Despite his questionable dress sense, strange obsession with puzzles and fondness for young boys, Professor Layton is actually a bit of a dude. He might not know how to throw a fireball or wield an assault rifle, but that big sexy brain of his has established Layton as one of the more iconic video game characters of recent times. In The Unwound Future, his third outing, Layton once again joins forces with the pre-pubescent whippersnapper Luke to solve another mystery. While Pandora's Box took the trademark puzzling across a series of exciting new locations, Unwound Future presents a mystery of a far greater magnitude: an enigma that spans time and space.
Our first hands-on with the game began with our unlikely duo aboard a big red double-decker bus. Unwound Future is set in London, or at least this section of the game appeared to be. The pair find themselves in Old Blighty after a mysterious letter arrives in Luke's possession. The letter asks for Layton's help in solving a particularly troublesome problem, which Luke finds himself right in the middle of. What's interesting about this is not so much where the letter came from, but when it came from. It transpires that the letter is actually from Luke himself, but a Luke of ten years in the future - an intriguing situation even by Layton's standards.
The narrative gluing the puzzles of the Layton games together has always been fantastically well-crafted, with interesting twists and turns and an outcome that can rarely be predicted. With time travel and all its paradoxes thrown into the mix for the third game, there's every hope that this could be the best instalment yet. As always, the plot is driven through charming animated cutscenes, with a colourful cast of characters and ever-enchanting soundtrack. The word 'quaint' fails to do the series justice.
Being the clever clogs that he is, Layton already thinks he might be onto something, asking Luke to think back to an event that took place the previous week. The playable flashback takes place at the unveiling of a time machine, where Dr Alan Stahgun is ready to show off his fancy new contraption to the world. Layton and Luke find themselves listening to Stahgun as he speaks of particle physics, quantum mechanics and how the new machine will change the face of mankind for all eternity. In the tantalising interval before the machine is turned on, Layton and Luke have a little nosey about.
It's here the first puzzle presents itself. After talking to a security guard, Layton learns that an uninvited guest has managed to sneak into the grounds. Puzzle No. 001 involves working out the interloper’s identity using a good old-fashioned process of elimination. The screen shows an arrangement of tables, each with different coloured table cloths, and some with a decorative flower on top. Using a description of the table on the top screen, the idea is to finger the uninvited guest by drawing a circle around his table. As always, your hard work is rewarded in Picarats (essentially how the game scores puzzles), with the reward dropping the more times you fail the puzzle. If a puzzle proves particularly troublesome, hint coins can be used to purchase clues.