Southern cooking is one of, if not the only, perk to living in the South. So it was a big deal when, the other day at lunch, the heavyset waitress at a marvelous little country diner mixed up my lunch order with hungry companions'. The food was all accounted for, only it was on the wrong plates. Things were simple enough to sort out: collards and pork chops and cornbread and country fried steaks were swapped in haste. But when the bill came, each on a separate check, you can imagine the difficulty. We couldn’t figure out who owed what.
In Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, this is exactly the kind of predicament you are up against. The latest in a long series of head-scratchers, Miracle Mask once again features the good natured Layton, a sagacious gent who travels the world with his boy genius, in search of baffled strangers with brain-teasing setbacks to fix. If only the professor had a real-life counterpart, who could have revealed how much our lunches really cost, my buddy Wyatt wouldn’t have gotten away with paying $7.03 for a 12-ounce steak.
I’ve been occupied with cracking Miracle Mask since last week. And while I haven’t ran into any kerfuffles in a cafeteria just yet, I have helped a juggler find a missing prop, steered a bug through a maze on a half-eaten corncob, tallied the number of customers in line for baguettes, scrutinized the floral patterns on a parasol, caught a golfer in a lie, vandalized tribal artifacts, wound up a toy robot, inspected the bite marks of an ancient fish, and rung a bell after shooting a cat with a slingshot.
The game is one long series of preposterous events, in which every chimney sweep or concierge wants to tell you a riddle or engage you with a sliding tile puzzle. I find the ridiculous setup a relief from the logic of, well, logic. It also allows the three hundred and some odd puzzles room to breathe.
Miracle Mask’s collection of stumpers generally test three things: your ability to reason, to pay attention to details, and to think "outside the box". The best produce an a-ha! moment when the puzzle dissolves before your mental cunning. The worst are impenetrable walls of ones and twos, ifs and thens, and A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s.
If I wanted to be a jerk about it, and I don’t, I’d question why someone would want to solve reasoning problems with a cartoon character in a top hat in the first place. And to that I’d say, because it’s fun. Because it’s in 3D. Because you have nothing better to do. Because Sudoku is lame and you are no good at crosswords. Because it kinda looks like a Studio Ghibli production. And because the village folk are dead ringers for the cast of Call the Housewife.
Still, it isn’t perfect. Whoever "wrote" the logorrhea between the puzzles was doubtlessly paid by the word. And it certainly doesn’t bring anything new to the table. I mean, syllogisms have been around since, what, Aristotle? Still they don't seem to be going anywhere.
Why would you want to play this? Because Sudoku is lame and you are no good at crosswords.
Miracle Mask is decidedly a left-brained affair. While I’m a creative type, i.e. lazy, I must confess it has been absorbing my couch time. It’s a great way to tune out the TV show I didn’t really want to watch and the person I didn’t really want to watch it with. It’s well-curated, spit-shined, cute, but not cutesy, suitably challenging, and very comfortable.
Besides, sooner or later I’m going to have to sort out another mishap with catfish and collard greens. This time, I’ll be ready.