Sep 142009
 

Final Status: Story finished, most extra puzzles solved.

Put this on your box: A gentleman leaves no puzzle unsolved!

Most intriguing idea: You don’t really need to make puzzles part of the story. You can just jam them in there any old way and people will still love it!

Best design decision: Moving the setting around to make each chapter’s geography more varied.

Worst design decision: The tea set, a boring game of trial-and-error that doesn’t fit the puzzle aesthetic or provide any entertainment.

Summary:

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box follows the same scheme as its predecessor — a mystery presents itself to the Professor, who then must solve puzzles to obtain clues, get around recalcitrant villagers, and just for fun. While some of the puzzles are directly integrated with story events, for the most part they are no more than tangentially related. Diabolical Box has a greater reliance on transfer and picture-scanning puzzles than Mysterious Village, in part because the latter form the basis for almost all the gameplay in the camera minigame. In addition there is a hamster minigame (cursed with appalling voice acting) that also has a puzzle component, in terms of arranging items in the hamster’s play area to maximize the number of steps he will take. This pattern is broken with the tea minigame, in which the player must mix components to make particular teas. As mentioned above, the game would have been better without it.

The story is little more than an excuse to tramp through environments looking for puzzles, with train-sized plot holes, but it does its job and is charmingly presented. The final twist is unintentionally hilarious, because it suggests that the Professor and Luke kept running into puzzles because they are puzzle maniacs. For the most part, it’s more of the same, but when the original is so good, that’s not really a problem.

  2 Responses to “Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box”

  1. Maybe the tea minigame was part of an elaborate stealth marketing tie-in. I didn't manage to serve all potential tea-drinkers (room for improvement: the equivalent of Granny R.'s shack for minigame components?). I felt there were less lateral-thinking puzzles than in the previous game but I also figure those were the hardest to translate so maybe it was a decision borne of pushing the franchise out to the non-japanese market.

  2. Yes, there was certainly less lateral thinking. In support of your suggestion that localization played a role in this, one lateral-thinking puzzle was changed from a word solution to a shape-finding exercise (the hat puzzle).

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