'Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy'

From: Nintendo

Rated: E 10+

Who's it for: Puzzle fans looking for a deep dive into an expansive game

Console: 3DS

Grade: B

'NES Remix'

From: Nintendo

Rated: E

Who's it for: Fans of classic NES games

Console: Wii U

Grade: A-

I have a love/hate relationship with the "Professor Layton" games. I love the somewhat silly narrative that can be advanced only by solving puzzles. I hate the fact that some of the puzzles make me want to fling my Nintendo 3DS across the room.

For those unfamiliar with the series, these puzzle games feature a gentleman archeologist named Hershel Layton and his trusty ward, Luke. They are like Batman and Robin — if the Dynamic Duo drank tea while wearing three-piece suits.

"Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy" is the sixth game in the two-triology series and, according to developer Level-5, it will be the last to feature the titular professor as the main character.

Although the gameplay sometimes conflicts with the narrative — yes, I know we're chasing this bad guy, but a gentleman always stops to solve a puzzle — the games did an excellent job weaving a complex story that carried over from one installment to the next.

"Azran Legacy" is the final part of the second trilogy, which is a prequel to the first trilogy. Don't worry about getting too confused, though; the game holds up on its own.

If, however, you want to experience the story in full, you should pick up "Professor Layton and the Last Specter" and "Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask," the first two parts of this trilogy.

While I don't want to spoil any of the story's twisty goodness, I will say this installment is actually heartfelt and emotional.

"Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy" is the sixth game in this two-trilogy series.
"Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy" is the sixth game in this two-trilogy series. (Courtesy photo)

It's no secret that the Professor's assistant, Emmy, leaves after this game (she wasn't in any games in the other trilogy), but the circumstances surrounding that are revealed here in some of the finest storytelling the series has had.

As with the previous games, "Azran Legacy" is split across various chapters, each loaded with puzzles.

Players move from location to location by tapping points on a map. Each location is presented as a single screen, which is explored with a magnifying glass to find clues to a series of mysteries.

At certain points, you can zoom into areas of the scene like the inside of a shop or a hidden space to take a closer look. Talking with people and examining certain objects open puzzles, some optional and some required to progress the story.

During your explorations you also will find hint coins you can use to purchase help in solving each puzzle. These are limited, though, so it is recommended you really work at solving a puzzle before resorting to using them.

The puzzles themselves range from completely logical to those requiring you to think very far outside the box, and while this can be fun sometimes, it's just frustrating at others. You should be able to use whatever information the game gives you to solve a puzzle, and this isn't always the case.

Fortunately, the frustrating puzzles are not the norm, and once you figure out how the game thinks, you should be in good shape.

The "Professor Layton" games aren't for everyone, but if you like mind teasers and love a good yarn, this game, and this series, might be just what the Professor ordered.

A heads-up

I wanted to give a quick shout-out to a small, downloadable game I almost missed.

"NES Remix" is a conglomeration of sorts taking classic NES games and, well, remixing them.

Games such as "Donkey Kong," "Super Mario Bros.," "Excitebike" and "Balloon Fight" are given a number of short challenges. Get through a level as fast as you can, collect certain items or perhaps get through an area with a character from a different game. Anything is fair game.

There are about 200 levels in all, unlocking new ones as you progress. Additionally, each has a three star ranking system — depending on how well you meet the goal — and as an incentive to achieve as many as possible, a special "Remix" section presents even more wacky challenges.

"NES Remix" is an affordable treat at $15 and a must-play for fans of classic NES Games. Look for the sequel to hit in April.