Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Aug 18, 2009

Professor Layton & The Diabolical Box, Level-5's follow up to last year's Professor Layton & The Curious Village, continues the tradition of giving players challenging puzzles to solve and compelling mysteries to uncover. The puzzles are varied and plentiful, the cinematics are even more stunning than before, and there are a host of new mini-games. In other words, it doesn't take a world-renowned detective to realize that this game is fantastic.

The Pros
  • Ridiculous amounts of brain-twisting puzzles
  • Compelling murder mystery = always fun
  • Lengthy and challenging adventure
  • Great style and design
The Cons
  • Some recycled puzzles
  • Puzzle solving theme is still somewhat annoying

Professor Layton & The Diabolical Box, Level-5’s follow up to last year’s Professor Layton & The Curious Village, continues the tradition of giving players challenging puzzles to solve and compelling mysteries to uncover. The puzzles are varied and plentiful, the cinematics are even more stunning than before, and there are a host of new mini-games. In other words, it doesn’t take a world-renowned detective to realize that this game is fantastic.

Professor Layton and The Diabolical Box

Our Story So Far…


In their latest adventure, our titular professor and his trusty apprentice Luke embark on yet another whimsical and brain-twisting journey to uncover the truth behind a mysterious artifact that is rumored to kill anyone who opens it. When one of Layton’s colleagues ends up dead after locating and opening said box, an investigation ensues into the nefarious item’s whereabouts, the truth contained within it, and its unsuspecting ties to a powerful and influential family.

Since one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Layton games is uncovering the twists and turns of the story, I’ll refrain from going into further detail about it. Needless to say, expect the unexpected, and always keep your eyes and ears open as clues abound around every turn.

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Riddle Me This

Murder mysteries are fun. They always have been, always will be. And while I definitely enjoy the stories in the Layton games, the puzzles are really the stars of the show. If you played Curious Village recently, then chances are you will recognize quite a few of the puzzles in the new game. It isn’t a game-breaking issue, since the new puzzles contain different values and such, but if you remember the “tricks” to solving them, then you’ll definitely have an advantage. However, there are so many puzzles that any prior playthrough doesn’t take away from the overall experience that much. Plus, you can download new puzzles via Nintendo Wi-Fi once you’ve somehow managed to solve all the puzzles in the game, which means you’ll be playing this one for quite some time.

In addition to the ridiculous amounts of brainteasers, riddles and puzzles, Diabolical Box features several new mini-games as well. There’s a broken camera that you need to find the parts for in order to unlock hidden puzzles. There’s a tea set that lets you mix and match various herbs that you find during the game and then brew teas, which you can then serve to people to access story info and special items. And finally, there’s your chubby pet hamster that you need to help get into shape by placing various objects around a map, and getting him to walk a certain number of spaces to shed the pounds.

The mini-games add even more variety to an already varied and lengthy experience, and the way they are woven into the fabric of the main quests makes them much more than simple distractions thrown in just for the sake of it.

Professor Layton and The Diabolical Box

Layton’s Got The Look

One of the most impressive aspects of Curious Village is its cinematics. In fact, they are still some of the best I’ve seen on the DS. Well, this time around -- if you can believe it --  the game looks even better. The style is identical to the previous game, but there are tons of great details that just make the scenes pop even more, like the occasional inclusion of 3-D elements mixed in with the 2-D animation (i.e. a fully 3-D train moving across a 2-D background), or the animated backgrounds when you’re investigating aboard a speeding train. Sometimes it can be hard to make out tiny objects on screen, but overall, the game looks terrific.

The voice acting is spotty at times, but it fits in well with the overall tone of the game, so it’s kind of easy to forgive its occasional cheesiness. Also, the theme that plays whenever you are solving a puzzle (the same theme from the previous game) is a solid enough tune, but having to listen to the same tinkling melody over and over for hours on end definitely gets on your nerves -- I actually only kept the volume on for the first five or six puzzles, and then I just lowered the volume every time I had to solve a new puzzle. That’s a shame too, because the rest of the music in the game is great, and really helps set the mood for every area and situation.

This Should Do the Trick!

Despite a few very minor issues, one thing is quite clear: if you’re in the market for a DS game that provides dozens of hours of gameplay, an engrossing story that will have you guessing to the very end, and will seriously put your wits to the test, look no further than this fantastic puzzle-filled adventure.  Professor Layton & The Diabolical Box delivers the goods.