With a combination of whimsical storytelling, captivating visuals, and challenging-but-fair logic puzzles, Professor Layton and the Curious Village was a welcome surprise that infused the brainteaser game genre with entirely new types of fun. Nearly two years later, the dapper professor is back with another mystery to unravel, more eccentric individuals to meet, and, of course, more puzzles to solve. With some minor interface improvements and the addition of varied locations, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box delivers more of the same classic mindbenders blended with adventure. Controlling the Sherlock Holmes of puzzles and his assistant as they unravel a preponderance of perplexity is as amusing and engaging as ever, so put on your top hat and polish your gentlemanly manners.
When the refined Professor Hershel Layton, renowned archaeologist and puzzle enthusiast, receives a letter from his mentor indicating that the legendary Elysian Box has been found, Layton grabs his assistant and self-styled apprentice, Luke, and leaves with all due haste. Knowing that the box has been said to kill anyone who opens it, the professor fears the worst and, alas, arrives too late. Going by the only piece of evidence found--a ticket for the famous Molentary Express train without a destination listed--the puzzle-busting duo embarks on a journey determined to track down the artifact and uncover its secrets.
Unlike its predecessor, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box features several major areas to visit, offering a welcome variety of locations to explore, including the interior of the fancy Molentary Express and the bright and cheery village of Dropstone. Simple point-and-tap controls let you move about, talk to villagers, and investigate the many nooks and crannies you come across for hidden brainteasers or hint coins (which are spent to purchase hints in case you get stuck). Puzzles seem to be the currency in the world of Professor Layton, and as you search for information on the Elysian Box, many of the colorful people you speak to will keep key bits of gossip or information under their hats until you help them out with a tricky mindbender.
To solve some of these brainteasers, you'll find yourself dividing parcels of land into equal parts, working out ages, unraveling patterns, piecing together torn photos, and much, much more. One welcome new feature is the addition of a memo pad, which lets you doodle over the screen and eliminates the need for paper and a pen. Deciphering the many brainteasers can be done at your leisure because there are no time limits, and if you get stumped, you can always purchase up to three clues with the hint coins you discover while walking around. Though the overwhelming majority of these hints are helpful, it's a waste to use your coins on some of the more difficult series-based puzzles because the hints don't really offer any insights, which can be frustrating. Nonetheless, these situations are few and far between, and unless you're looking to complete every puzzle, you rarely have to deal with this issue.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is an addictive adventure that you'll be hard-pressed to put down once you're drawn into the mystery of the titular artifact. As you search for clues, you'll find several diversionary minigames to engage in, such as reassembling a busted camera, forcing a strict exercise plan on a morbidly obese hamster, and mixing up delicious tea concoctions. Once fixed, the camera lets you find discrepancies between a photo and the real thing, and the hamster will aid you in your quest once it's a toned and healthy critter. Your tea creations will help refresh distressed townsfolk if you stumble upon them in such a state, but because the status is random, finding them is a pain that often involves leaving and reentering the same area over and over again. Each puzzle is rated in difficulty, and while you don't have to solve all of the 150-plus puzzles featured to complete the game, the more you finish, the more extra content you unlock. The main story clocks in at an impressive 20 hours or so, but once you're finished, there are even more difficult puzzles to conquer in the bonus area. As with its predecessor, you'll be able to download a new puzzle each week via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connect.
The professor's second outing features some truly impressive animated story cutscenes, all of which are fully voice acted for maximum immersion. The whimsical hand-drawn art style looks fantastic throughout the game, but the cutscenes in particular stand out. The same voice actors from the Curious Village have carried over, as have some musical selections, including the puzzle theme (though much of the music is new). If you enjoyed the slightly exaggerated British accents and the calm and soothing soundtrack of its predecessor, then the Diabolical Box will please you in much the same way.
With a number of unexpected twists and surprisingly poignant turns, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is a fun, mind-boggling adventure that continues in the steps of its predecessor. The lengthy story and huge number of puzzles will hold your attention for quite some time, and the weekly promise of new downloadable brainteasers will keep you coming back for another fix. Though fans will certainly enjoy the slight improvements made, newcomers shouldn't let the fact that this is a sequel discourage them--prior knowledge is not necessary. If you have a penchant for puzzles, then you should not miss out on this game.