Adam Ghiggino
27 Sep, 2009

Professor Layton and Pandora's Box Review

DS Review | A true gentlemen leaves no game unreviewed.
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (known in the US as The Diabolical Box) is the second part of a series of exceptionally charming and original games originating from Japan. The first game to cross over to our shores was Professor Layton and the Curious Village, which as you may remember we found to be wonderful. So, Puzzle No. 114. When Professor Layton opens Pandora's Box, will he find a treasure trove of new puzzles and adventure, or does it merely release all of the evils of the world and make an average game?

Obviously, one of the game's strengths is that it retains the fantastic visual style of its predecessor. It has a gorgeous art style, similar to what one would expect from a Studio Ghibli movie, and while most of the game is told through portraits of characters talking over still backgrounds, the graphics really come alive in the full-motion animated sequences strewn throughout. There seem to be more of them this time around, and they are a sight to behold, although they suffer a little bit from the compression needed to fit them on a DS cart. Nevertheless, these cut-scenes are exciting and bursting with character, and make you look forward to the Professor Layton animated film which is currently in the works in Japan. The game also has a lot more voice acting than The Curious Village, with key parts of the story given the full voice-over treatment - the standout actor being none other than Professor Layton himself and his gentlemanly tone. Finally, the music is once again a standout, with subtle yet catchy themes to be found everywhere in the game.

Well I'm sure that you're bald under that hat, how's that?

Well I'm sure that you're bald under that hat, how's that?
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box opens as Professor Layton and his young 'apprentice' Luke board the Monetary Express, an expensive and famous train. They're chasing the Elysian Box, a mysterious chest which is reputed to kill anyone who opens it. It is apparently responsible for the death of Layton's friend and mentor, Dr. Schrader, and with the police too incompetent to properly investigate, it's up to our favourite puzzling duo to find the box and put its lethal reputation to the test. As with the last game, the plot presents a mystery which has to be solved, as it is slowly revealed how the Monetary Express and the places it takes the pair are connected, and how the Elysian Box fits into all this. There is also a vampire. Oh, and that weirdo villain, Layton's self-proclaimed arch-nemesis, Don Paolo. What's up with that guy?

As those who've played The Curious Village will know, Professor Layton, while an archaeologist by trade, is a lover of puzzles. This means that the gameplay is largely centered around solving all manner of puzzles, from number problems, to logic conundrums and plays on words. There are over 150 new puzzles in Pandora's Box, with no crossover with the last one, and they range from surprisingly simple to somebody-bludgeon-me-with-a-hammer difficult. You can collect and use 'hint coins' to unlock three levels of hints for each puzzle, although sometimes your coins can be squandered as hints deliver nothing more than trivia or simply flat out refuse to help you. As you explore the various environments in the game, touching objects or people will prompt these puzzles, and to the game's credit they're a bit more relevant than those in the previous game. That's not to say people won't give you puzzles for no reason at all, or the Professor won't stop in the middle of a heated chase to give Luke a brainteaser, but it's a hard thing trying to tie in that many puzzles into the story of a game, and Pandora's Box pulls it off nicely.

We're puzzled too.

We're puzzled too.
In addition to the main 'adventure' mode of the game, there are also several mini-games included. To begin with, there's the 'Hamster' mini-game, which gives you a pet hamster who's got a bit of a weight issue. As you progress through the game, you collect toys for the hamster, which can be placed in his playpen, and the idea is to place them in such a way that he'll have to walk to each one, losing weight and 'levelling up' his fitness. If you manage to get him into fighting shape, he'll help you find hint coins hidden on every screen. There's also a 'Tea Set' mini-game, which is similar to the 'Hamster' one in that you collect various herbs in the main game, and can then combine them to create different types of tea. You'll meet several characters throughout the game who'll need a nice cup of tea, as well as Luke and Layton themselves, and you'll be properly rewarded for soothing them with the correct cup of tea for their mood.

There is also the 'Camera' mini-game, which again sees you collecting parts of a camera in the main game, and then assembling it in your inventory screen. Of course, this is only one small part of the puzzle, as you can then use it in a number of locations to play a game of 'spot the difference', where you have to circle the differences between images of the location on the top and bottom screens. It still doesn't stop there, however, as then you'll unlock yet another puzzle, which was previously hidden from sight. To call these mini-games meaty is a bit of an understatement, and considering that the main game encourages you to try them all out, it'll take you at least ten hours to make it through Pandora's Box, most likely twice that if you're dead set on solving every puzzle. There are also weekly puzzles that can be downloaded through a wi-fi connection, as well as challenges that are unlocked after completing the game. You can also use 'picarats', the points system used in the game, to unlock art, movies and other content.

Yes, tea-making is a mini-game. And it is awesome.

Yes, tea-making is a mini-game. And it is awesome.
With such a charming and challenging game, there are very few flaws that we could detect. You can still cheat by saving the game, doing a puzzle, using up your hint coins to find the solution, and then reverting back to your last save with the answer in hand to pass it without losing anything. Some could say that the game is a little too similar to its predecessor as well, as it represents more of an evolution of the formula rather than revolutionising anything. However, when the initial formula was as good as The Curious Village, we believe that's no bad thing at all.

Professor Layton and Pandora's Box is yet another feather in the good professor's sizeable cap. It's got all the charm, humour and challenge that The Curious Village had, and presents a new mystery to be solved, as well as adding a large amount of interesting additional content through the mini-games that are included with it. It's got a hearty amount of new puzzles for Layton fans, but newcomers to the series can also enjoy the game as a standalone entry. However, after playing it they will definitely be hungering for more and will probably be compelled to try out the excellent original. You knew this pun was coming, but this is one Pandora's Box that you will definitely want to open.
The Score
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box is a challenging, charming and unmissable adventure.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 years ago
Mmm, good review Adam and pretty spot on in terms of my own thoughts as well. I actually think that this game does a better job of integrating the puzzles into the story than the previous one, such as the screenshots that you showed with the key and train puzzles. The charm is most definitely still there and I think the train setting really adds to that and there is once again a suitable gallery of strange characters but all well drawn and even a few returns beyond just Luke and Hershel icon_smile.gif And in true gentlemanyl fashion I have read this review and played the game whilst drinking a nice cup of tea icon_wink.gif
4 years ago
I'm 4 hours into this game and I'm loving it so far. I also love how they included a physical copy of the ticket (in the first screenshot in this review) in the box. There's just one thing that annoys me - Luke's voice sounds different...

Oh, and it's great to finally be able to see what's behind the hidden door in the first game! icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
wii_addict wrote
There's just one thing that annoys me - Luke's voice sounds different...
That's because they used 2 different voice actors for the US and UK versions of the game.

US: Lani Minella
UK: Maria Darling

And since we got the US box art for Professor Layton and the Curious Village, I think it is safe to assume that we also got the US version of the game.

That might be the reason they re-released Professor Layton and the Curious Village here with the UK art.
4 years ago
The US version is titled 'Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box'. Wouldn't it be more likely we got the EU one?
4 years ago
Nic_231 wrote
The US version is titled 'Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box'. Wouldn't it be more likely we got the EU one?
Yeah.. but BurnZ is saying for the first game it seems we got the US version, which would be why the voice is different this time.
4 years ago
Ah, my mistake. Will read more closely in future.
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