It's the tried and tested Professor Layton formula, albeit with 165 new puzzles to work through. From my time with the game, there didn't appear to be any major differences in its structure or mechanics, but this shouldn't be considered a bad thing. Ultimately, a new Professor Layton game simply needs a new story, and new puzzles. I'm already confident that the story will be the best yet, I'm just left hoping that the puzzles don't succumb to the thoughtless trial and error that occasionally popped up in Pandora's Box.
With the gatecrasher identified and presumably booted from the premises, the event continues. Prime Minister Bill Hawks takes to the stage, introducing the demonstration and emphasising the gravity of its importance. "Is it real?" he asks Stahgun. "Have a seat and see for yourself!" the doctor replies. After much hesitation, Hawks agrees and takes a seat in the intricate dome-shaped device. Switch thrown, the contraption is brought to life, wheezing and panting in strange mechanical groans. Something is clearly wrong. After a series of visible malfunctions, the demonstration is brought to an end, but both Hawks and Stahgun are nowhere to be seen, quite possibly lost in timeless limbo.
With the stage for the mystery set the action returns to London, where Layton and Luke are on their way to a clock shop, as directed by the mysterious letter. Not surprisingly, the directions to the shop are cryptic, leading to another puzzle. This time the clock shop must be located using a series of time-based numbers, the list reading 12.00, 03.00, 12.00, 09.00 and 06.00. The idea is to translate the ambiguous list into a tangible set of directions, and to then apply them to the maze-like map on the bottom screen. Using my magnificently powerful brain, I was able to do this in a matter of seconds, embracingthe influx of endorphins as I watched the familiar 'Correct!' animation.
As per usual, I came away from the game with an intense feeling of satisfaction. The Professor Layton games have always done a fantastic job at making you feel clever, and Unwound Future is no exception. The puzzle-solving and Picarat-collecting appear to be just as addictive as ever, and the few puzzles I tried didn't contain a hint of trial and error. More than anything else, I'm interested to see how the story pans out. Presumably a teenage, time-travelling Luke will make an appearance at some point, and I can't wait to see how Level 5 portrays him.
If I had a future version of myself able to post objects through time, I'd probably get him to mail me a copy of Unwound Future so I can find out, but I suspect that doing so would probably cause some irreparable damage to the space time continuum. Unfortunately, it's probably safer just to wait until the game's released later on in the year.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is available on Nintendo DS Autumn 2010