Professor Layton is a curious English gentleman. He's spent years perfecting the art of puzzle solving - and he revels in it. When he and his apprentice Luke are one day called to St Mystere all of his dreams are answered - he gets given more puzzles than he knows what to do with.
Likewise Professor Layton and the curious village is an unusual game. It's a mix of puzzle solving and adventure gaming that combine to create a single, surprisingly cohesive, whole.
Professor Layton is actually the first in what is currently (in Japan) a trilogy. Unfortunately being the backwards island we are, England has received the game over a year after Japan, and 6 months after the US. In that time Japan has released one sequel and a third game has been announced (I'm not jealous or anything).
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a game that revolves around a detective story where Layton and Luke are the "heroes" trying to solve the mysteries of St. Mystere. To do this they travel around a beautifully drawn French styled village talking to the locals who give them puzzles to solve in return for information that will help them solve the mystery.
The action is entirely stylus driven with the world navigation playing in a similar way to a more traditional adventure game such as Monkey Island. This works very well on the DS's touch screens and it would be good to see more of these types of games on the hand held device.
The puzzles are all based on Professor Tago's Head Gymnastics books - a popular series in Japan. They start off relatively easily but by the end of the game you will be finding yourself spending your picarats, a currency you pick up as you play, to unlock the puzzle clues.
Besides the walking and puzzles there are a variety of other tasks to complete in the game (finding the pieces of a painting for example) and all of these puzzles require finding and beating as many puzzles as possible.
Visually the game is a treat. It has a very European, painted feel which, considering the game seems to be set in France, is perfectly appropriate. There are also a number of very pretty cut-scenes interspersing the action. The animation has a similar style to studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky. Interestingly Factor 5 are going to be working with Ghibli on a future game so it wouldn't surprise me if they were the inspiration behind the look.
Professor Layton is a wonderful breath of air that, much like the Brain Training games, can be enjoyed by anyone. I just wish they'd hurry up and bring the second game to European shores.