Video Game Review: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box [Nintendo DS, 2009]

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
System: Nintendo DS
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Level-5
Release Date: August 24, 2009

When it comes to puzzle games, the Nintendo DS certainly does not have a shortage of them. There are several great games in the genre, but one series in particular rises above the rest. The Professor Layton series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, and it has been going strong since 2008. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box represents the second entry in the series (there are now four, with a fifth on the way).

Everyone’s favorite top-hatted gentleman, Layton, and his young apprentice, Luke, are back and looking to solve a new mystery. After traveling to meet the Professor’s mentor, Dr. Schrader, they are shocked to find him dead in his apartment. The circumstances surrounding his passing are peculiar, and rumors are swirling that his death was caused by the fabled Elysian Box, a chest that is thought to kill anyone who opens it. The only thing left behind in the doctor’s apartment is a train ticket for the luxurious Molentary Express, so the duo hop onboard to learn more about this bizarre situation.

While the story is deliriously offbeat, it does a good job of maintaining interest, especially when the train reaches a small town that is enveloped with secrets.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Of course, no one really plays Professor Layton games for their stories — it’s all about the puzzles! Diabolical Box has received a nice boost to the tune of 150+ puzzles of varying styles and levels of difficulty. Some are simple and can be solved in a matter of seconds; others can take much, much longer. Everything is fair game: logic puzzles, brain teasers, sliding puzzles, peg solitaire, and so on. The variety is very much appreciated, as it helps keeps the gameplay fresh throughout.

If you are familiar with the previous game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, then you will feel right at home here. The two games are similar in scope, with the differences being a new story and puzzles, as well as different mini-games.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

An example of a key puzzle

As rewards for completing puzzles, you can receive different objects that are used for various side projects. Some are silly, such as obtaining toys that will give a morbidly obese hamster a workout, whereas others are more interesting, like finding new herbs to brew different types of tea. There are also bonuses that can be unlocked that show character profiles, sound clips and other gameplay aspects. In total, the campaign should last about a dozen hours or more, if you take the time to investigate each area for new puzzles.

I don’t think I have ever seen a poor review for a Professor Layton game, and there is a reason for that: they are just great, quality titles. It doesn’t hurt that Layton and Luke are a charming tandem, two classy chaps who always take the high road. With 150+ puzzles, a lengthy campaign, and some fun mini-game diversions, there is a lot to like with the Diabolical Box. My only complaint is that I wish there was a greater punishment for incorrectly guessing answers. You lose points the first two times you provide a wrong answer, but that’s it. This makes it a little too easy to “cheat” the system. Regardless, this is a fun puzzle adventure, and I can’t wait to tackle Layton’s next journey.


4 thoughts on “Video Game Review: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box [Nintendo DS, 2009]

  1. Nostra says:

    Although I haven’t played on the DS for years I did play the first game in the series, which was excellent. I remember playing it on the plane to Florida and together with a friend there was one particular puzzle which probably took about an hour for us to finally solve. Excellent series. I probably won’t be playing any of them, but I do love their style and excellent puzzles.

    • Eric says:

      I hear ya, Nostra. There’s nothing like sitting down with a good puzzle, even ones that take upwards of an hour to solve. There were a few in this game that took me longer than I would like to admit. 😉

  2. gotounknown says:

    I haven’t tried any of these games, but I’ve always liked what I have seen of them (screens, videos) and now, after reading your review, it might be time to buy one of them 🙂 Which is the best one? Have you played all? I heard there is a 3DS game coming also (I have a 3DS), that could be cool! But for now I’ll probably put my hand down the second hand box and try to find one of the older, but seemingly very good games. Thanx for a great review, as always!

    • Eric says:

      Thank you for the kind words! I have played the first two Layton games, and both are terrific. I would recommend starting from the beginning, just so you get to know some of the recurring characters that pop up in the second game. From what I have heard, the later sequels are just as good, so you really can’t go wrong with any of them. You’ll have to let me know what you think if/when you start one!

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