This summer has been an unusual one for me, as it has been for many of us. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, I suddenly found myself with very little to do. There would be no summer job this year, no socialisation with friends or family members, and I was unable to leave my home except for my daily exercise. With all of this at play and very little motivation to do anything remotely productive, I turned to my old trusty pink Nintendo DS which had been sitting in a cupboard, unloved and unused, since I was twelve years old.
The vast collection of Nintendo DS games that I had amassed over my childhood sat in this particular cupboard along with my DS. I found many of them to be a disappointment, the nostalgia I felt for them was greater than the enjoyment they could offer me as an adult. None of them could stimulate my mind for more than a quarter of an hour, and so I began to think that many of these games were destined to remain in my childhood and that I would have to take up another hobby during lockdown to occupy my mind. It was then that I came across my old Professor Layton games.
These games follow the genius academic Professor Hershel Layton and his young apprentice Luke Triton who solve mysteries together. The player must help Layton and Luke on their way by solving puzzles and brain teasers, with each puzzle revealing clues to the truth of the larger mystery in the game. There are even mini-movies within the games to watch as you progress through which sometimes offer insight into what supporting characters are doing, allowing the player to learn more of the truth before Layton does.
The puzzles themselves are interesting and entertaining, with some taking days to finally find the answers to. What seems to be the highlight of these games is the sense of fulfilment they give to the player, particularly the sense of joy one feels after solving a puzzle which has taken hours to crack. Whilst it is certainly good to solve a puzzle on the first attempt with little effort, it means that you do not truly appreciate how difficult puzzles can be and feel the sense of achievement that you would have experienced otherwise. To quote the professor himself: “Few things satisfy like a puzzle solved.”
The stories behind the puzzles are what actually make the games so great. One cannot help but become addicted to them, with each mystery having a much larger meaning to it than the player would originally suspect, teaching the player lessons about loss and love whilst bringing a tear to their eye. As an adult, I have come to realise that some of the explanations behind the mysteries are insanely unrealistic, but they add to the magic of Professor Layton’s world and certainly appealed to me as a child – particularly the water creature Loosha who resembles the Loch Ness Monster.
The only aspect of these games which could be improved is their longevity. After completing them as a child I never played them again until lockdown began, primarily due to the fact that the mystery remains the same, there are no optional choices within the game which can change its outcome. Therefore, they are unlikely to be played again but the mini-games and weekly puzzles help with that. Throughout the games the more puzzles you solve, the more bonus content you unlock to play after the game has ended. These bonus puzzles are the hardest puzzles the professor has to offer and are infuriatingly difficult to solve – providing hours of extra playtime. The mini-games within the game itself add to the pleasure of the game, with games such as the train set appealing to the inner child within us all whilst occupying and challenging our adult brains.
During lockdown I found myself making my way through the three Professor Layton games that I already owned and then buying the fourth one once I had completed them all again in order to keep my mind active. The games were a great way to occupy my mind without having to do anything productive and yet provided me with a sense of achievement that I would not have got from finishing a series on Netflix.
It seems that like many others, I have been turning to my favourite childhood games during these strange few months. Lockdown has seen many of us returning to games such as Animal Crossing, Just Dance and Nintendogs to escape the depressing reality of lockdown life. These games have not just been entertaining us during our boredom, but blissfully distracting us for a time from the harsh reality that we are currently experiencing, and now, more than ever, I am glad that I kept my old Nintendo and did not sell it on eBay.