Admittedly, this isn’t strictly a game. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is the first full length movie featuring Level 5‘s perfect puzzle solving gentleman, clocking in at just over an hour and a half. The games on Nintendo DS have always been commended for their original art style and high quality cut scenes, so it was only a matter of time before they decided to try making a film. As a hardened fan of both The Curious Village and The Diabolical Box, I was interested to see how the format would translate onto the big screen.
Professor Layton and Luke listen to a record called ‘The Eternal Diva’, causing them to reminisce about one of their earliest adventures. Janice, an old student of the Professor, sends the pair a letter inviting them to an opera performance centred around gaining eternal life. She explains that there is also a small girl claiming to be the reincarnate of her deceased sister, Melina – and that the two mysteries might somehow be linked. Hoping to discover more about these peculiar revelations, the two companions set off for the Crown Petone opera house.
Layton and Luke quickly find themselves competing for the prize of eternal life. The visitors are trapped in the opera house and must complete a number of puzzles successfully to avoid being eliminated. With the help of musical prodigy Emily and the Professor’s arse kicking assistant Emmy, the pair quickly find themselves unravelling the mystery of an eternal kingdom known as Ambrosia. There are a number of intriguing plot twists, so at least one of them is likely to catch you out. Although the losing competitors are eventually revealed to have been transported back home safely, the threat of risking their lives for the sake of one that is eternal is a gripping and occasionally frightening concept. It provides a healthy balance of youthful humour and minor adult themes.
The superb standard of animation from the handheld outings has been successfully pulled over into the movie format. Professor Layton and Luke Triton have character designs that look both natural and polished, rarely looking static as they run after perpetrators and leap from one puzzle to the next. Every scene is filled with interesting characters that are animated individually and jump out of environments that are already packed with detail. The art style feels incredibly fresh to me, taking the fidelity of Japanese animé and combining it with the quaint, twee feel of European output such as Tintin. More hand drawn productions should take note of the simple beauty in Layton.
In order to stay under budget though, the film uses a considerably amount of CGI for the explosions and action sequences. It’s a tool that animators are used more and more frequently to stay under budget, but is such a shame when considered alongside the superior hand drawn sequences in the film.
The few puzzles utilise the numbering system and music found in the Nintendo DS games, so you’ll feel like you’re being asked to ‘play’ some of the film yourself. They’re not particularly tricky and the answers are explained well enough, but you’ll need to be quick if you want to think out a few solutions on your own; normally it’s less than a minute before Layton or Luke delivers the answer.
There are also a number of neat cameos to watch out for. You’ll see Inspector Chemley and his sidekick racing through London, Dr Schrader examining the Elysian Box on his table and even Granny Riddleton sipping coffee; a friendly reminder that the creators appreciate everyone who has played the games.
The climactic finale outstayed its welcome for me, but otherwise this is a great film that will satisfy all age groups. The production values are high, the voice acting is decent and the soundtrack wraps up a prequel worthy of the Nintendo DS titles. It’s one of the few video games that has made it to cinema without completely losing its original essence, which is an achievement in itself really. It’s worthy of a rental and a purchase once it gets an initial reduction in price.