Some reviews of Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask complained about the game failing to utilise the 3D of the handheld in some of the puzzles. If you must know, the game does support 3D so if you choose you can have grids float slightly above the screen when working out puzzles and patterns, and if that sounds like a stupid thing no-one would do then you would be correct. Did you play the 3D puzzle rooms in Mario 3D Land? Remember how they were the worst thing ever? GOOD. Let’s move on now we’ve made it clear that there will be no criticism of the Miracle Mask for not ruining itself by implementing gimmicks from Nintendo’s brainfarts
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is the fifth game in the Professor Layton series and stars Professor Layton and potentially some kind of mask but no spoilers. As ever the game consists mainly of a silly anime plot and lots of puzzle solving utterly detached from all of it. If that sounds like an underwhelming description then that be because it’s being made by someone who has played all five Layton games and is finding the formula to get a little stale. It’s becoming more easy to realise how poorly paced these games are, especially in the opening chapters, the story and dialogue flow as smoothly as a Flintstones car with triangle wheels and you’re left gasping for the occasional puzzle to take the edge off.
Maybe it’s just because Miracle Mask probably has the weakest storyline of any of the titles in the series so far. The running theme for Layton games is there’s some big mystery, often seemingly supernatural in nature, it turns out to be some kind of elaborate sham, Layton points at people and figures it all out and there’s a showdown with the main villain at the end. Miracle Mask follows this formula exactly but it all falls apart, this is partly because the explanations for how the supernatural events are all really lame and not especially creative (and even then border on the stupid and unbelievable) but the biggest failure is the entire game is based around a murder mystery that can be figured out within the first hour or two. It’s so obvious who it is, but the game keeps playing it up like it could be anyone to the point of frustration, it’s like being an adult watching Dora the Explorer and she asks you to point out something on the screen but no matter how much you scream she just blankly stares at you with those cold dead eyes.
The fact the storyline is so weak is a major issue for Miracle Mask because it actually takes away from Layton’s strong points. The gameplay and puzzles are designed perfectly for handheld and to utilise the (3)DS’ unique features, but dialogue about things you don’t care about drags on so long you could go an entire bus ride without even getting to do one. There’s even additional unlockable “episodes” for extra dialogue bits with random characters than we can only assume were cut out in editing as the game already clocks about 20 hours depending on how dumb you are.
Professor Layton games seem to be following the Assassin’s Creed school of sequels where the core gameplay remains unchanged but they add extra fluff to distract you from this fact. This time the extra content includes a robot maze game which can be frustrating but in that good “I want to beat this now” sort of way, a rabbit molesting simulator with sweet fur textures so you get real feel on the genitals and most exciting of all downloadable puzzles. Miracle Mask boasts a new downloadable puzzle every day for a year following its release, at time of writing there are about 90 of them released and there’s enough to tell you they’re the best part of the game. The puzzles are intuitive, logical and satisfying to solve, and most importantly quick and can be run through in short bursts. They’re by far the best new addition to the series.
Don’t let the moany nature of this review put you off the fact that this is still a Professor Layton game and it still contains the same sound puzzle design and charm of the previous instalments. The new 3D graphics replacing the 2D anime sprites are a bit odd especially with the cutscenes still animated in the old style but it’s appealing enough and it doesn’t change the feel of the game. You’ll find puzzles you love, puzzles you’ll hate and have some real “I’m smart YES!” moments along the way. Aside from issues with the story and one atrocious chapter which takes place in a cave and involves mostly block pushing puzzles Miracle Mask is still enjoyable and is recommended to fans of the series.
If you’ve never played a Layton game however…go get Professor Layton and the Curious Village, it’s a lot better…
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.