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'Professor Layton' offers 'steampunk' puzzle fun

Professor Layton travels time to help out a mixed-up London of the future.
Professor Layton travels time to help out a mixed-up London of the future.
  • "Professor Layton and the Unwound Future" offers fun puzzles in time-traveling London
  • Players earn credits for solving puzzles and can collect hints along the way
  • 'Professor Layton' is rated E-10 and released Monday for the Nintendo DS

(CNN) -- "Professor Layton and the Unwound Future" (LEVEL-5) is a mind-bending puzzle game with a story that will have you time-tripping all over London with your Nintendo DS.

The third story in the Professor Layton series, "The Unwound Future" is set in steampunk London as the good professor and his apprentice, Luke, are sent a letter allegedly from 10 years in the future.

It seems the future London is in trouble and needs the puzzle-solving Professor to set things right.

The puzzles are the basis of the gameplay, with some interactions with non-player characters along the way. Mysteries are revealed as puzzles are solved, and with more than 165 puzzles in the game, this adventure will last quite some time.

There are logic puzzles to test how well you can pay attention to detail and can deduce a correct answer. Some puzzles are mathematical in nature, but no advanced calculus is necessary.

There are riddles to be solved and sorting puzzles to figure out. Some answers require winding through mazes to a certain goal. And each puzzle is worth "picarats," which not only measure how difficult a puzzle will be but unlock a special screen if enough are collected.

Don't worry if you get stuck. Hint coins are scattered throughout the game. Collect them, and you can buy three subtle hints and one "Superhint" for each puzzle as you need them.

Finding the coins is its own mini-game, since it requires tapping around on the DS screen in different scenes to uncover the helpful trinkets.

There are a set number in the game, so only use them when necessary. Nintendo also plans to release new weekly downloadable puzzles for the game.

The puzzles won't be part of the storyline, per se, but rather add-ons that will relate to the story. The lack of a downloadable puzzle won't stop a player from finishing the game.

There are also other mini-games that show up after finishing certain puzzles. There are sticker books to fill out, roadways to drive on with a toy car and a friendly parrot that will carry packages for people, who then will be happy to help you.

Moving around the city is easy enough with a bus and underground train to get you to faraway places. A map in the top DS screen gives you an overview of the London area while the bottom screen displays a more detailed view of the specific area the player is working in.

The artwork is splendid and not overly confusing for the small Nintendo DS screen. Hand-drawn animation gives the movement a fluid and life-like appearance, and the voice acting is stellar, with just enough of an English accent to make you feel you are in the presence of a London gentleman.

Sound effects during the game are OK but not spectacular.

The background music doesn't distract from the gameplay, although some tunes seem more appropriate for a Paris café than a London alleyway.

The characters' back stories and personalities are filled out nicely and will actually have you empathizing with them during different events.

Bouncing back and forth from the present to the future can be rather disconcerting. Overall, the story is deep and wide-ranging. The graphics and animation are smooth and well done.

But the puzzles, where the game lives, are challenging, confounding and fun for all ages and IQs.

"Professor Layton and the Unwound Future" is out Monday as an exclusive title for the Nintendo DS family of consoles. It is rated E 10+ (everyone 10 years of age and older) for some mild violence.


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