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'Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy' brings more puzzling power

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Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

Rating:
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"Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy," getting a Nintendo 3DS release on February 28 is billed as both a continuation of the long running series and something that works just as well as a standalone adventure. The one thing that every game in this series does well is make it so the gamer doesn't have to play the other versions in order to understand what is going on.

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The series also does well in building enough individual character stories that those who enjoy playing the game will want to pick up other Professor Layton games in order to really understand how the Professor, Emmy and Luke know each other and why they are always traveling together.

This particular title is said to be the third in the "prequel" series that lays more of the backstory of the Layton stories. Over the course of the game, players will be introduced to brand new characters and some that have made appearances in other titles. Interactions tend to brief and aren’t exactly that stand out, nor need to stand out as the game progresses.

As with the other Layton story-line games, the story is really secondary to the solving of the puzzles. This isn’t the kind of game that someone looking for a shoot-em-up action game is going to have much fun with. This is a game that requires the gamer to spend all their time and attention to little hints and the rules to solve the puzzles. The introduction that shows the player exactly what they are supposed to go in order to progress through the game was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes all on its own. As tutorials go, that might be a little too long for some.

The good news is that the tutorial serves more of a purpose than some others. There is actually a puzzle to solve that sets the tone for the rest of the game. Still, solving that puzzle and then realizing the game hasn’t really started could be frustrating to some. “Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy” stays true to the style of the original games with some cutscenes where the characters actually talk, but most of the gameplay features captions and frozen pictures for the dialogue.

This lack of voice acting can be blamed on the fact that these games are first made in Japan and then transferred over to English, but it still gives the title the look and feel of something that would be more at home on a smartphone or tablet. Nintendo 3DS games tend to be a little more involved than what was featured as far as voice acting and animation.

Having said that, the art in the game is really quite impressive, especially when using the 3D aspect of the handheld. There are very few games that take advantage of this feature being released these days, but Azran Legacy on the Nintendo 3DS allows you to raise the drawings out of the background and take a really good look at the scenes as they parade through the story.

The puzzles that pop up throughout the story don’t suffer from being too easy. In fact, there are a couple that almost seem a little too difficult when talking about a game meant for kids as young as seven. One of the first puzzles in the game is also meant as a trick and it seems likely that some younger gamers could get really frustrated very early on.

While solving the puzzles does give the gamer a sense of accomplishment there is also a feature that seems rather pointless. There is an option to “solve this puzzle later.” That would seem quite useful indeed, if not for the fact that the story is very linear and “solving later” basically means no longer playing the game.

All in all, the game brings everything that fans of the series are likely looking for, but “Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy” isn’t offering much that is going to rope in a new player.

Positives

  • Puzzles aren't so easy that you can breeze through them, they require concentration
  • Artwork is very pretty, especially in 3D
  • The mystery encompassed in the story is interesting enough to hold gamers' attention

Negatives

  • Some puzzles seem too difficult for younger players
  • Lack of voice acting and animation make this seem better suited for smartphone or tablet games
  • Nods to past episodes with not a ton of explanation

A Nintendo 3DS copy of "Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy" was given to Examiner.com for purposes of this review.

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