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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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Notes on Professor Layton
games, MTGO, Niv-Mizzet
kistaro
A bit over a week ago, I got a copy of Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS. I just finished clearing the story, although there are 9 hidden puzzles I haven't found yet, and I've still got bonus-material puzzles to complete, plus about half of the downloadables. The game varied from "trivial" to "requires small amounts of actual thought", with a difficulty spike at the end resulting in a handful of puzzles I had to actually think about. This puts it at about the same difficulty as most other general brainteaser products I've worked my way through; they just gave this one a different interface and wrapped a story arhound it. Honestly, it works pretty well, but I'm acutely aware that just the puzzles could mostly be had in book form for around $10, and the puzzles that aren't quite pure paper have been implemented as open-source software. I'd hope the sequel would ramp the difficulty up, but I know that would make it hit a smaller market, not a larger one; I'll have to stick to specialized collections of my preferred variation of logic puzzle that hit the challenge level I need.

I feel like rambling about the story, though. I could have had the puzzles for about half as much as I spent on the cartridge, but the story was worth it, although it's clear I overthought it. (I figured out the well-foreshadowed "twists" about half the game before they were actually revealed, though.)


Well, I admit I had some theories that turned out to be wrong before I hit upon the right ones; I'd theorized that the residents of St. Mystere were being replaced with robots as they failed to perform their roles in this bizarrely utopian dictatorship, but it took me slightly longer to conclude that they were originally robots. "Flora is the Golden Apple!" was obvious from within half an hour, though.

What I love about this is the violent collision of a very sci-fi concept- an entire city of androids, designed to hide that fact to the greatest degree possible- with a setting very much before the present day, by several decades at least. I desperately hope that the sequel keeps up with this tradition: a mystery with theming designed to elicit too many evenings spent reading Sherlock Holmes tales, wrapped around a plot line that would actually fit perfectly between the pages of Analog magazine. It seems like it could be the start of a wonderful franchise if they aren't afraid to keep it deeply surreal; I'd love to see that continue, magnified, as the series progresses.

The ending, though, is hardly as cheerful and triumphant as it was made out to be. Flora is happy: she is free, she has found people her father posthumously approves of as honorable and trustworthy (immediately before being traumatized by her first direct brush with severe senseless violence directed at her), and she got the heck out of Robotsville. But due to her sentimental value upon the place, she opted to never hit the "stop" button, and to leave her father's treasure locked forever in its vault in his basement.

So she's defying his wishes, first off. She then goes to immediately leave St. Mystere, and there's no indication given that she has any plans to return to this artficial creche; it now becomes an astounding waste of resources with nobody to appreciate it, unless Bruno gets smart and turns the place into a public-access visitor attraction to marvel at his works and be stumped by the puzzles. Bruno, not Flora, is at the center of this story.

And if he doesn't get smart about what to do about St. Mystere now that Flora left without the common decency of hitting the "off" switch, the ending is truly a tragic one for the man- the only human in a city of his own robots, condemned to forever maintain them on a child's whim, with no indications as to when or if she intends to return...

Let's not forget that the apparently fantastically intelligent Hershel Layton failed to solve the most obvious puzzle in the game: how to get the treasure (instead of having it sit in a basement doing nobody any good; there's no shame in greed when there's nobody to come to harm from it, and that gold isn't going to do a damn thing where it is) without bringing St. Mystere to a halt. They were just theorizing that touching the treasure would stop the village; they performed no analysis of any such "stop" mechanism. There's no obvious connection between the vault and the robots, after all; the only one would be Bruno, coming for his paycheck and finding it gone, leaving and stopping his work. Bruno himself, of course, is the other solution: if Flora wants the damn city to keep running, she can bloody well talk to the man she intends to burden with it for an indefinite period of his life. And if Bruno's okay with it, she can do it with the treasure, because Bruno can obviously deactivate the kill switch; give him some portion of the treasure to cover expenses and a personal stipend, and that would be a much more reasonable solution to the puzzle Layton ignored.

That said, Vengeful Insane Bruno would be an excellent character in the sequel's sequel's sequel's sequel.

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Good art recognizes its limits.

Great art turns those limits to advantages.

Professor Layton emphatically turned limits to advantages. By having the characters be robots from the start, their limits -- that most characters were only interested in puzzles -- became a hint of what they really were.

I ran through the whole game in a weekend, and enjoyed it greatly. I look forward to the next in the series!

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