Sam Hansen
E3: Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Impressions
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06.17.10 - 2:59 AM

Yes, yes, yes! Everyone's favorite sharp-witted, gentlemanly professor is back for another mystery. Get ready for more characters, more minigames, and more of Luke facepalming as you lose and lose and lose continuously through the hundreds of puzzles awaiting you in this brain-busting new puzzler.

So here's the scoop: Unwound Future takes place immediately after the events of Diabolical Box. Or wait, no, that's not right. Well, it technically is, but also kind-of-sort-of-not-really. See, our teacher/student duo is dealing with time travel this time around. When Luke receives a letter from a mysterious sender claiming to be his future self, him and the professor scoot off to a neighboring city in order to witness the demonstration of a certain Alain Stahngun's newly developed time machine. This historical occasion quickly goes awry as the device explodes during its trial run with the city's prime minister as the test subject. Unfortunate mishap? Assassination attempt? Calamitous cabaret? I haven't a clue, but I reckon our top hatted hero will figure it out before I do.

As their investigation continues, the pair finds themselves rummaging around an old clock shop with tickers from the floors to the ceiling. But when one clock in particular begins spazzing out and spewing fumes and fogs every which way, Layton and Luke suddenly find themselves in a familiar setting within a not so familiar point in time.

Just as with the transition from Curious Village to Diabolical Box, the apparent changes I've been seeing have been minute at best. Our boys at Level-5 continue to amp up their production values with the continuation of their charming, minimalistic art style and fully animated cutscenes. And after spending a half hour with it, I can safely tell you that those aforementioned cinematics and the accompanied voice work will be much more plentiful than past installments. Even a few of the static, dialogue-boxed conversations with regular townspeople were voiced, so I'm extremely eager to familiarize myself with all these quirky characters through their newfound voices.

Oh, and I guess there will be new puzzles or something. You know, it's not really a big deal.

But seriously, fresh puzzles. You know how this works. I got my hands on about a dozen of them, and if what I played is any indicator of the game as a whole, this is going to be the hardest Layton title yet. Maybe it was my lack of sleep, maybe it was the stress of the show, maybe it was my dumb little head; I don't really know what it was, but those suckers were tough. Keeping with the theme of time travel, more than half of the lot that I tested had ties to time, clocks and the like. Whether that involved reading clocks without numbers or using the hour/minute hands to direct oneself through a cityscape maze, it almost always had some sort of thematic relevance to the overarching adventure. I hope you like your numbers, because we're going to be seeing a lot of them. You can count on it.

On a not so reassuring note, a few of the puzzles had extremely vague instructions. I wouldn't call them cryptic, just unclear. When the second, 15 Picarat puzzle forced me into using all of my hints (including the newly implemented Super Hint, which basically gives the answer away), I knew something was a bit amiss. Let's just hope that being at E3 made me momentarily stupid.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future hits stores two months after last month's next two months, plus five days after the yesterday of yesterday's tomorrow. I'm…halfway positive that that equates to September 20, and even less sure about the grammatical correctness. Mark your calendars, keep an eye on the sundial, wind up your egg timers, utilize every temporal method you've got, and make sure you don't skip out on this one.


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