Following the trend of Hadrian's weekly NDS and Wii releases I'm going to try to put out a weekly Hands-on a game. So here's the second installment, enjoy. You probably have never heard of Layton Kyouju to Akuma no Hako, but it is a huge release for the Japanese people. Layton Kyouju to Akuma no Hako translates to Professor Layton and Pandora's Box in English. Layton Kyouju to Akuma no Hako is a sequel to Layton Kyouju to Fushigi na Machi, the first in the Professor Layton series, which was an enormous hit in Japan. The series has been praised for it's distinct art style and challenging puzzles. This game is being produced by Level 5, who made Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest VIII. If you don’t know a word of Japanese (like me) resist from picking this title up. It’s adventure is heavily text driven and requires a lot of Japanese knowledge. Although you could technically play through the game but you would be missing a large part of the experience. Layton Kyouju to Akuma no Hako starts with a high quality cinematic showing Professor Layton boarding a train with his youthful sidekick after they discovered a dead body. On the train they ask the passengers questions and gather information, much like the Phoenix Wright series. From there on Layton tries to solve the mystery and plays some sweet puzzles along the way. This game is one of the most artistically driven DS games I have played to date. Professor Layton’s art style is loosely derived from the French animated film The Triplets of Belleville. The in game FMVs are especially stunning, looking like an expertly animated film. While their is a conversation between characters in a non-FMV sequence it’s presented a lot like the Phoenix Wright series. The character’s body’s don’t move, with the exception of their mouths, and they completely change frames when the mood changes. The hand-drawn graphics are an obvious staple for the series and a main pulling point. The gameplay is pretty much like Brain Age, but with an interesting story wrapped around it. As mentioned above, you solve puzzles and advance closer to the conclusion of the mystery. The gameplay isn’t the most shining quality of the game when it’s put next to the game’s appearance, but it plays very nicely. The puzzles aren’t just random like Brain Age’s, they actually pertain to the story. For one puzzle you have to make parfaits for people on the train, and before that their was a puzzle where you had to properly pack your belongings for the train trip. The game also has a very elegant musical score. The songs don’t sound like usual DS games, but sound almost CD quality. The soundtrack is like a smooth mixture of classical and jazz, and is easy on the ears. This game also contains a lot of voice acting, which is welcome. Some of the voice actors are also experienced, and sound very professional. The whole sound package is quite magnificent and is another major pulling point for this game. Layton Kyouju to Fushigi na Machi, the first in the series, has been announced to be released in America. The translation for the first game’s name is Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and it will be due stateside in February of 2008. This game’s explosive success in Japan shows promise for us American gamers, and a third game is already in production. -Joe B.