The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Diabolical Box sticks with the first game’s formula almost exactly. While it may not be a fresh concept, more story and puzzles are all the Layton series needs to appease fans.
The plot follows Luke and Layton as they investigate the death of Layton’s mentor, supposedly caused by opening the legendarily dangerous Elysian Box. Clues guide them to hitch a ride on the Molentary Express and travel from town to town. This structure allows for much more environment variety than the single city backdrop of the first game, though the on-train sections become tedious once you’ve gone back and forth a few times.
Puzzles are tied more closely to the world this time, as you’ll swap train cars to clear the tracks ahead or solve a puzzle on a door to get through the lock. Most of the puzzles are still random challenges from a townsperson, however. You trace the paths of tangled wires, try to imagine 2D drawings in 3D space, and jump a knight around a chessboard. I didn’t come across any challenge as obtuse as the chocolate bar in the first game, but having a knowledge of Level-5’s previous bag of tricks helps in solving this new batch.
Most of the new content is found in the collectibles and minigames. You collect toys to exercise a fat hamster so he can find hidden hint coins. Grabbing camera pieces will eventually unlock a picture matching game, and your tea set will get a workout trying to make the perfect blend for the townspeople you come across. These entertaining tasks do a great job of keeping you on the lookout for extras while hoofing it through town and pumping sources.
I enjoyed the storytelling in Diabolical Box, as well as the new characters like Sammy, the rock ‘n roll train conductor. But some of the big reveals are particularly groan worthy, and two story clichés are unfortunately repeated in this sequel that I hope aren’t carried over to the third entry.
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I love Professor Layton’s quiet, slow-paced approach to puzzling, and the Diabolical Box brings more of what made the first installment so engaging. This newest adventure changes the setting and adds some new characters to the mix, but the focus on short, unique brainteasers is identical to last time. The best of the new puzzles involve careful critical thinking. However, like last time, several puzzles rely too heavily on giving convoluted written directions, and forcing you to quiz out what the game is even looking for in an answer. By and large, I’m impressed by the breadth and uniqueness of each of the challenges, and the hint system and ability to return to unsolved segments keeps frustration at bay. Like the professor himself, the charming game stands apart from the crowd, but its deliberate pacing isn’t for everyone.