Sep 302010

Status: Complete

Put this on your box: Walk with the Professor! Feel the burn!

Most intriguing idea: Sorry, fresh out.

Best design decision: The super hint for times when you just can’t figure out what the puzzle wants you to do.

Worst design decision: The world is much too large and the subway doesn’t have nearly enough stops.

Summary: The weakest aspect of the Professor Layton games has always been movement. I’ve almost never had any difficulty controlling the puzzles, but getting around has always been a tedious business. The earlier games in the series compensated for this by keeping their worlds small (or at least tightly constrained in each chapter) and packed, so that there was usually something to do on every screen you needed to visit. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, unfortunately, has a massive world that you need to traverse over and over and over again to gather all the puzzles, constantly revisiting locations that have nothing to do and aren’t anything special to look at. The tenth time you cross that murky forest on a puzzle hunt, you’ll be cursing that shoe and the precious triangles it hides.

Although the minigames in Unwound Future are the strongest in the series, the puzzles generally felt easier and less interesting. Even the lateral-thinking solutions felt a little dull to me. As for the story, Unwound Future manages the surprising trick of having a more absurd plot than its predecessors. Without spoiling things, allow me to say that the game’s explanation for the future London struck me as even less plausible than actual time travel. And then a giant steam-powered walking fortress erupted from under the Thames. Despite the absurd plot, the game has a number of great character moments and reaches a really satisfying emotional conclusion. Ultimately it isn’t quite as good as Mysterious Village, but perhaps no game can recapture the freshness that made that first title shine. The series is pretty well set in its formula by now and Unwound Future offers little that will surprise anyone, except for the moment where Layton assembles a coin-spewing gun from parts of a slot machine.

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