Video game review: Teasing your brain in 3-D

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Entertainment,Ryan Vogt,Video

For video game characters, there are few career moves as risky as transitioning from 2-D to 3-D. Just ask Sonic the Hedgehog, who was thriving when he was jumping over bad guys, spikes and bottomless pits, but just couldn't make the leap into the third dimension.

'Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask'
» System: 3DS
» Price: $39.99
» Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Professor Layton, on the other hand, slips into 3-D like he's slipping into slippers. For those unfamiliar with the good professor, he's the Jessica Fletcher of the video game world. Everywhere he goes, a mystery crops up. With his young apprentice, Luke, and his assistant, Emmy, by his side, Layton talks to witnesses and searches for clues, just like any other detective. But there's one key difference between Layton's world and ours: Where Layton lives, everyone's obsessed with brainteasers. You can hardly get through a conversation without someone saying, "This reminds me of a puzzle," which they then present to you.

Essentially, a Professor Layton game is one of those brainteaser books you buy at the airport, set to music and pretty pictures. Fans of logic puzzles, riddles and spatial reasoning will love having a puzzle collection strung together by a larger story, and the charming, "Tintin"-esque artwork is further proof that the 3DS' 3-D-without-glasses effect works best with "flat" scenery that comes alive when you turn on the 3-D.

The puzzles are as strong as ever this time around -- though some might say more difficult than usual -- and an enchanting mode that tasks you with running a little shop might be the best side game in the series. What's not as strong as ever is the story. This one's narrative switches between the past and present, like the Nintendo classic "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time," but, like Layton stories of yore, it moves too slowly to gain traction.

The Professor Layton series is one of Nintendo's most consistent. Let's hope it doesn't fall into a slump of careful pleasantness like some other Nintendo franchises have.

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