I’ve come to the realization recently that the world is an increasingly scary place. It’s so full of darkness and wickedness, sometimes to the point that it feels like the light is gone. But light can always be found in darkness. Sometimes it’s just a flicker, a candle in the distance. But we continue to reach for it, and strive for better and brighter. Unfortunately, the bigger lights may be out of reach some days. And friends, that is completely okay. Today, I want to take a step back from what I normally do, and tell you about the solace I have found. Solace in Professor Layton.

Before we start, what IS Professor Layton?

Professor Layton is a puzzle adventure series that started in Japan in 2007 with The Curious Village. The Professor made his international debut in 2008, a full year after the Japanese release. The series continued with Pandora’s Box and The Lost Future, both of which received their Japanese releases first. A prequel trilogy following how Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke met, and the early days of their mystery-solving. These were called The Spectre’s Call, Miracle Mask, and The Azran Legacy. The puzzles for all six of these entries were done by the legendary Akira Tago, who sadly passed in 2016. The last mainline entry was 2017’s Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy. This entry follows Katrielle, daughter of the titular Professor.

There are spin-offs for the series, including the mobile game Layton Brothers and a cross-over in the form of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. A new mainline game entitled Professor Layton and the New World of Steam has also just been announced. Unfortunately, there’s no release date on this so far.

Puzzle gaming?

Over the three years, I’ve been with GamEir, I’ve never tackled full-blown puzzle games. There have been games involving puzzles, but none where they were the focus. Honestly, when I told my friends that I was playing through the Professor Layton series, I think I confused them. This is definitely not my usual thing.

This started as a nostalgic journey for me. I remember being a little kid, doing my very best to get through The Curious Village. Realistically, I sucked. Some of the puzzles clicked and made sense to me, some didn’t. My poor family, though, who came near me while I was playing, were coerced into helping. Thankfully, there hasn’t been a repeat of this as an adult. I did need help on a couple of math problems, but other than that? I’ve been doing pretty well on my own.

A chunk of my gaming currently is ruled by nostalgia, so when I saw Professor Layton and the Curious Village in the wild, I had to have it. That, my friends, is where our journey really starts. Things are going to start getting heavy from here, so if you’d like to dip out now, that’s okay.

Finding Layton

This new journey started for me over the Christmas period. Although, it feels like longer.

On Christmas Eve, we got a call to let us know that my Nanny had taken ill. That’s the thing, with having elderly relatives, anything can happen at any given moment. I felt my whole world fall out from under me. Everything crumbled, and nothing made sense. Sleep was broken, practically non-existent. The constant fear that the phone would ring in the middle of the night. And there was nothing I could do. Usually, I can offer some kind of comfort or level of care. I look after my family when they’re sick, help out with everything I can, I’m there. But suddenly, there was nothing anyone could do. Everything was out of our control. Thankfully, Nanny did recover, to a point. She’ll be 88 on Saturday (Feb 18th).

However, the grief was overwhelming. I shut down. Nothing felt right. Everything felt like an impossible hurdle like all the light had drained from the world. Truth be told, it still feels like that a lot of days. I’ve picked up and put down so many games to try and distract myself, but nothing worked. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so useless in my life. There was nothing I could say or do that would help, there was no solution, and there is no happy ending. In a sense, that’s just life. We can’t always have a happy ending. There isn’t always a definitive answer.

And then one day, I saw Professor Layton and the Curious Village on the shelf in Cex. I had gone in after counselling one afternoon to try to perk myself up. And then, something clicked in me.

A problem I CAN solve

The first night I sat down with Professor Layton was in early January. I dug out my turquoise DS Lite that I’ve had since I was a kid. It was still charged up from the last time I used it. Suddenly, hours passed, but it didn’t feel like it. And for the first time, since we got that initial phone call, I could sleep. I felt peaceful. The world didn’t seem so dark, and my brain didn’t sound so loud. Finally, there was something in front of me that I COULD solve. There were definitive answers and a happy ending. There was hope.

A new outlook appeared before my eyes. Although I can’t fix everything that has happened, and I don’t have an answer for what’s to come, there is still something I can do. There is something I can solve. Admittedly, I never thought I’d be saying that about puzzle games, but here we are. My loud brain has a new purpose and a distraction that gets out the excess energy.

It’s a strange feeling, to find such a deep level of inner peace in a game. Yet that’s what I’ve been experiencing. Complete and utter peace. So now, I have a new goal in gaming: 100% the Professor Layton series, and cherish every moment I spend with the titular Professor.

The path ahead still isn’t clear, and the light isn’t as bright as it used to be. But it’s there, in the distance. We may not be able to reach out and grab it yet, but one day we will. It’s okay to take each day as it comes. I’m going to continue playing Professor Layton, chipping away at the puzzles day by day. Holding onto that solace, that inner peace, for as long as I can.

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