Release Date: 12/13/2011
Rating: Everyone 10+
For Fans Of: Pokemon, Professor Layton, 19th Century France
Available Exclusively On
The Good: Excellent story and characters, good voice acting, the treasure battles are an interesting concept
The Bad: Battles are poorly explained, badly designed, and not fun to play, boring mystery solving, too many uninteresting characters, 3D effects aren’t very good, dungeons are a pain to get through
One of the best DS series is Professor Layton because of the charming characters, engaging story, and fun puzzles. Doctor Lautrec is similar in story, but far worse in gameplay. The story and ideas are superb and very original, but just poorly executed. You play as Sophie and Doctor Lautrec who are 19th century treasure hunters in France. The game consists of three parts: Battling your treasures, finding your way around labyrinths, and solving door puzzles. The story is about Sophie and Lautrec who find a mysterious deciphering device. Other treasure hunters are after him, but all he wants is the mystery and not the glory.
Let’s start with the treasure battles. These are highly convoluted, poorly explained, and simple to a fault. You fight your treasures known as Treasure Animatus, so think an archeological version of Pokemon. The whole battle system is based on a hierarchy like Humanoid is stronger than Avian which is strong that Aborheal etc, but the chart and symbols don’t make any sense. You place each treasure on a pedestal, but some are cracked which will give you random effects both good and bad. Once you place a treasure you can no longer use it which is completely out of standard RPG battle rules. You can only equip three treasures before entering a dungeon, if you equip the wrong ones you have to leave and do the dungeon all over again. It is very important you explore the entire dungeon because you need to find gems and tame other smaller Animatus for the boss. Most Animatus can be tamed by bringing their health in a blue range. If you kill them they become extinguished and can’t be used for battle.
This all sounds very simple, but is actually really complicated when you play. Even after reading in-depth guides online I still didn’t get it. The most frustrating part, and why I quite after 5 hours, is that you will solve the mystery to get to the dungeon only to realize that your Animatus aren’t strong enough to fight the boss. Sophie will tell you before entering the dungeon how your Animatus will fair because she can sense the boss. If you can’t do any quests you have to buy resurrection stones to bring your Animatus back to life but they are very expensive, so some times you will be screwed. Those gems you collect, that aren’t killed in battle, at the end of each dungeon are turned into experience points that go toward your Animatus. If you get stuck on a boss that kills all your gems except one you will never be able to level them up.
So, you will run around solving all these boring quests just to realize you can’t do that dungeon. The quests involve running around a map to different blue pins and listening to various dialog. Rarely will you get to solve an actual puzzle. The puzzles involve using the touchscreen, but aren’t very interesting. Matching words on a crossword puzzle style grid, making shapes fit on a different shapes, a Minesweeper style mini-game that makes no sense, spot the difference, and a few other boring puzzles. These are far and few between and the only break from the monotonous mystery solving.
Once you get into a dungeon you have to push blocks around, avoid enemies, and dodge traps to get to the various Animatus. The AI is really stupid here because you can push blocks right in front of them and they won’t notice, but run behind them and they chase after you resetting the whole room. These dungeons are not fun and a complete pain to complete.
Between all this nonsense are huge strings of dialog and cut scenes. The anime style ones are nice to look at, but the 3D ones are just awful. The voice acting is really good, but some of the characters are just not interesting to listen to or get to know. The only reason to keep playing it to find out more about the interesting characters and story, but the game is so frustrating to play you will give up quickly. (Just a side note: My rental copy had two saves of only 54 minutes and 90 minutes. That’s how frustrating this game is).
Overall, Doctor Lautrec has a great story and characters, but the puzzles are boring, and spread too thin. The 3D effects alone are minimal and don’t really add anything to the experience. The worst part about the game is the confusing and terrible Pokemon rip-off battle system. I actually can’t even recommend this game to anyone except hardcore puzzle fans.