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Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Image © Level-5
A gentleman never rests as long as there’s at least one unsolved puzzle in the world, which explains why Hershel Layton is at it again in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask for the Nintendo 3DS. The enigma-loving prof is back, and in honor of his 3DS debut Level-5 studio has added a new layer of depth to the series’ puzzles, animations, and story. The developers’ efforts are noticeable, and for the most part they pay off.

Regardless, your ability to enjoy Miracle Mask is directly proportional to how much you love Professor Layton games. If you’ve had enough of top hats and spunky apprentices, Miracle Mask won’t woo you back to the fold. If you are a Layton fan, however, prepare to be drawn into the series’ most intriguing backstory since Unwound Future for the Nintendo DS.

Oh, and the puzzles will make you pop a blood vessel, of course.

Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
ESRB Rating: E10+
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS

GOOD: Graphics and sound have been upgraded. Great puzzles and story, as usual.

BAD: The Layton formula is very familiar by now, so if you don’t like the previous games or you’re just tired of them, you won’t like this one.

THE BASICS: The City in the Desert

Layton, his assistant Emmy, and his self-proclaimed apprentice, Luke, are summoned to the remote but lively desert town of Monte d’Or by Layton’s old friend, Angela. The town is being terrorized by the “Masked Gentleman,” a dapper man who hides his face as he performs “dark miracles” that seemingly turn Monte d’Or’s citizens to stone, or make them blink out of existence. Angela pleads with Layton to get to the bottom of the mystery, which seems to be linked to an artifact called the “Mask of Chaos”—which, in turn, is linked to Layton’s past.

In fact, the gameplay and story in Miracle Mask shuffles back and forth between the present day and the past, specifically during Layton’s time as a college student. Both storylines link up to reveal the Masked Gentleman’s motives and the reasons behind Monte d’Or’s rapid expansion.

Wonderfully-animated cinema scenes are threaded throughout the puzzle-based gameplay, which is typical of a Layton game. There are more of these interludes than in previous games, likely due to the Nintendo 3DS’s increased processing power and storage capabilities.

GAMEPLAY: Solve This!

Like its predecessors, Miracle Mask is all about puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles. Brainteasers drive the game’s story; riddles help you progress. Some puzzles are interlocked with the story and must be solved before you can move on, but many others are optional, and delivered via Monte d’Or’s townsfolk. Still more puzzles are hidden in the background, waiting to be discovered.

The new 3D environments make moving around in Miracle Mask a little different from going from place-to-place in previous Layton games. You need to enable a an exploration mode in order to take a look around your environment with a magnifying glass icon, an extra step that some long-time Layton fans might find tedious. The payoff is worthwhile, though: Your magnifying glass icon turns a different color when it happens across something worth investigating, which makes finding puzzles, hidden objects, and hint coins (which are used to pay for puzzle hints) much easier. There’s no more random tapping on the bottom screen in hopes of finding something interesting.

Otherwise, the gameplay in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask should be familiar, though there’s one other major difference: One of the game’s chapters revolves around a more action-oriented puzzle-solving scheme. You push boulders and chart out the best way to maneuver around hostile enemies—standard stuff if you’re a fan of role-playing games. It’s a nice change of pace, and if you get truly stuck, you can buy your way to victory at the paltry cost of a hint coin.

Miracle Mask has lots of supplementary games and puzzles too, including new riddles that can be downloaded every day. Don’t forget to enable your 3DS’s Wi-Fi!


As usual, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask features tip-top voice acting. The actors bring the game’s characters to life and deliver their lines with plenty of emotion without going clear over the moon. The game’s music is suitably mysterious and atmospheric without being gloomy.

Some of the cut scenes in Miracle Mask are traditionally animated, while others are modeled with 3D polygons. The polygons take a little getting used to, but generally look good. The new 3D backgrounds are also full of life; bystanders chatter and go from place-to-place instead of standing static, as in previous games.

Miracle Mask even lets Luke keep a pet rabbit that can be trained to perform in little stage plays. The rabbit is, frankly, the most cuddly-looking collection of polygons you’ll find in a 3DS game.

CONCLUSION: Keep Layton Company

Professor Layton’s games embody the Prof himself. They’re smart, they’re sharp, they’re fun to keep company with, and they even exude controlled amounts of emotion. Like previous Layton games, though, Miracle Mask has a handful of puzzles that are worded badly, or have seemingly unfair solutions—but the general puzzle selection is still good, and solving them is as fun as ever.

Miracle Mask has some aesthetic and small gameplay tweaks that should make established fans of the series happy. The storytelling in this one is a winner, so if you’re a Layton-head, jump in. If you’ve had enough of puzzles for now, don’t bother visiting Monte d’Or.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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