A true gentlemen leaves no Professor Layton title unplayed.
Professor Layton would not relish the real world. He would think it to be as unsavory as drinking a flat, over-diluted pot of tea in a Styrofoam cup. No agency of the law would permit him to interfere with their investigations. No doors in an underground military base would be locked with sliding block puzzles. No citizen of sound mind would conjure up a brainteaser, wait for the Professor for an unspecified amount of time – if not for an eternity – and then be as uncouth as to interrupt his life with said brainteaser for a bunch of picarats. Professor Layton would just be a well-mannered university researcher whose voracious obsession for mathematical conundrums would eventually put him in an asylum for the "gifted".
[image1]So it is his luck that Professor Layton and the Unwound Future remains in the familiar universe of pleasant, pastel, palatable England. Even luckier, his newest adventure has him jaunting about the cobblestoned roads of London, or at least what seems to be London. The Professor and his boy apprentice Luke have received a letter by a person who identifies himself as Luke himself writing 10 years in the future, a letter that coincidentally has arrived around the same time as the duo's attendance at a time machine experiment that goes terribly wrong.
Dr. Stahngun, the lead scientist of the experiment, convinced the prime minister, Bill Hawks, to volunteer himself by entering the time machine's chamber, but once the machine exploded, neither Bill nor Dr. Stahngun were anywhere to be found. Following the instructions in the letter, Layton and Luke then travel to an antiques clock store that has somehow become the endpoint of a wormhole that can transport people exactly 10 years into the future. Suffice it to say, the duo must unravel the mysteries around future London before it's too late.
But let's not suspend disbelief. The story is, indeed, the reward – the jolly-good wrapping paper – around what is essentially a puzzle book. None of the puzzles involve the actual mysteries within the story. Put more directly, the player is not the one solving the case, but is instead solving irrelevant problems with outside-the-box solutions only to push the linear story forward.
[image2]This doesn't mean that the story is horribly written, trite, or undramatic – quite the opposite, in fact. It is to say that with more than 165 puzzles, the Professor Layton series has the capacity to let players do the detective work, rather than having the video game equivalent of Sherlock Holmes make all of the elementary deductions for them. Instead of watching Layton call out the suspect in an intense cut-scene, the player should be the one doing so, using evidence, logical reasoning, and keen observations – skills that are not too far away from what Professor Layton titles already call for.
Otherwise, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is exactly what a Professor Layton title looks like. The player moves from one area to the next, backtracking many times over, tapping on the screen to find hint coins and puzzles, and earning picarats for solving puzzles correctly. The memo pad now includes different pencil colors and an eraser tool, and a super hint can be unlocked if the player still remains stumped after three normal hints. The new mini-games now include Toy Car, where arrow tiles are placed on a grid to guide a car; Parrot, where ropes are tied to create bouncy platforms for the parrot to deliver its package; and Picturebook, where stickers must be matched to words in a story using reading comprehension.
The gorgeous presentation, delightful music, and the time-themed puzzle catalog pulls the game together in a tremendous package that lasts at least fifteen hours for completionists. Like in previous Professor Layton titles, completing the mini-games unlocks additional high-difficulty puzzles in the bonus section, and players can still download weekly puzzles via Wi-Fi connection.
The disconnect between the mystery story and the puzzle gameplay is not a damning curse for the Professor Layton series, this game included. But until this hole is patched – that is what a true gentlemen would do – the series will always remain on the cusp of greatness. However, if you're one of many fans who overlook this detail and approach the series as charming brain exercise, then Professor Layton and the Unwound Future does not disappoint. In fact, it deserves a nice tea cozy.