. 4.5 Control
Given that all you use is the touch screen, the controls are accurate and simple. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The great music mixes well with an impressive amount of well done voice work. 4.6
With a lengthy story mode and the addition of mini-games, picture books, and free downloadable puzzles, there is plenty of content here for those who enjoy puzzles.
4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.