Thursday, September 18, 2014

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

I picked up a copy of Miracle Mask knowing only that I would be away from home for a while and that I liked the rest of the series. Layton games have a way of sucking me in and keeping me there until I'm done, which doesn't really seem like the best option for a game to bring with me on vacation, but there you go.

That was back in June, and I just finished the game a few weeks ago, at the end of August, over two months later. Which kind of begs the question: what happened?

When I play DS games my DS basically stays on unless I miscalculate the battery life and forget to recharge it. In other words, when I'm playing a DS game, the DS never lets me forget it. It's on for weeks, sometimes months at a time, its tiny blue light constantly, slowly, steadily pulsing, like the life signs of a little robot. Unlike console games and, sometimes, PC games, I never forget that I'm playing a DS game.

All this to say that I suspect, perhaps, that Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask may not be a great game. Or, at least, it's not a great Layton game. The above is the most conclusive evidence I can provide, since I don't think most other Layton games lasted me more than a couple of weeks. There's no reason this one should have taken me this long to beat it, given that my DS never let me forget it was waiting for me.

The story of the game is actually alright. I guessed the villain's identity pretty early on, but I was charmed by the look into Hershel's past. Plus, I just generally enjoy having the professor's assistant, Emmy, along for the ride. The characters are colorful, especially the circus folk. And, as usual, there are very few true villains around--just people whose puzzles we have yet to solve, so to speak.

I'm impressed that the series seems to have an endless supply of puzzles for me to solve. There have been a few times when I could have sworn I'd solved this puzzle or that one before, but for the most part it always feels pretty fresh.

The music is charming, the animation...

Er, well, actually this game started with this strange 3D model system that I don't recall being in the previous ones. It was kind of jarring, and I think I prefer the 2D character models. These 3D models weren't used all that much, though I can understand that the times there were a few times when they were used to do things that the 2D models couldn't really do. And making them that way provided some nice, constant animation. The animated FMV sequences still looked lovely, though.

I can pinpoint the slowest point as the Azran Ruins section, in which Hershel and Randall explore deep, deep into the ruins to search for treasure. The game turns away from its normal, point and click adventure style of gameplay and becomes, instead, a different sort of puzzle game, reminiscent of The Adventures of Lolo. This section is a nice change of pace for a little while, but it goes on for far too long. I'm certain that I left my DS hibernating in this section for at least a month.

Still, I finished the game, and I don't think that would have been the case for a truly bad game. Miracle Mask is simply a game with a rough spot or two.

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