Can a gentleman be forgiven for being 18 months late?
Layton & the Miracle Mask Got Right
- + Fantastic Presentation
- + Satisfying puzzles
- + New 3D puzzles (even with 3D off)
- + A more logical approach
Layton & the Miracle Mask Got Wrong
- - Map movement has gone backwards
- - Five games makes for some repetitive puzzles
- - The delay was way too long for 2012
The good Professor might preach of being a gentleman, but he’s a tardy one, finally arriving in Australia and English-speaking regions nearly two years after Miracle Mask debuted with the 3DS in Japan. However, we’ll forgive the great man, as the spruced up 3DS instalment was well worth the wait.
Miracle Mask follows on from last year’s Spectre's Call with Layton, his assistant Emmy and gentleman-in-training Luke wandering around the mysterious town of Monte d'Or. Naturally, mysteries spawn puzzles that must be solved with logic and manners. While it’s the middle game in a new trilogy, it’s also the first on 3DS and plays like it. Besides a few subtle references, there’s no need to have played the previous games.
In a first for the series, events take place in both present day (remembering this is the prequel trilogy) and 18 years earlier with a young energetic Layton solving a mystery. The intertwined stories come together as expected, and offer an interesting insight into a character that has otherwise remained largely the same since we were first introduced to him.
The puzzle design is frankly brilliant, and even the simpler teasers will leave you satisfied when the Professor approves of your work.
The story progresses through stunning 2D animation, which looks surprisingly good when the 3D effects are in full flight and is just as pretty with them turned off. The world is navigated on both screens with controls on the bottom by a combination of dragging to explore and tapping to interact. Dragging the stylus across the bottom screen will allow you to look around on the top, and even zoom in on areas of interest before finding puzzles to solve.
The main puzzles are what you’d expect from the series’ prestigious history and will rack your brain from the outset, even if some might appear a little too familiar to long-time Layton fans. A majority of the new puzzles employ the 3DS’s superior technical capabilities with 3D objects, while returning favourites benefit from a facelift.
There’s plenty of variety, with over 150 puzzles to solve, and while none of them are a shocking departure from what we’ve done before, the improved visuals and some tweaks to the way instructions are worded make these the most refined of the Layton series thus far. You’ll find the standard memory games, riddles and straight logic combined with those that depend on the third dimension such as guiding a ladybird through a maze and rotating stereoscopic 3D objects.
The puzzle design is frankly brilliant, and even the simpler teasers will leave you satisfied when the Professor approves of your work. Should you hit a stumbling block, the hints system has remained consistent to what we’ve seen in the past. The first few hints are fairly useless, unless you’re totally confounded, but will eventually guide you to the end if you’re willing to waste precious hint coins.
As a change of pace from the mental workout, Miracle Mask is full of mini-games that occasionally progress the story, but are really there to give you a break. These range from some fairly stagnate horse riding, to a surprisingly fun shelf-stacking exercise. While they serve their purpose, most of the mini-games are forgettable, and they aren’t why you’re playing a professor Layton game.
If the 150 puzzles in the 10 hour main game (assuming you don’t get too bogged down) aren’t enough to keep you occupied, Nintendo will be releasing one new puzzle per day for an entire year fowling the game’s release. That means new content will be pushed out daily through October 2013.
The new control scheme is largely effective, and evolves the game into a 3D setting, but it’s a stretch to label it an improvement. The map, in particular, suffers as there’s no way to travel at speed. You can only move on a screen-by-screen basis through the world, which calls for far too much backtracking later on. While the exploration controls aren’t an improvement, they aren’t much of a downgrade either (just different), and the puzzle-solving controls are pitch-perfect.
The Final Verdict
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is well overdue in an era that doesn’t accept an 18 month delay for localisation. However, it’s slotted in nicely to bolster the 3DS’s offerings towards the business end of 2012 and retains the high quality brainteasers that the series is renowned for. If you’ve played a Layton game before, you know what you’re getting into with Miracle Mask, with added 3D effects, of the good kind.
By Ben Salter