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Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £33
inc VAT

Level-5's grand puzzle master bows out on a high note despite some teething problems with new story structures

People often say it’s the tricky middle chapter that defines a compelling trilogy, but we’d venture it’s always the dramatic conclusion that holds the greatest stake in people’s memories. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy has a lot to live up to in that case, as it’s not only the final game in a trilogy of prequels, but it’s also the last game in Level-5’s popular puzzle series to feature the titular professor.

This puts Azran Legacy at a rather odd juncture, as fans of the series already know what the future holds for Layton and his young apprentice Luke, but that certainly hasn’t stopped Level-5 from trying something new for the professor’s (sort of) last act.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
The Professor’s adventure begins when he hears about a so-called “living mummy”

Whereas previous entries have confined themselves to a single location, Azran Legacy begins on a much grander scale. With a little help from newcomer Professor Sycamore’s airship, it’s an adventure that spans right across the globe, from frozen tundras to blistering deserts and tropical jungles. It’s by far the professor’s biggest adventure to date, and after a certain point you even get the freedom to visit each new place in whatever order you like.

This newfound agency is a far cry from the strictly linear affairs we’ve seen in previous games and it shakes up the game’s structure with a refreshing change of pace. Puzzles are still the universal currency that drive the plot forward, with hint coins and hidden items practically bursting out of chimneys and window sills, but more of them are tied directly into the game’s story than ever before. For instance, chase scenes become intricate mazes while aerial pursuits become quick-fire games of spot the difference, and it’s to Level-5’s credit how well they pull them off. It doesn’t sound particularly riveting on paper, we must admit, but the action never suffers because of it.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes

Locations are as beautiful as ever and each one has their own theme and flavour. 3D centrepieces constantly dominant the top screen while you poke around with the stylus on the touchscreen, and tapping various objects will now trigger small animation sequences that help bring each place to life. It’s not much – a beetle being eaten by a lightning-tongued chameleon or rustling trees as birds erupt from a canopy is about as interactive as it gets – but it all helps in making them feel like living, breathing places.

At the same time, though, we couldn’t help but feel like Level-5 had spread its ideas a little too thinly in this worldwide tour, as none of the new locations possessed the same kind of depth or originality shown in places like Miracle Mask’s Monte d’Or or the ghostly Misthallery from The Spectre’s Call. The vibrant locals certainly do their best to spice up the game’s lengthy globe-trotting section (the fish-faced residents of lakeside town Kodh and the mushroom-shaped bouffants of the Phong Gi tribesmen were particularly favourites), but with so much ground to cover, there’s precious little time to get lost in them before you’re whisked away to your next destination.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
With so many different locations, Level-5’s art team have outdone themselves

This is partly due to their rather compact size, but the deeper problem lies in the increased number of individual mini-mysteries that are tied to each environment. These could almost be entire games in themselves if they were fleshed out more thoroughly, but most are so fleeting and throwaway that they ultimately fall flat when it comes to the final pay off. Professor Layton mysteries have always been a bit daft, but here they serve the plot rather than enhance it, and we missed the gradual tease of clues that peppered previous instalments. Had Level-5 woven them all together into one grand climax like past games, Azran Legacy could have been the Broadchurch of all Layton games, but when you’ve already solved most of the main mysteries before you’ve even hit the game’s home stretch, it leaves many of them feeling inconsequential.

To be fair, the amount of extra content to get stuck in with goes a long way to make up for any quibbles we had with the story structure. Articles from the World Times newspaper provide clues for bonus puzzles in areas you’ve already visited, and Streetpass challenges turn Azran Legacy into a point-and-click adventure by hunting down various background objects for points and collectibles. There’s also a year of free daily DLC puzzles, plus an extra twenty to get you started, taking the total puzzle count to a huge 550 if you include all the main story puzzles as well.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Phong Gi is either a loving homage to Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom or someone at Level-5 has a worrying fungi fixation

With so much to keep you entertained, it’s hard to dislike Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. It may not have the same head-scratching mysteries as previous adventures, but it’s a nevertheless a fine conclusion to the series and it’s refreshing to see Level-5 trying a different tack before Layton hangs up his famous cylindrical hat. Fans of the series will have seen most of it before, but puzzle enthusiasts won’t be disappointed.



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