Excellent game with fantastic messages - can be upsetting
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a brilliant, vibrant, and entertaining sixth installment to the Professor Layton series, although significantly more mature in some ways than the rest of the series. Although it can be enjoyed alone, for full understanding of the story arc and characters, you will need to play the fourth game (Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call), watch the film (Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva) which is set between the fourth and fifth games, and play the fifth game (Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask).
The usual messages promoting caring, friendship, non-violence, logical thinking, and responsibility are present here, although it also includes more nuanced messages. Characters learn that bad people can become good and selfless. Different fictional cultures around the world and their customs (loosely based on real ones) are shown in a positive light. A young boy shows extreme bravery when he chooses to sacrifice his own life to save others, and his decision is followed by other characters. One character must accept that her father figure is a dangerous person, and chooses to be loyal to her friends over her family. The ambition-fuelled greed and ruthlessness of one character is punished harshly and dramatically (no violence is shown). The main characters are consistently selfless, helpful, and brave - excellent role models.
The game requires no dexterity or speed, but difficulty comes in the forms of puzzles scattered throughout the world, which increase in difficulty as the game progresses. Most of these are skippable, but some are not. Four increasingly revealing hints are available for each puzzle in exchange for hint coins, an in-game currency the player can collect by probing suspicious objects in each location. At some points, the plot cannot be advanced until the player has solved a certain number of puzzles, which can be frustrating. The player could get stuck on an unskippable puzzle, but even if the hints aren't enough, there are numerous online guides written by fans providing the answers.
Although the Common Sense guide covers all of the violence in the game, there are intense and upsetting moments which it does not mention:
-A teenage girl (looks to be around 14) stands on the edge of a skyscraper, and is about to commit suicide as she believes her existence threatens the lives of her friends. The main characters manage to talk her down.
-A woman holds a young boy hostage, and holds a sharp shard of ice to his neck for a whole scene. She threatens to cut his throat if the main character does not comply with her requests. She holds back tears as she does this and is clearly conflicted.
-A man is hit by a laser trap, and is badly injured. He groans in pain, and is unable to walk. He is later revealed to be fine.
-In a flashback, two brothers are living as orphans. The older brother (aged around 10) says goodbye to the younger brother (aged 5) as he gives him to his new adoptive parents. Both boys are clearly upset, and the older one knows that they will not see each other again.
-A horde of flying robots blow up a town full of people. No bodies are shown.
-Five main characters, including an 11-year-old boy, voluntarily stand in beams of deadly light in order to save the human race. The scene is intense, and lasts around a minute: they cry out in pain, and each character's expression is shown close up. They all drop dead, and their bodies are shown. They are subsequently resurrected. My 9-year-old sister was very upset by this scene (bear in mind she is an extremely sensitive child), although she was comforted when they came back to life. Seeing the body of the young boy particularly affected her.
-A main character (a teenage girl) fades away into white light as she dies. A young boy cries at this. Children might be upset to say goodbye to her.
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This title should be suitable for 9-year-olds, although care should be taken with particularly sensitive children. Children can play independently, although some puzzles may cause frustration. Difficult puzzles provide opportunity for families to work together to solve them. Overall, this is a lovely game, which adults, teens, and children will enjoy.