Common Sense Media Says: OK for kids 12+

Superb puzzler is a smart treat for kids and their parents.

What Parents need to know

Parents need to know that Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is collection of more than 100 puzzles that puts kids' thinkers to the test. It forces players to use logic, employ spatial reasoning skills, think hard about tricky word problems, and apply basic math skills. There's virtually no violence, and the game's generous, smart, and helpful heroes make for terrific role models, acting as proof that calm reasoning and kindness are our best tools when tackling tough mysteries. Parents need to remember that Nintendo is warning all parents not to allow kids age six and under to view the graphics in 3D because that viewing "may cause vision damage." The Nintendo 3DS offers parents the ability to lock out the use of 3D graphics in the system's Parental Controls.

Consumerism:Not applicable

Drinking, drugs, & smoking:Not applicable

Language:Not applicable

Positive messages:This game encourages kids to use their brains to solve problems. It suggests that most of the crises and mysteries in our lives can be solved through careful investigation followed by rational and creative thought. One of the mini-games is about retail strategy. It doesn't try to sell kids anything, but instead makes players think about how stores arrange their wares to entice people to buy more. It's simplistic, but it could get kids to consider how stores they visit in real life strategically arrange products to make them want to buy additional things, such as cheap candies near a cashier.

Ease of play:The game requires a minimum 3rd or 4th grade reading level. The concepts involved in some puzzles are suitable for younger tweens, but the bulk of these conundrums are most appropriate for ages 12 and up. Many will challenge parents, too. Luckily, the game employs a fine hint system that provides bits of information that act as valuable clues (and teaching tutorials) without solving puzzles outright.

Positive role models:The calm, wise, congenial, and reasonable Professor Layton makes for a great role model for kids. He never loses his cool, is always kind, and repeatedly illustrates that logic is one's greatest tool when it comes to solving tough problems. His young assistant Emmy and apprentice Luke embody many of the same qualities as the professor, and may be even more relatable for boys and girls.

Privacy & safety:Not applicable

Sex:Not applicable

Violence:Players don't engage in violence themselves, but animated movie scenes later in the game contain mild frights and depict characters in danger.

What's the story?

The first 3DS game to star Nintendo's dapper doctor, PROFESSOR LAYTON AND THE MIRACLE MASK is another entry in the series' current string of prequels. Layton, his assistant Emmy, and his apprentice Luke travel to the city of Monte d'Or to investigate a series of incidents caused by a mysterious "Masked Gentleman," who is wreaking havoc and scaring tourists. As in past Professor Layton games, players journey from one scene to another, combing for clues by searching around the screen. They'll initiate conversations with peculiar locals -- a clown, a policeman, a shopkeeper -- who often offer our intrepid trio a puzzle of some sort. The bulk of the game is spent solving these puzzles, allowing the story to progress and its many mysteries one-by-one to be resolved. Outside the main narrative lie side-story episodes, loads of interesting virtual objects to collect, and three mini-games that have players guiding a robot through mazes, helping a store owner sell her wares, and training a bunny so he can rejoin his friends in the circus.

Is it any good?

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask looks a bit different than its precursors. The story is presented in 3D on the top screen, with players able to shift perspective by scrolling around using their stylus. However, the rest of the game is, by and large, business as usual -- which is just fine. No other franchise delivers such a broad array of enjoyable brain breakers accessible enough that 6th and 7th graders should be able to work through them without too much trouble yet sufficiently challenging so that even adults can feel a sense of satisfaction upon completing them.Returning fans will recognize the style of many of the game's puzzles. Some force you to carefully analyze images, others are tricky riddles, and still others involve clever application of basic math skills -- but each one is different enough from the last that boredom never sets in. Add in yet another engaging story filled with quirky personalities and several seemingly unsolvable grand mysteries, and you have a recipe for a very memorable Professor Layton adventure. Don't miss it.