Travel the globe solving puzzles.
Even as a big fan of the Professor Layton games, I was a little apprehensive approaching the newest entry in the series. The previous entry, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, with its long story and huge number of puzzles, left me feeling like I had my fill for a while. Because of that, I was especially surprised at how quickly Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy roped me in, and immediately dispersed any feeling of fatigue I had. While following the standard formula that has been the series trademark, Azran Legacy makes some nice tweaks and visual tune-ups, and the result is one of my favorite games in the series.
The setup here is almost identical to previous games. Summoned by a letter, Layton, Luke and Emmy set off to unravel another mystery, this time surrounding a living mummy. In the Layton universe puzzles are everywhere; constantly on the minds of citizens, and even hiding in the scenery. In reality, the plot in these games is just a mechanic to move players from puzzle to puzzle, but the story in Azran Legacy still manages to sprinkle in character development and intrigue. It also moves at a faster pace than its predecessor, and ditches the long cut scenes that made Miracle Mask drag at points.
For the sixth main entry in the series, the game really does a great job with puzzle variety. I felt like I was encountering new types all the time, and while there are still multiple puzzles of the same type to be found, that is less so than in previous games. Picarats are used to gauge the difficulty of a puzzle, and earned for correct answers. One change I noticed is this game has more “work at it until you get it right” puzzles than previous games, which means fewer chances to lose Picarats because of wrong answers. Many puzzles also feature an undo button, which kept me from having to start over if I made a wrong move.
Visually the game is a step up from previous entries. The character models seem slightly cleaned up with some smoother animations, but the environments are where the real change is. Azran Legacy has nine main areas to explore, ranging from rainforest to snowy mountain village. The visual variety really helps to keep the game fresh, and there are random interactive elements sprinkled around the game. While they’re usually nothing more complex than a flock of birds fluttering away when tapped on, they add a nice element of life to the world. The music is standard fare for the series, but mixes things up enough that it doesn’t become monotonous.
Like all Layton games, Azran Legacy features content outside of the main game. There are mini-games that challenged me to devise an outfit meeting the needs of a customer and help a squirrel navigate a nut through an obstacle course, the latter of which I really enjoyed. Another mini-game required me to plant flowers strategically so that an entire garden would bloom. All of the mini-games are progressively unlocked as puzzles are solved in the main game, and served as a fun distraction when I wanted to try something different. There is also the World Times, a collection of newspaper clippings pointing to additional puzzles and information, which was fun to track down.
The game also features a treasure hunt mode, using StreetPass. Once activated, players can hide three items in the world and challenge other players to find them. Likewise, challenges can be downloaded and completed to earn points. In order for me to create a challenge, I had to find items to hide throughout the game. This became annoying, as I tried it just to see how it worked, but I couldn’t turn it off after that. Once I activated it, I was finding treasure hunt items everywhere in the game, when I was looking for additional puzzles. It’s nothing worse than an annoyance, but I would suggest that those who aren’t interested in this mode never even open it.
Like Miracle Mask before it, Azran Legacy features daily downloadable puzzles, an entire year’s worth. While some of the concepts are familiar most of them are new, and there is a total of 20 different varieties. Including the 150 puzzles in the main game and 15 additional Layton Challenges, the total climbs over 500. Taking into account the mini-games it’s a ton of content, and there’s plenty here to keep players busy for a very long time.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy doesn’t take the series in any new directions, but that’s not a bad thing. With more environmental variety and a faster moving story, the game addresses the main complaints I had with Miracle Mask. The puzzle variety is excellent, and I enjoyed the mini-games more than the last few games. With a full year of puzzles on top of what’s already in the game, puzzle enthusiasts will find a lot of enjoyment here.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.