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Professor Layton And The Miracle Mask review

The gentleman sleuth tackles his biggest challenge to date: the third dimension

There's a phrase used in television criticism about 'jumping the shark'. It refers to the infamous moment in TV sitcom Happy Days when the Fonz water-skied over a shark and now denotes the point at which a TV show is popularly adjudged to have lost the plot. While Layton would never go in for such flamboyant buffoonery - real gentlemen don't water-ski - there was a detectable whiff of Jaws-leaping about his last adventure, Spectre's Call.

There was that ridiculous Loch Ness Monster dénouement, the addition of a surplus assistant (sorry, Emmy), an inordinate amount of backtracking, more screen-tapping than ever before (thanks largely to hidden, and meaningless, collectibles) - not to mention the ludicrous revelation of Luke's Dr Doolittle routine. Spectre's Call may not have jumped the shark, but it had no qualms nattering to one. All in all, it felt like a game struggling to develop a template, a template Level-5 perfected three games before.

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Hooray then, for Miracle Mask, AKA: How Layton Got His Groove Back. The move to 3DS has prompted a major overhaul of the basics, a rethink that has percolated through the narrative strata to create a tighter, sprightlier Layton.

Just for starters, the Professor has never looked healthier. Level-5 uses 3DS's added horsepower to transform the Prof's world from grainy DS artwork to rich 3D models. Yes, it reveals how freakishly inhuman Layton looks - he's basically a sausage in a hat - but the lick of paint works wonders.

The city of Monte d'Or is rendered as a collection of shoebox theatre-like 3D dioramas. As you study locations with a magnifying glass they lean and twist, subtly hinting at 3D space. We also love how the magnifying glass emits a chime when it passes a point of note - having to tap every last pixel to find puzzles and hint coins is a thing of the past.

This more efficient means of exploration is all part of a faster-moving adventure. Previous games took a meandering approach to plot, but here the conundrum is far more dynamic. A masked gentleman called, handily, The Masked Gentleman terrorises Monte d'Or with increasingly baffling miracles. His regular appearances serve to inject fresh mystery whenever the plot begins to sag, and leads to a denser adventure.

If this weren't enough, Level-5 also whisks us back to Layton's teenage years in a series of flashback chapters. For the passionate Laytonite, these are the ultimate fan service. We're introduced to Layton's parents, get to poke around his bedroom, explore his hometown of Standbury and generally enjoy a portrait of the professor as a young man.

Click to view larger image

You're History

It's here, in Layton's past, that Level-5 breaks with tradition. One chapter late in the game frees Layton of the rigid world map and puts you in direct circle pad control. Puzzles are woven naturally into the environment, enabling you to experience action first-hand, rather than in animated cutscenes.

We even get a burst of 3DS-specific controls, using the gyroscope to slosh platforms along subterranean rivers. It's like an entirely new game, buried in a familiar one.

That this chapter stands out is both testament to its high quality and an indictment of the very traditional puzzles elsewhere. Level-5 struggles to make the most of 3DS - only a handful of puzzles, maybe 10 per cent, make meaningful use of the 3D screen. Players are asked to rotate 3D shapes, explore corncob mazes, hammer totem poles and ogle 3D board games, but all of these would have functioned as 2D images.

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  1. Kirby8 Thursday 25th Oct 2012 at 15:47

    Mine has already come. Unfortunately can't play it until tomorrow. Ordered it to home as didn't expect it to come earlier, and currently at Uni. But will be playing it then!

  2. thecoolmana777 Thursday 25th Oct 2012 at 16:52

    Just can't wait to get this game but unfortunately I'll have to , I just can't afford to get this and the wii u :(

  3. Fidu Thursday 25th Oct 2012 at 20:05

    You call it a huge improvement over Spectre's Call, yet you gave it a 5% lower score?

  4. Cheesemonster Thursday 25th Oct 2012 at 23:55

    Hooray Layton's here to save the day!
    It's a shame Level-5 haven't incorporated the 3D stuff into the game more but that can easily be forgiven.
    When will the free 365 puzzles be released for download?

  5. tomonm Friday 26th Oct 2012 at 05:51

    You call it a huge improvement over Spectre's Call, yet you gave it a 5% lower score?

    I knew someone would point this out! I would say in response that Matthew gave it a lower score if that makes sense. As you can probably tell from this review, he didn't like Spectre's Call as much as the person who reviewed it for us. Nor did I for that matter.

    That's not to say that the original review is wrong - just that in that reviewer's opinion, it was another classic Layton game. He had a point - it had the same classic gameplay, more great puzzles etc. I suppose it depends on how much you engaged with the story and that's always going to be a matter of personal opinion. For me personally, the ending and the big reveal in Spectre's Call ruined it. I know Layton games are always far-fetched but, for me, this was a step too far and I couldn't go with it like I had with the others.

    To prove the point that it's all about personal opinion, Matthew prefers Pandora's Box to Curious Village while I'm more of a fan of the first game.

    Also, Matthew has only recently joined the team, Chandra's back and Joe has joined. It's a completely different team to the one that was in place when Spectre's Call was released and naturally different people are going to have different opinions on things. Matthew can only give this the score he thinks it deserves. This is a new game on a different console and it is judged on its merits. If he was to give it 95% because it's better than Spectre's Call, that would be even more ridiculous than a Layton adventure!

    Hope that all makes sense.

  6. ddualynne Friday 26th Oct 2012 at 10:01

    Please can someone tell me if this can be played on the DS or have I got to go out and buy a 3DS ? Thanks

  7. JamboJr Friday 26th Oct 2012 at 11:44

    Please can someone tell me if this can be played on the DS or have I got to go out and buy a 3DS ? Thanks

    It's a 3DS game so to play it you need a 3DS.

  8. Shinnos Friday 26th Oct 2012 at 13:55

    Sometimes I think it'd be better if you just did away with review scores altogether so that people would actually bother to read the review, rather than argue about percentages...

    Anyway, good review. I did discover by accident that you can press on the Up arrow to display the instructions for a puzzle up onto the top screen, ghosted over the top image, which was a big help when trying to make notes on the bottom screen to work out the answer for some of the logic puzzles.

  9. Fidu Friday 26th Oct 2012 at 15:48


    Hope that all makes sense.
    .


    It does. I do know it's impossible for anyone to give a completely objective review on anything. It all comes down to one's personal opinion at some point. It just looks a bit weird is all. :)

  10. monsteroushunter Saturday 27th Oct 2012 at 05:38

    I got the game Wednesday and have completed the main story. Whilst I think it is the best yet (even better than lost future) I think the score is right and is a good step away from the grossly inflated scores of the past.

  11. craigyb Saturday 27th Oct 2012 at 09:07

    got the game yesterday but can't download the daily puzzles. It can't be the 3DS xl because I only got it a few weeks ago but it tells me to do stuff, I do it and it still don't work. It gets half way and says error. Help!!!

  12. Rabb3D Saturday 27th Oct 2012 at 20:27

    Got it today and absolutley LOVE IT... I know this is being pedantic, but i really like the fact that in the UK, puzzle 2 is called 'Where's Mum?' instead of 'Where's MOM?' and they've included accents... I have a hell load of fun just saying out what the characters are saying (on the bits where they aren't speaking)

  13. noodle link Sunday 28th Oct 2012 at 14:21

    You call it a huge improvement over Spectre's Call, yet you gave it a 5% lower score?

    I knew someone would point this out! I would say in response that Matthew gave it a lower score if that makes sense. As you can probably tell from this review, he didn't like Spectre's Call as much as the person who reviewed it for us. Nor did I for that matter.

    That's not to say that the original review is wrong - just that in that reviewer's opinion, it was another classic Layton game. He had a point - it had the same classic gameplay, more great puzzles etc. I suppose it depends on how much you engaged with the story and that's always going to be a matter of personal opinion. For me personally, the ending and the big reveal in Spectre's Call ruined it. I know Layton games are always far-fetched but, for me, this was a step too far and I couldn't go with it like I had with the others.

    To prove the point that it's all about personal opinion, Matthew prefers Pandora's Box to Curious Village while I'm more of a fan of the first game.

    Also, Matthew has only recently joined the team, Chandra's back and Joe has joined. It's a completely different team to the one that was in place when Spectre's Call was released and naturally different people are going to have different opinions on things. Matthew can only give this the score he thinks it deserves. This is a new game on a different console and it is judged on its merits. If he was to give it 95% because it's better than Spectre's Call, that would be even more ridiculous than a Layton adventure!

    Hope that all makes sense.

    Brilliantly put, Teast. I can't stand it when people take review scores so rigidly.

    Personally, I would've given Spectre's Call somewhere between 70% and 79%. The story was just too far-fetched, even by Layton's standards, as you stated. Lost Future was a slice of utter genius, and remains my favourite (keeping in mind that I won't have my hands on the Prof's 3DS debut until Christmas) because of the writing and story alone. Something so odd as being thrown into London's future was explained in a way I couldn't have imagined, a way that actually made perfect sense if you think about it. Spectre's Call attempted to leech off its predecessor's successes, such as a tear-inducing ending (which the fourth game ultimately failed miserably in replicating) and multiple locations to traverse, but it lacked something. It was probably to do with the awful story, which was admittedly resolved rather stupidly and only seemed to serve the purpose of the introduction of the prequel trilogy's antagonist.

    Ranting aside, I'm glad to see that Layton has freshened up in his 3DS debut, and I can't wait for Christmas when I get it, as per my family's tradition!

  14. Dragonite96 Monday 29th Oct 2012 at 14:15

    I bought the game on launch, and completed it in two days, as I did with Spectres Call. The difference was immense between the two games, the plot and characters were a lot more interesting in Miracle Mask, to the extent that I skipped half the puzzles and had to go back and complete some of them in order to acess the endgame. Not that Spectres Call was bad, it was just too strange, and I had no sympathy for the characters at all. I think Lost Future is still the best, but only by a very small margin.
    I personally would have given Miracle Mask a score in the low 90's, as the only bad thing about it was that it was impossible to play it for extended periods of time as the 3D started to hurt due to all the looking around, however, the 3D landscapes were very well done and cleverly implemented. (I had the 3D about halfway up the entire time, as maximum hurts my eyes regardless, so it could just be me. :( )
    Cannot wait for the sixth game now, heres hoping it even manages to surpass the third!

  15. SM3DL2 Thursday 8th Nov 2012 at 23:43

    I think they should have realeased it on the DS as well, because a lot of people (not including me), don't have a 3DS.

    My Dad's a huge PL fan (I'm rubbish at them) I lend him my DS so he can play PL while I play on my 3DS. Now he's going to have to borrow my 3DS :(

    I might get this later after I've tried Phoenix Wright. It's Ł20 cheaper than Professor Layton. Simple. :roll:

  16. SM3DL2 Thursday 8th Nov 2012 at 23:45

    Got it today and absolutley LOVE IT... I know this is being pedantic, but i really like the fact that in the UK, puzzle 2 is called 'Where's Mum?' instead of 'Where's MOM?' and they've included accents... I have a hell load of fun just saying out what the characters are saying (on the bits where they aren't speaking)


    I agree.

  17. deKay Friday 9th Nov 2012 at 10:15

    OK, I'm loving this. But...

    In the old games, the "puzzle text" was always available on the screen. For many of the puzzles (in particular, logic ones) where you have to constantly refer to the text, this was invaluable.

    In Miracle Mask, however, that text is hidden. You have to keep hiding and unhiding it. To make this worse, if you're using the memo feature as well, you have to keep hiding and unhiding that *and* the text.

    It just makes what should be simple jarring and offputting. Why not use a small part of the top screen for the text?

    It also suffers a bit from having to click on things that are on the top screen using the bottom screen. Again, it's not a massive screen but lacks simplicity and elegance.

  18. MissAliss Sunday 11th Nov 2012 at 14:37

    I hope its better than the specters call it was too easy and i found the plot predictable i got it on christmas day and finished it on new years day.you need to make up for it lvl 5

  19. deKay Monday 12th Nov 2012 at 08:40

    You predicted that the Loch Ness Monster would help you defeat a giant mechanical spider?

    Tell me - what are your 6 favourite numbers?

  20. jackhigham Thursday 20th Dec 2012 at 21:44

    My thort on the new professor layton and the miracle mask game is that nintendo has f***** off all its loyal gamers and by brining it out on the 3DS because for people who follow the professor layton game and who still use the DSI or DS lite now if they want to play the game have to buy the 3DS witch some people dont have the money to do so thanks nintendo thanks for f****** off all your loyal gamers

  21. deKay Friday 21st Dec 2012 at 08:33

    I am so fed up that Super Mario Galaxy was on the Wii. There I was with my Gamecube, completely unable to play it!

    And, while we're at it, not being able to play Sonic 4 on my Megadrive and Skyward Sword on my NES is completely ridiculous. How dare companies make games for new consoles.

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