Instead of being isolated in the quaint little village of St. Mystere, Professor Layton and his young apprentice Luke are now riding with style, across a fictional European landscape on a luxurious train known as the Molentary Express. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box--known as Professor Layton and Pandora's Box in some territories--continues the trend of blending a captivating story with clever logic puzzles that result in an engaging experience for anyone who's looking to do some critical thinking. We had the opportunity to play the second entry into this first trilogy and were impressed and delighted to go on a journey with the gentlemanly professor.
The story will take you to several locations, the first of which is the home of Professor Layton's mentor, Dr. Schrader. The doctor had come across the mysterious Elysian box, which was said to kill anyone who dared open it. Just to be safe, Dr. Schrader wrote Professor Layton a letter before attempting to unravel the box's secrets. As soon as the professor received the letter, his intuition told him that something had gone horribly wrong. Professor Layton and Luke immediately head to the doctor's home, only to find him dead, having left behind a ticket for the Molentary Express. With the ticket as their only clue, the Professor and Luke begin their journey aboard the beautiful train, searching for information regarding the Elysian box.
If you've played the first game, everything should come naturally here. As you begin your adventure, the game walks you through the controls and does a good job of telling you where to go next. You don't always have to solve all the puzzles to progress the story, and puzzles that you miss will end up in Granny's shack, so you can revisit them at any time. You use the touch screen to move from screen to screen, poking around to find hint coins and hidden puzzles. It's like a hidden-object game at times, but generally, if you interact with the locals, you'll find what you need to move forward.
The puzzles that we encountered (the first 25 or so) were relatively straightforward and tied into the story as they did in the last game. Professor Layton and Luke will come across something new, and then suddenly, they'll be reminded of a puzzle that they heard about previously. What's different is that several minigames have been added and can be accessed via Professor Layton's bottomless trunk. One game involves encouraging your pet hamster to exercise by placing enticing items on a chessboard to lure it into walking across as many spaces as possible. You'll collect a variety of items throughout the game, and each will have its own special property so that you can place the item strategically on the board to maximize the hamster's routine. For example, a tree stump will draw its attention if it's standing within three spaces of it, but if an apple is nearby, it will automatically go for the apple instead. As you investigate your surroundings, you'll also pick up camera equipment that needs to be carefully placed in Professor Layton's trunk. There's a tea brewing minigame in which you place three random ingredients in a teapot to come up with new recipes. These minigames seem to act as an alternative to managing the collectible items that you find in the game. Something will unlock once you've discovered everything, so there's plenty of incentive to be thorough.
This series distinguishes itself by having an intriguing mystery to solve while peppering you with engaging puzzles along the way. The game retains the rustic charm of the original, with well-produced cutscenes and mood-setting music to tell the story. Professor Layton's deeper tone balances out Luke's enthusiastic and sometimes shrill voice, which brings the two characters to life on the Nintendo DS. It's going to feel like more of the same, but because the original was so good, you'll likely be drawn into Professor Layton's world once again to tackle the 150-plus puzzles.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box will be released on August 24 in North America. The European version will be known as Professor Layton and Pandora's Box and is set to be released on September 25.