Developer Level-5 recently released Professor Layton and The Azran Legacies for the 3DS. Already five successful games into the series, Level-5 does not disappoint with this last addition to the story of Professor Layton.
When a developer makes so many great games in one series, it is always a sign that they have a working recipe of characters, plot, and gameplay. The Azran Legacies has not steered far off the path of the previous games.
So, which successful ingredients do we see return? In this game, as in the others, the player works toward solving one larger mystery throughout the game. As they do this, they have to complete smaller side puzzles given to them from strange little NPC's. Solving a puzzle is rewarded with picarats, or the in-game money. Failing to solve a puzzle will reduce the player's picarats. Unrelated to the main story are mini episodes that detail the stories of some characters or less important happenings. Finally, Professor Layton's trunk does include three mini-games for the player to enjoy.
In this last adventure for the professor, he and his friends make an exciting discovery regarding items recovered in the previous two games. This plot change sends them to a more varied list of destinations in the game. As the player can fly between these destinations at will, it gives the game a more sandbox-style feel than the previous, more linear games. As far as the plot is concerned it is more interesting for the player as the game seems to have a larger effect on the professor's world. For actual gameplay, the effect is also positive. Now, when one puzzle leaves the player stuck, they can move on to a different area for a while and focus on something less frustrating. This is a definite improvement over staring at the same puzzle while it becomes the bane of one's existence until it is solved.
Some puzzles are more integrated into the plot line than in previous games. Those that are not are often times related to extra content that can be accessed through Layton's trunk, such as newspaper stories. This feature rewards the player for returning to areas previously visited. This can be lucrative due to the collectable content and extra puzzles or coins.
Most reviews unanimously agree that two of the three new mini-games are wonderful successes. The first is called Blooms and Shrooms. The player attempts to bring dilapidated gardens back to life by strategically planting flowers to chain cross-pollination events. The goal is to fill in the grid with plants without disturbing the, you guessed it, mushrooms and fungi that already call the garden home. The second new mini-game is entitled Nut Roller. Offering an excellent level of challenge the player attempts to use a squirrel to push a walnut to a goal across a 3D board, with plenty of obstacles presented by rolling nuts and boulders. The final game, Dress Up, is more work than entertainment. The player must select and outfit different NPCs with ensembles depending on their individual preferences.
Finally, and most important to any game in this series, are the puzzles up to par? Level-5 and their resident puzzle expert Akira Tago seem to have finally made a game whose riddles match up to their first three games. A few of the puzzle styles do repeat, but are tweaked based on context to fit the individual situation. Their second and final trilogy is a prequel to the first, and some stories do fail to keep prequels interesting because the audience already knows the outcome of the story. This particular game and plot do keep it interesting, however, and even offer up a few surprises for the avid Professor Layton fans.
To those who find themselves charmed by the gentlemanly attitude of this game series, Professor Layton and The Azran Legacies will not disappoint. Many fans of the story may even find themselves wishing for more as they finish this final game. That, in itself, is a sign of a success from any game, or other art form, for that matter. The gameplay maintains the successful mixture of charm, plot, mystery, and puzzle-solving that made this series famous. While not a perfect game it is an excellent way to end the story of Professor Layton, and definitely well-made enough to entertain someone new to the series as well.