The DS has long been the thinking man's handheld device of choice, making up for its graphical deficiencies in presentation with innovative games designed to pull in a larger audience and appeal to a wider demographic. It has become the master of the long-distance train journey, and it's largely thanks to games like this. Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first instalment in the Prof. Layton puzzle/adventure series of games, leading the player through over a 120 cranial conundrums as the Layton and his youthful sidekick attempt to unravel the Mystery of the Golden Apple and go treasure hunting in the titular village of St. Mystere.
If you own a DS and haven't managed to get round to checking this out just yet, then now would seem to be a perfect opportunity. ShopTo - seeming to have a bit of a deal-fest going on at the moment - are currently offering Professor Layton's first adventure for £12.85, including special delivery for those of you worried about postal strikes. This is a good £7 cheaper than Amazon's offering as the nearest competitor (£19.93) and well worth a punt for anyone who thought Brain Training was a bit of a cop out.
Essentially an old-skool point-and-click adventure game liberally sprinkled with loads of puzzles to wrap your head around, Curious Village plays equally well as a short-burst ten-minute mental snack as it does a public transport boredom beater. Layton and Tintin-wannabe Luke trek through the Hergé-esque village of St. Mystere seeking to unravel the meaning of a baron's last will and testament and work out how to inherit his enormous fortune at the behest of the baron's wife. The only problem is that all of the villagers have a penchant for fiendish mind-bogglers, and so Layton and Luke (and therefore you, the player) are put through a long series of mental gymnastics to progress through the game.
The resultant game is astonishingly good, highly engrossing and ridiculously addictive. The hand-drawn visuals are very pleasing on the eye, the music is pretty good (although, as with all tinkly in-game Jpop, it walks a fine line between being absurdly catchy and hideously irritating), and the mystery story gives the game an excellent frame, even if it is literally just that.
The puzzles are what counts, though, and having been developed with help from Chiba University’s Professor Tago Akira, author of the Head Gymnastics puzzle book series, they range from block puzzles, logic exercises, getting livestock across a river, obtaining exactly 5 litres of milk and so on. Some of them are fiendishly hard, although helpfully you can pick up hint coins along the way and trade them in for helpful nudges: each puzzle has three available hints for you to cash-in on, and whilst they nudge you a little bit harder each time at no point does the game simply come out and hand you the answer on a plate, although you might kick yourself a few times as I did.
Curious Village is a wonderful game, especially at this price, but it does have one major negative, being the lack of replay value. Once you've finished the game there's not an overwhelming case to do it all again, although this is tempered slightly by the availability of downloadable puzzles from the Ninty network, and this shouldn't stop you from snaffling a copy of what's a very good spin on the puzzle genre.
Thanks to partyblast from HotUKDeals