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Perhaps my favorite thing about the DS is that in addition to some really great standard video game titles, there’re a lot of equally great casual and puzzle games as well. It seems that the touchscreen combined with Nintendo’s perceived sense of whimsy when it comes to games is a good combination. In fact, I’m very surprised there hasn’t been a port of Katamari Damacy for any Nintendo console yet — it seems like a perfect fit for the Nintendo world. While Katamari hasn’t made the jump yet, Professor Layton is a series that fits really well with the Nintendo feel — whimsical, yet high quality.
The second of the series (at least six are planned as of right now) has just been released outside of Japan, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (a/k/a …and Pandora’s Box outside of the US) is a worthy followup to the first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village; you don’t need to have played the first to enjoy the new one, though if you have, you’ll be amused by the references and the handful of recurring characters. The story, too, isn’t quite as predictable as the first plot, though, like that game, the story isn’t quite the point. It’s more of a framework to hang the puzzles on.
So, how are the puzzles? Pretty dang good, really. As a person who’s both into puzzles and someone who has friends who are REALLY into puzzles, there’re very few of the standard puzzles; there’re a couple variations on the Towers of Babel, and the one of the farmer getting the wolf and the sheep across the river — but most of the puzzles are original, and the ones that aren’t are different variations than you’ve most likely seen before. They’re very much in the same vein as the first game — but, luckily, there’re more puzzles, and the game takes longer. I beat Village in around 10 hours, and Box in about 12. There’re also many more side games than in Village — and some of the puzzles are harder to find, which means lots of replay value.
I’m looking forward to the third game in the series — as good as the first one was, Box is a definite improvement — so, hopefully the next will be even better. Even if it’s just as good as Box — or even just as good as Village, it’s a game I know I’ll have to have on pre-order as soon as the US version is announced.