Akihiro Hino Talks Puzzle Boot Camp And Obese Rodents

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is right around the corner and we were lucky enough to ask some questions of developer Level-5's President & CEO, Akihiro Hino.

At 2009's Game Developers Conference, Hino talked about his marketing strategy for the Layton series and let slip the fact that Diabolical Box was heading to the US. He said at the time that he'd eventually like to bring all of the Layton games over — but nothing official had been decided.

Sadly, Hino tells us that's still the case (doubly so for the movie, Eternal Diva), but he remains hopeful that the success of the Professor Layton series in the US will carry it across the globe someday. It definitely seems like there's hope, though, because Hino confirmed that sections of Diabolical Box which require codes from the third game to unlock special rewards will stay exactly the same — leaving the door open for Professor Layton and the Last Time Travel.

Read on to find out how Hino and his team come up with the puzzle and what the deal is with Diabolical Box's fat hamster.

Kotaku: How does the team at LEVEL-5 come up with the puzzles? Do they invent puzzles from scratch or use known puzzles that they learned in school or found in books as inspiration?

Akihiro Hino: The puzzles of the "Professor Layton" series are invented by specialized puzzle creators including Professor Akira Tago, who is also the author of "Mental Gymnastics," which was a best-selling book in Japan. First, we write a game scenario, and then ask these creators to craft puzzles along with scenes appearing in the game.

For every "Professor Layton" title, we at LEVEL-5 and our puzzle creators, including Professor Tago, have "Puzzle Camp." We stay together at Professor Tago's vacation house for two or three days to discuss puzzles. We seriously discuss, from dawn to twilight (laughs), how we should arrange or polish a variety of puzzle ideas that they have invented for actual gameplay. For every "Professor Layton" title, the puzzles are invented at this camp.

Kotaku: At any point in the series, will Luke take over for the Professor and become the star?

Hino: Well, at this moment no one can really say. But Luke is the lead in a puzzle mini-game called "Luke Shonen no Nazo Book" ("The Puzzle Book of Young Luke") which is available at "Professor Layton Mobile," a website we run in Japan only.

As for the Japanese market, a new adventure will begin with "Majin no Fue (The Evil Flute)" which will be released this fall. "Professor Layton and the Evil Flute" is a story that takes place three years before "Professor Layton and the Curious Village," and shows the first meeting of Professor Layton and Luke. Before depicting Luke's future career, we are going to express how Layton and Luke came to be associates and what kind of puzzles they first solved.

Kotaku: Does LEVEL-5 plan to do anything with the Nintendo DSi system's functionality, like sell puzzle packs via the DSiWare service?

Hino: We are having internal discussions at LEVEL-5 on how we can use the Nintendo DSi for interesting projects. We don't have any concrete plans yet, but I am hoping to deliver something new and innovative.

Kotaku: What is the story behind that fat hamster?

Hino: You can play a minigame in Layton's Bag to make him go on a diet. Players allocate items they have in the correct order to make him exercise a lot to make him slimmer. Each item will impose a different amount of exercise on him, so you must calculate carefully. Please check it out!