Professor Layton and esteemed young apprentice Luke Triton are back on the Nintendo 3DS for yet another adventure across the globe, gracing us with even more intelligent puzzles and witty dialogue. Level-5 is showing no reluctance on making more sequels, with even an Ace Attorney spin-off coming at the end of March, as the seemingly annual franchise now has the third and final chapter in the second trilogy.
The story starts off roughly after Miracle Mask’s conclusion in which Professor Layton, Luke and Emmy proceed to the small town of Froenberg. Professor Sycamore sent the group a letter detailing a living mummy which actually turns out to be a million year old Azran girl named Aurora. Being that the professor and his entourage have been investigating the ancient civilization of the Azran people for quite some time, this seemed to be the break they needed. Unfortunately, it’s never that easy as things quickly escalate into a giant struggle for power and information with the Targent organization. If not the puzzles, it’s the well written and expansive script that will draw players into the Azran Legacy as there’s a lot here to dig into.
The exceedingly lengthy journey takes Layton and friends on quite a ride, from the wonderfully rendered city of London to the industrial-inspired headquarters of the Targent. Unfortunately, while the story itself is compelling for those who are familiar with the past two titles, the pacing in this game is a tad on the slow side. It will take an exceeding amount of time between set pieces before specific story beats are resolved, and the way puzzles are implemented sometime get in the way of the plot progressing. Additionally, being that this trilogy actually takes place prior to the events of the first game, Azran Legacy wraps things up relatively nicely and seemingly moves directly into 2007’s Curious Village title.
Gameplay is pretty much what we’ve come to expect. This is an adventure that revolves around solving various mini-games and puzzles, and there are a lot of them. The main campaign alone stores more than 150 different puzzles to get through, each with a strong diversity and very few that repeat. Additionally, the difficulty curve and length of each puzzle vary; some are multiple minutes long while others can be completed in a matter of seconds. The setup to some of these challenges can be a bit of a stretch at times as it really diverges from the tasks at hand. One moment Layton is in a situation that’s cause for concern, the next he has time to solve an unnecessary, mind you thoughtful, puzzle on the side.
While most of them are challenging and require a great mind to finish, there are a couple that standout in being a little questionable. For example, early in the game, there’s a puzzle that asks you a fairly simplistic mathematical equation but the answer completely disregards it for its own hidden logic. There are also a couple of instances where I had trouble understanding what was being asked of me, but thankfully most of the time it was fairly straightforward.
If you want to take a break from all the story-driven tasks, there are three different mini-games that will be unlocked throughout the campaign. These are an absolute joy and really grab your attention as they focus more on stage-driven assignments. The first activity, and unfortunately probably weakest of the bunch, is the dress-up mini-game, having Layton and friends match up clothing for citizens they’ve met. As you progress, you will obtain different fashionable wear, and they can be applied to the characters to varied success. The second is gardening, and while that sounds more like a chore, it is actually fun to cause chain reactions while avoiding poisonous environmental factors. Finally, there’s the Nutty Roller. This is a set of courses that has the player controlling an adorable squirrel and having him find a way to push his walnut to the goal successfully.
It’s also something to mention that the visuals in this game are absolutely beautiful. It’s no surprise considering Miracle Mask showcased a wide cast of characters and environments to explore, yet somehow Level-5 was able to one up themselves in bringing even more detailed and varied visuals to The Azran Legacy. While the comically designed set of characters are clearly modeled in 3D, it’s the artistic backgrounds that will make you feel like you’re interacting with a painting. The voice acting is also top notch, but with so much dialogue spread throughout the story, with even bits hidden in the environments, there isn’t too much of it.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy doesn’t stray too far from the formula, but that’s a good thing for the most part. The massive catalog of puzzles is incredibly enticing and the visuals give it a unique beauty. While the pacing can be a tad slow at times, it’s a compelling tale that resolves nicely and seemingly rotates right back into the Layton timeline. If you’re up for some thought-provoking puzzles implemented in a charming adventure, the Azran Legacy will leave its mark on you.
Version Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS