As you undoubtedly know by now, I have a soft spot for a consistent narrative in video games. It’s something video games – as opposed to the other media I review – severely lack, and in my opinion one of the key reasons they don’t get the critical acclaim they should. Whenever they do, the consistent narrative is there.
My case for the point I made above is the wonderful Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the sequel to the very-popular-with-a-very-small-crowd Professor Layton and the Curious Village. The game remains the same, but the story told is different. Just the way I wanted it to be.
Layton’s apprentice saves the day!
Professor Hershel Layton is a puzzle solving expert living in London with his apprentice, the boy Luke. Together they solve riddles and enigmas – all while upholding the general rule of being not only smart, but being a gentleman. Throughout the story, they talk with a thick British accent as they scientifically unravel mystery after mystery.
The game works as an interactive story, much like those typical Japanese games – you get pictures of people on your screen and read what they have to say. In between of the story segments you wander through the area, talking to people. A conversation usually ends in a puzzle, which can be all sorts of stuff. You could inquire about the box the title refers to and get a puzzle about a bucket of water. The game never hides the fact that it is a puzzle-solving game (or a video game in general), so don’t be surprised if all people in some backwards country village spend their days with mind twisters.
I think I’ve got it!
The thing is, I don’t really care all that much for puzzles. I think puzzles are fun for a while, but building a whole game around them doesn’t sound all that interesting. What keeps me coming back, however, is the wonderful charm that hangs around every aspect of the game – the characters are cute, their voices sound good, the music fits, and last but not least: the storyline is great.
Do you remember seeing a Disney film as a kid? Remember being immersed in this magical world? That’s kind of what Professor Layton does to me: it sucks me into a really, really nice storyline which makes sense from start to finish. You could argue – and perhaps partially rightly so – that these kind of stories are directed towards children. I wouldn’t say you’re wrong, per se, but just that you’re making the truth a bit more simple and plain than she is. Harry Potter has shown us that the key to winning the hearts of adults is through (their) children. That’s the kind of story Layton tells us: a cute fairytalelike story about gentlemen who find a logical solution to every kind of problem. Kind of like plumbers in top hats.
So even if you dislike the idea of solving about a hundred puzzles, if you like consistent and fun stories, you will probably like Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. It’s cute, it’s touching and it never tries to be more than it actually is. It’s a selfconscious videogame that never tries to convince you of anything, and just because of that, because of the fact that it just acknowledges its existence and shows you it is there, it is a truly marvellous experience!