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Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review: Riddle Me This

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Take part in a thoroughly polite time-traveling conundrum with the newest adventure of Professor Hershel Layton and his puzzle-solving ward Luke in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, a charming, thought-provoking British adventure.

In the Unwound Future, Layton, Luke and a handful of hangers-on jump from decade to decade to solve the mystery of a malicious time machine scheme and the origins of a cry for help from the future. As with previous Professor Layton games, every conflict, every investigation is resolved via logic puzzle—dozens of visual, logical, and math-based mysteries are bandied about for Layton and Luke to work through. Every denizen of Layton's universe seems (delightfully) obsessed with these puzzles, whether friend or foe, and seems thrilled to present them to you.


Amidst the constant and occasionally unnatural flow of mind-bending puzzles is delivered an engaging tale of mystery, one told with humor, charm and consistently gorgeous presentation.


Smart Puzzles, Of Many Varieties: The distribution of puzzles comes hard and fast in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, a constant flow of thought-provoking puzzles delivered in numerous formats. For the most part, those puzzles are considerably different throughout, a steady flow of smart, creative mental challenges that keeps the brain engaged. There are dozens of core and optional puzzles for players to enjoy, more than 150, with plenty of side tasks to spice up the puzzle-based play.


This Charming Man: Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke are thoroughly likable fellows, teaching players of their game a thing or two about being gentlemen. It's hard not to like them—or almost any character in the Unwound Future's world. Nearly everyone—even the lowlifes and crooks—in this game is someone you'd like to know more about, Layton and Luke in particular. Portions of the game's story are told via fully animated video sequences, made better by solid voice acting and smart dialogue.

A Touching Story: Mysteries aside, the relationship between Layton and Luke—and their time-shifting counterparts and other bit players—is engaging, even over the course of a dozen hours. The game's touching ending is worth playing through to completion to experience.

Parrots & Picture Books: When logic puzzles start to become somewhat tiresome, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future introduces new ways to tickle the brain. New types of platforming and puzzle-solving mini-games are introduced about a third of the way through the experience, puzzles that truly challenge, helping to mix up the puzzle-solving action. Completing each and every side-puzzle here will add a half-dozen hours to the experience, a fine way to spend one's time.


Poorly Worded Puzzles & Memo Limitations: Some of the puzzles in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future are verbally pitched in a confusing way, in which the player may not know specifically what the game is asking of him or her. That sucks, when picarats are on the line. Worse, the game's memo system—which lets players take notes to suss out solutions—is not very useful for some puzzle types, woefully incapable of serving as a system to help solve some of the game's more in-depth logic puzzles. A forgiving hint system, powered by collectible and easy-to-find "Hint Coins" eases the pain, but a small portion of the game's mental challenges are just pitched poorly.


Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is a beautifully written, smartly presented adventure game stuffed with brilliantly designed, fun to solve puzzles. The game's time-traveling detective story takes a back seat to its fun logic stumpers, but remains a constantly present mystery, told in a easily digestible slices. Throw in an attractive aesthetic style, smart writing and copious comic relief and the dozen or so hours spent with Professor Layton and the Unwound Future makes for a worthwhile adventure. It may be lacking in replayability, but its ability to imbue the feeling of intelligence in its players is worth the journey.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future was developed by Level-5 and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS on September 12. Retails for $34.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played single-player campaign to completion.


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