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Chinese Game Review: Professor Layton and the Curious Village 雷顿教授与不可思议的小镇

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feihong

Platform(s): Nintendo DS (you can also play it in an emulator on almost any platform)

Where to buy: You can't buy it, it's an unofficial translation of the Japanese game, so you have to search for the Chinese name and you can download it from one of many ROM sites

Release Date: February 15, 2007

Chinese Level Required: HSK5+, I guess. But it's playable even if you aren't close to that level, as the game lets you read the text as slowly as you want.

Languages: Chinese (simplified characters), parts of the UI are in Japanese

Chinese voices/dub: It's based on the Japanese version, so the narration is all in Japanese

 

This is a classic puzzle game that is incidentally pretty good practice for Chinese. There are basically two types of text in this game: dialogues and puzzle descriptions. Dialogues are pretty easy, the story is simple and it's supposed to be kid-friendly so there isn't much fancy vocabulary. But the puzzle descriptions were often quite difficult for me. This is because I'm not used to reading precise descriptions of quantitative and spatial relationships. If you need or want to use Chinese in a technical or scientific setting, this is good practice.

 

Fortunately, if you don't quite understand what is being said, the hint system is quite generous. Each puzzle has 3 hints, and you can choose to reveal them progressively. In many cases, the last hint stops just short of telling you the answer. Therefore, you don't need to be very good at puzzles to get through this game, and, in reality, you will probably get more Chinese practice if you're bad at puzzles because you'll end up reading more hints.

 

Most puzzles are essentially brainteasers. All of them fit on a single screen, with the top half showing the explanation of what needs to be solved, and the bottom half displaying a custom interface that allows you to submit your answer.

 

The Good

  • High degree of polish. There are even some very well-done animated scenes sprinkled throughout the game.
  • There is a lot of content, in total there are 120 puzzles! I took 15 hours to beat the game, and I didn't even solve each puzzle.
  • There is a great variety in the types of puzzle you are given to solve.
  • The difficulty is spread out. Even very late in the game, you'll still get some easy puzzles. This prevents your brain from getting too fatigued while playing this game for longer time periods.

 

The Bad

  • All the spoken dialogue is in Japanese.
  • Much of the UI is in Japanese. But the interface is fairly simple and it doesn't take a long time to memorize what each menu item does.
  • Very few of the puzzles have anything to do with the plot.
  • There are a number of word puzzles, and they are mostly unsolvable unless you know Japanese (they aren't really translatable to Chinese). You can opt to skip them, though.
  • There are a lot of places in the game where you just wander around the map clicking on characters to see if they'll give you a puzzle to solve. This can feel a bit pointless because the curious village isn't very large and you're essentially backtracking.

 

Strategies

  • Except for the toughest puzzles in the game, you probably won't get stuck if you understand everything that you're reading. Note that some puzzles are described in a purposefully misleading way. There are a number of puzzles that would fall in the category of "trick question". You can get a rough idea of how difficult a puzzle is by looking at how many points it’s worth. I believe “hard” puzzles are designated as 50 points and above.
  • If you really want to solve the word puzzles, it is easy for look for their solutions on Google. For example, if you want to know the solution for puzzle 88, you would search for "雷顿教授与不可思议的小镇 88".
  • In the cases where you must enter kana, remember that stroke direction for Japanese characters can be different. Most of the type, it is exactly as you would expect, but in at least one case, it's the opposite.
  • It costs a "hint coin" to reveal a hint. Randomly click all over every screen to find hidden hint coins.
  • If you are using a lot of hint coins, you might want to conserve them by using the instant save feature of emulators. That is, you can do a save right as you start a puzzle, reveal all  hints, solve the puzzle, then load from your last save point immediately after and redo the puzzle without using any hints.

 

This game is more than ten years old, so it runs great in emulators. If you have an Android phone whose screen isn't too small, it's very easy to play because the interface is completely touch-based (just hide the on-screen controls because they'll get in the way of the text). I personally recommend the DraStic DS Emulator on Android, and OpenEmu on Mac. One of the problems with this game is that it's old enough to be using an aliased font that can take a bit of getting used to. This is mostly unavoidable, I think, since the DS just didn't have a high resolution screen.

 

I should note that there is an official Chinese translation of this game that came out earlier this year. However, it is only available on China-specific app stores and at present you can't purchase them unless you have a Chinese payment method. I'm sure that it won't include unsolvable Japanese word puzzles, although I don't know what they would be replaced with (perhaps puzzles from the English version).

 

Screenshot_20200912-171257.jpgScreenshot_20200906-160353.jpgScreenshot_20200830-140752.jpg

 

More video game reviews

 

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StChris

Thanks for the in-depth review. I might give it a try after I've finished with Ace Attorney.

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