With a storyline centered on lost loves and vengeance, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask was a cut unlike its ancestors.
As the second to the last game in the long-running Layton franchise, it’s quite a wonder how the game hasn’t lost its charm, despite the seemingly repetitive cycle of gameplay: namely, solving puzzles to progress through the game. Simplicity, I think, is a trick only Layton can pull off. Or, rather, its ability to assume simplicity when everything underneath the surface is actually one hell of a gem.
Throughout the franchise, Layton has invested on puzzles–ranging from the elementary ones to the real brain-crackers–and its plot. And really good ones, at that. As such, it’s position as a gaming classic is something that it artfully earned and deserved. Unlike the other games, though, Miracle Mask’s story focuses more on friendships betrayed, riches and loves lost, and revenge–a far cry from the past tales that were almost always guaranteed to be tearjerkers.
Last Specter, the game I played before Miracle Mask, boasted a really, really touching ending which almost made me cry (I had to stop myself since I finished it at school). The story itself was very beautiful as it was coupled with emotional orchestral music. If you look at Miracle Mask, the subject of the story has become more mature, in a sense, thus taking it away from the usual story trend that has been established in previous games. That didn’t turn everything sour, though, as it offered a really new taste. I was–am–at a loss on how to react to it.
Now that I think about it, however, I think Miracle Mask is a good story in its own right. It is just that Miracle Mask has, in a way, lost the whimsical quality that the other stories possessed. The discovery of the mask as not having magical qualities, (despite its origin), Randall’s disillusionment, his amnesia–the very foundations of the story was tainted with elements of “the real world”. Although there is redemption on Randall’s part, the act of love between the characters has a more grown-up aura to it. It is not like the village which was made for a daughter left alone, or the desire of a giant manatee-looking friend to protect the town it was born into.
Perhaps the fact that Miracle Mask is, essentially, a look into Layton’s life factors into this sort of uneasy feeling. Throughout the game, we’ve seen Layton as the puzzle-solving, tea-loving gentleman. But now, we see the past, his teenage years, which made him who he is. Although we also saw this in Unwound Future, Miracle Mask takes it to a whole different level. We’re able to see him when he was most vulnerable, losing a friend in his teenage years, blaming himself and getting blamed for it.
We saw Layton without the top hat and the overcoat. And in a sense, we matured with him.