07 November 2009

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

On my many cross-country travels, portable video games make up one of the staples of my airport-stress avoidance. On my most recent trip, I picked up a copy of the second game in the Professor Layton series: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box.

I like this series of games -- although the plot is aimed at younger children (which makes the twists and turns almost blindingly obvious to people with an attention span above five minutes), the puzzles can be quite tricky. At least, they were in the first game. I've found the second game to be much easier, in general; part of this may be, however, because my job increasingly resembles the puzzles in the game, so I may just be more practiced at seeing through bizarrely stated questions.

The puzzles are very fun, however. Unlike many other puzzle games, where you're required to solve slight variations of the same puzzle hundreds of times (Sudoku games, I'm looking at you), the puzzles in the Professor Layton series are very free-form. They include multiple-choice puzzles, math puzzles, route-planning, and the whole gamut in between. Several of the puzzles are classics, such as variants of the Eight Queens puzzle and Knight's Tour. The puzzles were created by Japanese puzzle phenom Akira Tago, who created a wide variety of new puzzles intended to take advantage of the capabilities of the Nintendo DS.

Diabolical Box contains at least 150 puzzles, ranging from the blindingly obvious to nail bitingly frustrating, all separated by a slow plot involving a gold box and a murder mystery. Highly recommended for people who either love puzzle games or do a lot of travelling and are sick of Sudoku.

Wheel of Time Failure

I've finally given up on rereading the whole wheel of time series. I managed to make it to the eighth book, Path of Daggers, which put me at 2.25 million words into the series before I completely ran out of steam. My brother reminded me, however, that I stopped at a good point -- the series itself starts to get slow in Path of Daggers, with apparently next to no real movement for the next four books. Lots of events, I'm sure, since the series has to be making progress towards its climax in book fourteen or fifteen. Maybe someday I'll make more progress, too.