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Whenever I play a Professor Layton game I often wonder whether the game gets in the way of the story. In order to put these thoughts to rest I decided to watch the film and see how it compared as an experience.

The aim of all Professor Layton games is to solve a perplexing mystery and along the way complete maths and logic puzzles in order to uncover secrets and progress the story. The stories are always intriguing and ‘page turning’ in such a way that the puzzles in between the lines of dialogue, searching for clues and cut-scenes can slow down the pacing and, at times, leave the player feeling frustrated.

The design of the world has a simple cartoon feel, and yet each scene is very detailed and each character has their own unique personality that shines through from their very individual design. The world is an interesting mix of Old England concepts and ideals with futuristic science and technology that appears to be rare but accepted.

I was happy to see that the film, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (2009), was created in the same style as the games. The voice actors for the Professor and Luke were the same, the art work was the same and the wonderful music was also in the same style. It felt refreshing to view a Professor Layton story all the way through without interruptions.  The references to the puzzles being called ‘001, 002 etc’ was also some nice details for fans.

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Interestingly while watching the film I found myself missing the puzzles. The film had plenty of mysteries for the characters to solve and everything was very much kept in the style of the games. I did enjoy guessing the puzzles for myself and trying to work everything out ahead of time but the pacing of the film meant that small puzzles were solved quickly, and often with no real opportunity for the audience to try and work them out.

Perhaps what I really missed was being involved within the world and its stories. Games pull the player into the situation. When a puzzles is solved ‘I solved that’, ‘I uncovered that mystery’ it gives me a sense of satisfaction that the film can’t fulfill. I also feel that the film gives a lesser connection to the characters. I did find the film emotionally engaging and enjoyed the characters but something was missing. In the game when characters speak or give information they are directly addressing you, the player. It feels like they are asking you for help and when you solve their problems, they thank you. In a film they are clearly talking to Professor Layton, giving less involvement and satisfaction.

In part then, ones enjoyment of the games comes down to how much you like maths and logic puzzles. For some people, the puzzles aren’t going to feel like much of an interruption to the story, but a fun way of feeling like you are the Professor, solving his puzzles. For others, each puzzle takes much more than a few minutes, and can become difficult and frustrating, but this frustration is turned into a greater triumph through perseverance.

I find that people often pick up a Professor Layton game because they’ve heard that it’s a good puzzle game. But not only is it a great puzzle game but it’s a fantastic visual novel as well. So people may come for the puzzles but they keep playing for the story.The film certainly keeps with this style and it’s nice to know that I can watch it without worrying that maybe ‘that vase on the table will remind Layton of a puzzle’.

Professor Layton – Nintendo and Level-5

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva
Directed By: Masakazu Hashimoto

Screenplay By: Aya Matsui (story) Akihiro Hino
Starring: (English version) Christopher Robin Miller and Maria Darling

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