Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights Review
Game: Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights
Available on: Nintendo 3DS only
There have been a lot of adventure puzzle games on the Nintendo DS in recent years, Professor Layton obviously being the most popular of the lot, but with the most recent Professor Layton game failing to make its way to the new Nintendo 3DS, Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights is more than happy to take its place. Does it fill the gap left by the monster of handheld puzzle gaming or does it leave the player wanting more of something else?
STORY: The story in Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights is extremely loose, just as you would expect from a puzzle game. That said, it does feel a little more fleshed out than games such as Professor Layton, which is mostly down to the fact that the open world aspect of the game makes the players feel like they’re actually a part of the would and are an integral part of the story on the whole.
The story can be rather complex, with corrupted officials, backstabbing friends and strange mysteries quickly becoming the norm. The good doctor’s addiction to mysteries becomes apparent within the first half hour of gameplay as he almost literally pushes Sophie, his companion, to one side in order to be the first to solve a new puzzle a potential client has brought to him. This carries on throughout the entire game and Lautrec, almost annoyingly, gets all of the puzzles and mysteries his addiction can handle while poor Sophie is left mumbling the answer to herself the corner. This almost instantly causes the player to dislike Doctor Lautrec because of his attitude and things never really get any better.
GRAPHICS: The art style is one of the best aspects of Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights, with almost everything being displayed in a very anime style throughout the whole game. The parts where it’s not in the anime style are the open world sections, when Doctor Lautrec is running around Paris looking for the next clue to a puzzle or the entrance to a new area. Even these parts – which are generally displayed using 3D models – have a very distinct art style, looking much more like a J-RPG instead of a puzzle game.
There aren’t many of them, but the FMVs that can be seen in various areas of the game are stunning and certainly add to the overall jovial feeling of the whole game. The only downside is that much like the rest of the game, the visuals are screaming to be compared to Professor Layton, which also has a very anime style to its art direction. It’s almost impossible to compare the two but I do think that Doctor Lautrec is the better looking game; it is on the 3DS though, so in theory it should look better, with all that potential power to throw at the visuals.
Speaking of the 3DS, it’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the 3D aspect of the game. Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights makes the 3D look good by using it very carefully, only bringing it out when it can make the experience even better. You won’t see it in all areas in the game, except in the background if you’re paying attention, but when you do notice it, it’s certainly worth looking at.
SOUND: The sound design in Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a game such as this. All of the cutscenes that happen in the game are fully voiced and while this is a good thing in the long run, the voice acting isn’t the best and often sounds unintentionally cheesy. The whole game comes off as a little lighthearted though, so the player probably wouldn’t notice the cheesy dialogue as it all fits into the overall presentation quite well.
The music of the game is the same really, it’s there and for the most part it does exactly what it’s supposed to be doing; makes the player feel certain emotions at certain points in the game. The quality of the speakers in the Nintendo 3DS do the music quality a disservice as they’re the main cause for the tinny quality; although that’s not the fault of the game.
GAMEPLAY: I would love to be able to say that the gameplay in Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights relies heavily on the solving of puzzles and other elements which require a little bit of thought on the player’s part, but sadly that’s not the case. When looking at the game everything about it screams to the player that it’s a Professor Layton style game, everything from the main investigator with an educated title, to the young sidekick and the addiction to the solving of puzzles (or mysteries as Doctor Lautrec calls them), but the fact is that in the first 2 hours of gameplay I solved a grand total of three puzzles; I was even given the answers to these as they essentially act as tutorials. Needless to say I wasn’t impresses, I’d sat down with my Nintendo 3DS with my cup of coffee to play a puzzle game, not to run around Paris for two hours looking for hugely obvious fleur-de-lis all over the place.
That being said, running around Paris trying to find the entrances to the secret underground areas of Paris does give the player a sense of immersion and adventure. The player is given a written clue as to the basic whereabouts of the secret entrance and it’s up to them to figure it out, go to the place and find the entrance (by looking around the area in a first person view and finding the fleur-de-lis). While this does give the player a sense of immersion within the story the most obvious downside is that if you, as a player, don’t have intimate knowledge of Paris then a lot of the clues will go right over your head and you’ll resort to simply walking around all of the potential areas, talking to everyone that has an exclamation mark above their head (indicating that they know something about the current clue) until the next area of progression is unlocked and Doctor Lautrec or Sophie figure out the answer on their own, without any input from you whatsoever.
The reason most people will be playing Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights in the first place will be because of the puzzles and, even though they don’t appear as often as people will want, when they do appear they’re relatively entertaining. The trouble is that if you’ve played any of the Professor Layton games then it’s almost impossible to play this without comparing the two, and Doctor Lautrec is sadly – without a doubt – the inferior of the two. The puzzles take on the same form, the main puzzle in the centre and then a couple of hints to help you along should you need them along with a tutorial before the puzzle starts to get you into the swing of things. When the puzzles do appear they are enjoyable and that’s the biggest let down, considering how sporadically the puzzles appear I almost wanted them to be bad, if they were bad I wouldn’t have been wishing there were more, I’d have been content with running around Paris solving the text riddles and finding secret entrances. As it stands the puzzles are quite good and the fact that you can go an hour without another one at times is rather infuriating.
LONGEVITY: A lot of people will be able to get a lot of enjoyment out of Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights, the puzzle elements will keep people that enjoy puzzles interested and the RPG and exploration elements will keep the rest of the people picking up their 3DS on the way to work every morning. There’s plenty to do, lots of exploration and puzzle to complete as well as side missions and other things that the game promises over the long term. Other games will take the attention away from Doctor Lautrec but the amount of things on offer will make sure that at least some people will continuously be coming back for more and more.
VERDICT: Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights suffers from the fact that it will invariably be compared to the hugely popular Professor Layton series of games – and with good reason – they are very similar. There are a good amount of puzzles available throughout the game and when they do appear they’re fun to play, it’s just a let down that they only comes around every so often. The RPG element is a nice little addition but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Doctor Lautrec is a puzzle game with a severe lack of regular puzzles.