Game essentials: Layton: Curious Village
We take a closer look at the App Store’s must-play games.
Layton: Curious Village in HD
The Original Puzzle Game
This world of brain-tickling riddles gives you plenty to ponder, and it’s all wrapped up inside a fascinating story that’s a puzzle in itself. As our hero Professor Hershel Layton suggests, “Critical thinking is the key to success.”
Layton arrives in the village of St. Mystere with his young apprentice, Luke, attracted by an heirloom left behind by a wealthy Baron after his death. No one knows what this so-called Golden Apple might be, but if anyone can find out, it’s our scholarly hero.
The introduction, like the game’s other story sequences, looks like a classic European animation while the plot could belong to a gentle Sunday afternoon drama. The two leads make for an appealingly odd pairing, Layton’s clipped upper-class vowels contrasting nicely with Luke’s ‘Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins’ accent – one of many endearing quirks that add to the quaint Olde England charm.
Soon the mysteries begin to pile up: between a loud noise at the manor, a disappearing crank for the drawbridge at the village entrance, and the identity of an unknown woman in a painting, there are plenty of smaller riddles to consider before getting to the bottom of the central conundrum.
In the meantime, you’ve got puzzles of your own to solve. And often they’re tied directly to the story. On the way to St. Mystere, for example, Layton pulls out a map and you’re given a single clue to locate the village – it’s the only one not connected to another by road.
At other times, certain sights and sounds will remind the Professor of a puzzle. Try this one on for size: starting from noon, how many times do a clock’s hands pass over each other during a 12-hour period? (The answer’s probably not what you think.)
You’ll see variants on famous riddles, like the classic river-crossing puzzle, illustrated here with pixel-art wolves and chicks. Some require simple logic, some lateral thinking, and others good old-fashioned mental arithmetic. Though as a general rule if you’re spending more than a few seconds doing sums, you’re missing an obvious answer.
A few are deviously worded, so make sure you re-read the questions before submitting your answer. And if you’re stuck, you can spend one of your supply of hint coins: you’ll find more by tapping on suspicious-looking scenery as you explore, further rewarding your curiosity.
One of the highlights of Curious Village is the way the answers are revealed. A clock ticks, while the Professor (or Luke) looks quizzical. And you wait in tense anticipation of that expression changing to a grin, letting you know you got it right. It never gets old.
Each puzzle offers a number of ‘picarats’ for getting it right, with the total reducing after each wrong answer. Yet the Professor’s anguished frown is more than enough to make you want to double-check your working next time, just so you don’t disappoint him.
If that wasn’t enough, you’ll occasionally earn bonus rewards, which encourages you to seek out the hidden puzzles scattered throughout St. Mystere. Collectable gizmos can be assembled into a robotic canine companion, while pieces of furniture brighten up Layton and Luke’s rooms at the inn, and scraps of an old painting eventually fit together into a delightful portrait.
Finally, if you’re finding the puzzles to be rather tenuously linked to the plot, a wonderful narrative rug-pull suddenly makes sense of it all. That Curious Village should save its best riddle for last is a sign of the critical thinking the Professor is so fond of – and that’s exactly what makes his debut adventure such a triumph.