Four men are buried up to their necks in the desert. Three are in a row, facing the same direction so that the middle man can see the one on the left, and the man on the right can see the one on the left and the man in the middle. The fourth is on the other side of a sand dune and can't see or be seen by the others. A man places hats on them — two white and two black — and promises to unbury anyone who can identify the color of the hat he placed on their head. Without communicating with each other in any way, how many can be successfully unburied?
If you answered "two," you've either played the old card game Mindtrap, or you're a fan of brainteaser puzzles — and probably Nintendo's Professor Layton series, now on its fifth entry in Japan and an animated feature film. We North American gamers have clamored for newer entries in the series since the first two were released after long, long waits and to near-universal acclaim. Finally, our prayers are being answered, as the third entry in the series and the final part of the trilogy — the newer entries represent a prequel series — arrives as Professor Layton and the Unwound Future.
The story begins with the completion of a time machine, which Layton and Luke are invited to witness. Naturally, things explode, and Britain's Prime Minister, Bill Hawk, disappears, forcing the duo to solve another mystery in the form of another logic opera (to borrow Penny Arcade's phrase). Things only begin to become more complex when Layton's old girlfriend, Claire, shows up — she's supposed to have been dead for quite some time — and future versions of both Layton and Luke show up.
Gameplay, storytelling, and style are all the same as before in The Unwound Future. The title still follows classical first-person adventure formats, has you collecting hint coins and solving puzzle after puzzle to collect clues for the larger puzzles. Don Paolo and Inspector Chelmey show up, and we visit Layton's old school, Gressenheller University, for the first time in series history. The puzzles are still reliant on the DS touch-screen and provide "picarats" that unlock bonuses upon solving, unless you fail too many times. The animated cut scenes are as beautiful as ever, giving wonderful finishing touches to the series' beautifully realized fantastic-realism aesthetic.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future will be more of the same, so fans of the series will be sure to gobble it up once it hits store shelves.
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