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Professor Layton and the Curious Village video game review Age Rating: 7+ (PEGI) The story of gaming over the past couple of decades is of a quest to make artificial worlds that feel less, well, artificial: to create space monsters and enemy soldiers that writhe convincingly in their own blood and guts, or physics that let you leap from platform to platform as realistically as possible.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village, on the other hand, is about as self conciously artificial as you can get. In this latest gem to grace the Nintendo DS the puzzle solving professor and his youthful sidekick, Luke, are trapped in the town of St Mystere, a place where literally nobody is capable of striking up a conversation without setting you a brainteaser first. A typical piece of dialogue goes like this: "Can I get a room for the night?" "Ah, that reminds me. My first is in shoe, but not in canoe This process would get on your nerves pandora discount charms a bit except for one thing: it absolutely delightful. In contrast to other pandora beads for sale puzzle games, there no real interaction with your environment: instead, the game is merely a framing device for the riddles, but one with wonderful charm and a lovely, autumnal aesthetic closest in spirit and setting to the equally gorgeous animated film Belleville Rendez Vous. Speaking of the puzzles, there are more than 130, all told. And yes, some are infuriating, or leave you scratching your head once you exhaust the generous hints and turn shamefacedly to an online cheat sheet. But most are eminently solvable, and varied enough in tone to keep you hunting for every last one. All the classics are here: moving sheep and wolves from one side of a river to the other; rearranging matchsticks to make a new shape; pouring water into differently shaped jugs; creating chessboards where none of the pieces are able to take each other; working womens pandora bracelets out the area of a particular shape; making your way across various islands without retracing your steps. There no real penalty for giving up and starting again except to your pride, and to the points handed out and the difficulty curve is well calibrated enough that it very hard to get stuck per se, even if the "hint coins" hidden in every scene are annoying to detect. The story itself, despite the characters ludicrous penchant for quizzery, is equally well put together. The Professor and Luke have arrived in St Mystere to solve the mystery surrounding the legacy left by the local nabob and rumours of a fabulous treasure that he secreted in the town before his death the legendary "Golden Apple". But all of a sudden, you trapped by a sabotaged drawbridge, people are mysteriously disappearing, there a villainous figure lurking in the shadows and you suspected gasp! of murder.(Gee, do you think the mysterious, looming tower at the heart of the village that has no obvious entrance might hold a clue?) The ensuing plot is nonsensical but coherent, even managing to explain why exactly the residents of St Mystere are so obsessed with teasing your brains. Plus, the cut scenes are genuinely beautiful, pieces genuine pandora of animation that push the DS graphics chip to its limits. Even your young sidekick, very much of the "Crikey, Professor!" school of acting, is less wearying than he might be.
In short, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a delightful game, and an excellent addition to the DS library. Suitable, as they say, for children of any age, it gripping enough to keep you playing for just that one more puzzle. Bring on the sequel, I say.
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