Monday, February 18, 2008

Damn you, St. Mystere

Do you like solving puzzles? Or perhaps free time to do other things of import? Be it known that Professor Layton and the Curious Village holds these two actions in high conflict. What is one to do?

I do enjoy brainteasers and their ilk greatly, and like to think myself somewhat skilled in their answering. I figured a cute little game like Prof. Layton would have many of the classic logic puzzles I revel in, and it does. Tho what I did not expect were puzzles of devious construction, those that fool the brain into thinking it knows the answer when it clearly does not, even at times requiring fucking trigonometry. It is torture of the most blissfully maddening variety-- that of the mind.

Have you ever taken an IQ test? There are two kinds. Most common is the series of questions that purport logic and math with your ability to comprehend them. The second is almost purely graphic and stresses spacial relations, shape identity, and numerical succession and is decidedly more taxing. This game has both of those, at first lulling you into confidence as you determine how to get wolves and chickens to cross a river, then toppling your perceived acuity by asking which mirrored image of a complex crank can be used to turn a gear counter-clockwise. And, you know, the astrophysics equations required to make a goddamned sandwich.

There is a lovely art style the game is crafted around, and a quaint story that almost instantly endears you to its main characters and supporting cast. But at its heart are the puzzles, the endless, addictive, boggling puzzles that lead you into a mindset of play that compels "just one more" as if it were that last hit of heroin you need right before you can get clean. Soon the puzzles start becoming meta, as one ties into another or is required to progress further. Each new area of the game and story is propelled by townsfolk that desperately need their deepest quandaries solved, and only serves to unlock newer, progressively harder mysteries. It uses the DS interface and stylus to poke, prod, push, pull, write, and scratch solutions, each leading to the dreaded "Submit" button to judge your answer. Submit, indeed.

Penny Arcade does clue in to the game's nexus.

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