Many game designers follow up successes with sequels that tack on tons of cluttering new features, or just rehash the same tired ground. Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box manages to avoid both pitfalls. The sequel to the clever puzzle-solving mystery Professor Layton And The Curious Village features 25 more puzzles than its predecessor, and all of them feel unique.
The game follows Professor Layton, a renowned archaeologist who more closely resembles Sherlock Holmes than Indiana Jones, even though he constantly insists he isn’t a detective. Accompanied by his trusty sidekick Luke, Layton travels through England searching for clues relating to his mentor’s murder.
These clues always come in the form of puzzles. Riddles, optical illusions, and math problems are doled out by main characters or hidden throughout the game world. Players need to constantly poke at the touch screen with the stylus to find new puzzles, along with coins that can be traded in for hints.
Like in Curious Village, you can skip stumpers so you can move on with the plot and come back after you’ve had more time to mull clues over. Progress is limited by quantity, though—some areas are only accessible once you’ve solved a certain number of riddles.
Layton and Luke aren’t the only returning characters in the sequel, and there are plenty of references that Curious Village players will appreciate. But the game does a good job of explaining things, and since the focus is more on puzzles than plot, new players won’t feel lost.
Besides adding to the number of the puzzles, Diabolical Box makes solving them a little friendlier. Each screen has a memo option so you can make notes as you work on the puzzle. There are still some frustratingly hard challenges, plenty of which prey on players’ tendencies to over-think or make assumptions about clues, which can lead to a lot of forehead-slapping once the answer becomes clear.
Besides the main puzzle plot, the game also features a new set of mini-games where players mix and match ingredients to produce tasty teas, assemble a broken camera, and try to get a fat hamster to exercise. More puzzles will be introduced weekly online, so even if the relatively short game doesn’t have much replay value, there’s an incentive to keep picking it up for some brain exercise.