Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review «

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review

With each succesive game, Professor Layton’s adventures continue to grow more bizarre. And nothing illustrates that better than his latest outing, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. This time traveling tale takes you on a tour of a future London, filled with new perils, villains, and naturally, puzzles. But while I found the sometimes ridiculous story my least favorite part of the game, like the professor, I just can’t resist trying my hand at just one more riddle.
Unwound Future introduces a fair number of improvements that I’ve been wanting since the first game, The Curious Village. The “memo” section on puzzles (an overlay that lets you draw on the screen) finally includes different colors and pen thicknesses to write in, and you can even erase sections of your writing when you make a mistake (instead of having to scrap all your work, like in The Diabolical Box). While this finally elminates the need to pack around a notepad with you for the game’s more calculation-intense quandries, it would still be nice to be able to overlay your notes on the actual puzzle — as it’s set up, as soon as you go back to the problem, you can’t see your notes at all. Still, once you have the answer written somewhere, that’s usually more than enough to help work your way through to the solution.

Solving puzzles has been made a bit easier, but getting to them can be a bit of a problem. The overworld map in Unwound Future is one of the largest yet, mostly because as you unlock new areas, places you’ve visited before remain accessible. But that also makes getting from one end of the map feel a little more tedious than previous games, even with shortcuts. So if you ever get tired of searching for puzzles, Unwound Future introduces three new minigames available from your in-game suitcase: Navigating a car through a maze, making a parrot deliver packages, and using stickers to complete a series of picture books all provide fun diversions that you can jump into any time you need a break from your quest.

The puzzles themselves are more balanced, as well. Instead of running into variations on the same basic idea over and over again, Unwound Future covers a broad spectrum of riddles and brain teasers. Though at times, a riddle’s vague wording or hard-to-interpret picture can make you feel like your wrong answer is just as valid as what the game says is right. Without spoiling any solutions, one puzzle in particular — asking which suitor is holding a heart for the girl he likes — stands out in my mind as a particularly open-ended question.

As much fun as the puzzles can be, as far as the story goes, Unwound Future stretches things a bit too far. Of course, every Layton game is filled with wild caricatures and ridiculous scenarios, but here, characters from past games are introduced seemingly at random, and the meandering story, with its technobabble about wormholes and time travel, seems a little too far-fetched. At one point Layton creates a makeshift gun from scattered slot machine pieces that fires coins — a gun which he then uses to fend off a group of machine gun-toting enemies. The game’s ultimate resolution, as with both previous Layton games, is obvious long before the “big reveal” at the end, but the sheer strangeness of it underscores what the writers try to create. The story tries to humanize the gentelmanly professor by giving him a love interest and filling in details on his personal history, which works in short bursts, but these more serious asides, which would fit just fine in a film, feels contrived and emotionless in Unwound Future.

The performances and animated cut-scenes are still as terrific as always, though; it’s just a subpar script that brings it down slightly. The story might not draw you along as well as it has in previous games, but it’s always a joy to visit Layton’s puzzle-rich world. And, taken as a game of puzzles interrupted occasionally by a fun (and incredily silly) story, Unwound Future is still a huge success in the Layton series.