Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

September 30, 2009

In early 2008, Nintendo unleashed the English translation of Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Snackbar rating: Niche) on the western gaming world. Thanks to a rabid fan following and some surprising sales (mostly in Europe, where it was actually advertised) sixteen months later we finally received the sequel that had been out in Japan for ages (they’re almost on their fourth installment, actually). If you were one of those fans, you already have this game and can stop reading this review; by a similar nature, if you didn’t like the first one then there’s no reason to try this one.

If you haven’t played Curious Village, the Professor Layton series is a series of over 100 logic puzzles, riddles, and other brain teasers strung together with a whimsical narrative featuring the titular professor (of archaeology, if you were wondering) and his assistant Luke. The difference between Curious Village and Diabolical Box is subtle at best; the games are essentially identical save for the actual puzzles themselves.

One key innovation, however, is the “memo” feature. What this does is gives you a transparent overlay that lets you scribble, draw, and otherwise make notes as you solve; some of the puzzles in the first game had this, but this time around it’s available on all of them, and you can toggle between it and the original image at will to check your work. This makes certain puzzles much easier than they would have been the first time around and is a welcome addition.

Other than different mini games (one of which makes finding hidden puzzles much easier than the first installment’s pixel-hunting), however, it’s more of the same. While that “same” is awesome if you’re a fan of these kinds of puzzles, it’s not going to win over any new fans. I would recommend that new players start with Curious Village to avoid the mild spoilers and what would be otherwise confusing references to that title’s events, but if you just want the puzzles then go for it.

ESRB: E10 for Alcohol Reference and Mild Violence. The Professor and Luke tend to get involved in murder mysteries.

Plays like: Professor Layton and the Curious Village, almost exactly.

Pros: New puzzles! More charming animation and voice acting! NEW PUZZLES!

Cons: Some of those puzzles are “Tower of Hanoi”, “Knight’s Tour”, and “Disappearing Act” (peg solitaire), plus the ever-annoying sliding box puzzles return with infuriating new twists (blocks that aren’t all squares and rectangles). Prepare to be frustrated.

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.