Like the yearly FIFA instalments but much cooler, Professor Layton games seem to have settled into a regular cycle of yearly updated unlike the tiny incremental squad changes, improved player impact engines and a bunch of other stuff we don't really notice, each Layton game brings with it a whole new story, oodles of new puzzles and much, much more. And now, comes this October (although the exact date still remains a mystery worthy of the Professor himself) we'll be getting to grips with the puzzling Professor all over again - this time, in 3D.
Set in the fictional city of Montdol (which may be familiar to those of you who have seen the Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva film), during their eighteenth anniversary celebrations, Luke and Layton are enjoying the scenery when, suddenly, something causes the crowds and street performers flee. As the crowds disperse, Luke and Layton discover that some people have been turned into statues, seemingly at the hands of the mysterious masked Gentleman of Miracles, who then disappears into thin air. Never liking to leave a puzzle unsolved, Hershel Layton, his apprentice Luke and assistant Emmy set about solving the mystery in the usual puzzle-filled adventure.
Along with the puzzles, as the story unfolds, you'll also get a glimpse at the Professor's past, and the events of an archaeological dig eighteen years ago, with school friend Lando Ascard although judging by the trailer, this expedition was a heck of a lot more exciting/dangerous than those one's they show on the likes of Time Team, where the highlight of the show was Phil finding a single chunk of flint, or which crazy colourful jumper Mick was wearing today.
Some five games in, we've kind of got the hang of what to expect from a Professor Layton game a funky, unwinding story with some unusual characters, and more puzzles than a cacophony of cranium testers at a puzzle convention... or something. Packed full of brain teasers, sliding puzzles, logic problems, and those annoying ones where you have to split up a field into three parts so that all the siblings get a well, monkey and a patch of flowers, there's plenty of chances to engage the old grey matter, with a number that'll keep you up until the early hours. Seeing as it's also been completely redesigned from the original DS concept version to make better use of the Nintendo 3DS' features, we're a tad concerned that we may well be in for more three-dimensional puzzles, as well - which may prove a little bit annoying for those of us who can't do 3D. And as with every Layton game so far, Miracle Mask will have a series of free, downloadable puzzles released post-launch, with a whopping 365 (or one a day, for a year) drip fed in weekly packs of seven puzzles all automatically downloaded through SpotPass.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is due out later this year on the Nintendo 3DS so those of you that haven't upgraded to the latest handheld console ought to think about doing so fairly soon, if you want to continue Layton's adventures. It's a good job Nintendo have recently announced that 3DS XL, with much, much bigger screens then, isn't it. The perfect puzzling companion. Until then, here's a trailer for the new game, that's worth watching just for the shots of the puzzling professor sans top hat: