Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Return to solve another mystery on the DS.
SeriousGamer - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Mild Violence: Dead body is seen, cutscene depicts a swordfight.

Spritual Content: Story deals with a supposedly cursed item, vampire is mentioned, possible demonic symbol is shown.

Adult Themes: Story hints at sex before marriage.

Brief Alcohol Use: Cutscene shows character drinking wine.

There’s nothing quite like a good mystery. After all, who doesn’t like trying to put all the pieces together before the end? I guess we like to think we can outthink the best detectives of fiction. In some cases, it doesn’t take much. It’s all but given to us on a silver platter. On occasion however, the mystery is put together in just the right way, and we’re left puzzling over it until the end when all is finally revealed. I’m rather fond of those sorts of mysteries. After all, where’s the fun if we can figure it out with little to no effort? There are some names associated with the latter sort of mystery. Much to my surprise, a new contender arrived in 2009 to add his name to the list and from all places, a video game: Professor Hershel Layton.

The Professor Layton series began with the DS title, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, putting players into the shoes of a British professor who, along with his young apprentice Luke, unravels mysteries. The game required that you use your brain to solve a multitude of puzzles that drove the story forward; an interesting change of pace in my opinion. Apparently, gamers thought so as well because a year later, the next title hit the stores: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box.

Plot

Diabolical Box, as you could deduce, revolves around the titular object, an artifact known as the Elysian Box. It’s not a box most would be happy to own because it is rumored that the box harbors a terrible curse that will kill whoever opens its lid. And it just so happens that the box ends up in the hands of Professor Layton’s mentor, Dr. Schrader. Layton and Luke arrive at the good doctor’s home only to find Schrader dead and the box missing. After taking a look around, the pair discovers the only clue to the box’s location: a railroad ticket for a fancy train called the Molentary Express. With ticket in hand, Layton and Luck board the train to unravel this latest mystery. And in the words of Sherlock Holmes, the game is afoot.

Gameplay

Diabolical Box is somewhat of the DS version of the old-time point-and-click adventure games. Players use the Touch Screen to interact with the current location, which is shown on the top screen. By tapping certain areas, you can talk to characters and find puzzles which either move the story along or provide an interesting diversion. Tapping the shoe icon in the corner of the screen makes arrows appear, and by tapping on those arrows, you can move from location to location.

When you find a puzzle, think carefully. You are given a certain number of points for solving the puzzle and that number decreases with each wrong answer. And it’s only fair to warn you that there are plenty of brain-teasers in this title.

Offensive Content

Mild Violence

Violence is hardly the name of the game in this title, but there are some moments where it does appear. Right when the game gets going, we see poor Dr. Schrader’s dead body on the floor. Later, one of the cutscenes shows a swordfight between Professor Layton and another character. No one gets hurt, but we do see both combatants going at it for a while. Who knew Professor Layton was such a swordsman?

Spiritual Content

As stated earlier, the whole point of this game is to unravel the mystery behind the Elysian Box and the curse it carries with it. This curse is discussed in some length. For the discerning gamer, I can see how this would present a problem. When the box is recovered, Luke comments on the symbol etched on its lid. The symbol does look a little strange and may be interpreted as a demonic emblem. In fact, I believe a few characters come to that conclusion as well. Later on, Layton and Luke encounter a character who is believed to be a vampire.

One of the characters you meet dresses in the manner of a witch, complete with the pointy black hat. The game offers no conclusion as to whether or not she really is a witch, so it falls to players to decide.

Adult Themes

One of the buildings Luke and Layton pass by is a theater, and the owner says that Luke is a bit young for the show. Layton also identifies the theater as a cabaret, which essentially a nightclub of sorts. This is not expanded on nor is the theater entered at any point. A more surprising element, on the other hand, is found in the story.

************Spoiler Alert****************

At one point, part of the story suggests that two characters had sex while they were engaged. It plainly states that a character left her fiancé when she was pregnant. While the issue is not discussed in detail, some minds may be able to put two and two together, so some discussion may be needed.

************Spoilers End****************

Brief Alcohol Use

One of the early cutscenes shows passengers on the Molentary Express drinking what appears to be wine.

Conclusion

I at first didn’t know what to make of the Professor Layton series. Puzzle games just didn’t seem all that interesting for me. Then I popped Diabolical Box into my DS. Even I was surprised by how entertaining the game was. Oh, the puzzles were a different area, but this game has quite the story, which I find enjoyable. Despite the almost childish look of the game, this is one title I wouldn’t recommend to children however. The puzzles did get harder, and I don’t know if a lot of young children would be able to handle a lot of them. Plus, the story does cover some pretty mature topics for the recommended players.

While most of it would probably fly over the head of younger gamers, there would probably some uncomfortable questions to answer as well. Although, I will also say don’t be overly concerned with most of the content issues above. I can’t say much without spoiling the entire story, but I will tell you everything turns out all right. But I can still understand that the discerning gamers may take issue with the notion of curses, demonic symbols, and the subtle wink at premarital sex. Too bad the developers had to go that road. They are the only marks on an otherwise readily-recommendable DS title.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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