Any fan of puzzle games is probably already familiar with the Professor Layton series of games for Nintendo’s handheld units. They are quirky and mind-bending. The Azran Legacy is the latest instalment in the franchise and the final game of the current trilogy.
Beautifully rendered on the 3DS, this latest Professor Layton game takes the franchise to an all new level. Although the design is still in line with the Layton aesthetic, the images are crisper and some of the cut scenes are truly impressive. Each environment is detailed and rich with unique elements. Yet Layton games are not about graphics or visuals, they are about puzzles and ludicrous stories; both of which are in abundance in the Azran Legacy.
Sticking with changes originally made in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, players no longer interact directly with the environment using the touch screen. In previous games, this led to furious tapping of any and all objects on the screen in the hopes of discovering a hint coin. Now, we can behave like the gentlemen Layton would expect; using the touch screen, you can move a magnifying glass around, hovering over objects of interest. This magnifying glass behaves differently over interactive points, allowing the player to find hint coins, collectible items and hidden puzzles.
The puzzles range from easy to insanely hard. However, with the use of hint coins, even players lacking in basic logical reasoning skills can be pointed in the right direction. I will confess that I had to use the hint coins quite liberally on a few puzzles that I simply could not solve. Yet, that is what they’re there for – no point collecting them if I won’t use them.
The story begins with an invitation, as always, for Professor Layton to travel to a small, frozen town to meet a Professor Sycamore who claims to have found a living mummy. Layton and his trusty apprentice, Luke, as well as his assistant, Emmy, soon discover that the living mummy is, in fact, a girl named Aurora from the Azran civilization. Her comments lead them on an investigation that takes them around the world as they fight against the Targent organization – a group of evil-doing thugs who seek to use the Azran power for themselves.
But it’s not just about facing off against Targent and unlocking the mysteries of the Azran civilization. This is a Layton game, after all. This game is about puzzles, and mini games. There are three main mini games in this iteration: Dress Up, Nut Roller and Blooms and Shrooms. Dress up expands throughout the game as you meet more characters requiring outfits, as well as add more items to your catalogue. Using logic and a touch of aesthetic, you need to design an outfit for each customer that suits their unique needs. Nut Roller involves rolling a walnut through different courses, avoiding crumbling bridges and treacherous holes, so that is stops inside the goal tent. Finally, Blooms and Shrooms is all about planting the perfect garden. Using a variety of flowers, you need to start a chain reaction that will bring neglected gardens back to life.
In the professor’s chest, players will also find an option to view episodes. These are small cut scenes involving NPCs you have met during your investigation. They help to round out what has happened when you aren’t around, but they do not provide any extra puzzles, and I imagine that most players will skip over this section. Additionally, players can read the “World Times” in the professor’s chest – these news articles discuss goings ons around the world and can unlock new puzzles.
For those familiar with the Layton franchise, there are a lot of characters that return in this iteration, including the overly energetic Inspector Grosky. While Granny Riddleton, the keeper of lost riddles, does make an appearance, she actually gifts you her cat, Keats, to keep the riddles. This is a wonderful feature of all Layton games and makes a huge difference for those who somehow miss out on hidden riddles. Once you have completed a section/chapter, any riddles you missed are sent to Keats so that you can solve them at your leisure.
Unfortunately, for those who haven’t played the previous Layton games, this entry in the franchise may be a bit off-putting. I had played games from the first Layton trilogy, but not this one. As a result, I felt like there were a range of inside jokes that I simply didn’t get. Sure, I picked up on characters that I recognized from previous games, but there were just too many elements that seemed to have been explained or explored in previous instalments in the trilogy. As such, while the game was still charming and interesting, it did not feel inclusive for newcomers.
I thoroughly enjoy the brain-teasing nature of the puzzles. They are varied and unique; even though some of the logic may be familiar, each puzzle feels new and fresh. However, considering the fact that the game has moved from the original DS to the 3DS, I wish that there were greater use of the 3D. I played most of the game with the 3D turned off, simply because it did not add anything significant to the gameplay. It would be nice if some of the puzzles made use of the 3D.
That said, this game does feel more action-packed as certain sections require speedy puzzles solving, like when I had to shoot down enemy missiles with a quick “spot the difference” game. I like the innovations present in the Azran Legacy, and the range of puzzles is truly impressive. It’s a fitting final game for our favourite puzzle-solving professor.