Tech News on G4

New 'Layton' a puzzle paradise

Aug 28, 2009

By John Powell - G4 Canada

back to -|- Tech News index -|- John Powell column archive


He came to chew bubblegum and solve puzzles...and he’s all out of bubblegum. Devious and deceitful villains beware. Professor Layton is back and he’s brought that know-it-all, Luke, with him.

Professor LaytonProfessor Layton‘Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box’ is the follow-up to last year’s smash hit on the DS: ‘Professor Layton and the Curious Village’. Shades of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Diabolical Box’ has Professor Layton confronting the strange death of his mentor. Clues at the scene persuade The Professor and Luke to take a trip on the Molentary Express (a “cruise ship on rails”, so we are told numerous times). While aboard, our heroes are on the lookout for the Elysian Box of the title, a mysterious contraption that, according to legend, kills anyone who opens it.

The Elysian Box is the least of the deductive duo’s problems though. Case after case with puzzle after puzzle await them at every turn. Missing people. Derailed trains. Lost valuables. Boxes that kill. It is all in a day’s work for Layton and Luke.

Unlike ‘Curious Village’, the mysteries/puzzles aren’t limited to one setting though. Each stop along the Molentary Express presents its own unique challenges, characters and places to explore. The animated cut-scenes and outstanding visuals are truly some of the best on the DS and don’t make ‘Diabolical Box’ feel like one of those stuffy, static puzzle games.

Professor LaytonThere are over 150 brainteasers and they run the gambit from slider puzzles, to mazes, to optical illusions, to word puzzles, to math questions and geometry lessons. Throughout the game there are special hint coins that can be found if you search through the environments. You can save up these coins and use them when you come across a conundrum that completely baffles you. By answering incorrectly or using a hint coin you are penalized though by losing what are called “picarats“. Each puzzle has points (picarats) associated with it. These points can be accumulated and used to unlock special modes, puzzles and prizes. The puzzles come in all difficulty levels from completely ‘Duh!’ to ‘My-brain-is-about-to-explode!”. Overall, ‘Diabolical Box’ is more balanced than your average puzzle game and features like the new memo pad, give you more than a fighting chance.

Outside of the engaging and gripping storyline, there are forgettable mini games (train a hamster, build a camera, make tea), awesome bonus challenges to unearth and mystery unlockables within the game itself.  One of the best is the ability to download a new puzzle every week using a Wi-Fi connection. Yep. A gift that keeps on giving. You can’t beat that. You rock Level 5 and Nintendo. You rock solid.

Like ‘Curious Village’ before it, ‘Diabolical Box’ is the perfect blend of mystery and adventure. From someone who grew up with ‘Zork’, ‘Zak McKracken’ and ‘Space Quest’ on the C-64 and PC, it is great to see the genre still alive and evolving. Still, there is one mystery we may never solve. How does the Professor keep that humungous top hat on his head? Someone loan me some hint coins, please. Quick. Quick.


Toy StoryProfessor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Format: Nintendo DS, DSi
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Level 5
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Site:

Rating: 9 / 10




  Related Articles
· Get G4
· G4 Press Release Index
· Interact
· Advertising Information

About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see