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This puzzle in the new Professor Layton game is just cruel

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This $16 mobile game is a beautiful trickster

layton’s mystery journey art Level-5

The Professor Layton series and I have a complicated relationship. I’ve always loved its charming, manga-esque art style, lovely characters and witty writing. What I’ve never had much of a taste for — and this is a big problem — are the games’ puzzles. Maybe I’m not smart or patient enough for them, and that’s on me. But the latest Professor Layton installment, a series reboot that comes five years after the previous entry, is a reminder that maybe it’s not totally on me after all.

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy is out now on iOS and Android, retailing for a flat fee of $15.99. That price is heftier than that of most mobile games, but consider it this way: This one has Nintendo 3DS-levels of polish, including beautiful anime cutscenes, intuitive touch controls and a full-length story.

I love all of these aspects of Layton’s Mystery Journey, and particularly Katrielle herself. The new chief puzzle-solver is Professor Layton’s funny, self-confident daughter, and she’s joined by a sidekick who’s far more vicious than the Professor’s sweet, sensitive boy wonder Luke. Katrielle has a talking dog named Sherl by her side, who is both her investigation team’s first client and her frequent comic relief.

But none of Sherl’s jokes about being an amnesiac talking dog can make up for this puzzle, which was only the second one I ran into during the game. It’s called “The Hands of Time,” and it is evil.

the hands of time — layton’s mystery journey Level-5

The puzzle involves, seemingly, some math. That meant I was already at a disadvantage; great.

“The clock is currently showing the time as 3:30 p.m.,” the prompt reads. “It would be nice if the hands of the clock would show midnight.”

The key word here is “nice.” It would indeed be “nice” if the clock struck midnight, so how can we get it to do that? The player is instructed to calculate the minimum number of times they need to touch the clock’s hands in order to make it say midnight.

Maybe there really is some mathematical way of deducing this, but that is totally beyond me. And so Polygon’s helpful, much smarter intern and I racked our brains for what the answer to this puzzle was, and why it wasn’t just one time. (One time to swing that little hand around until both hands hit the 12, you see.)

But the answer is not one, apparently. So what the heck is it? The intern suggested 90 times for some reason that probably made sense but that I completely tuned out of three words in. I continued to type in the number one.

Eventually, we got it right on a lark.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if the answer was zero?” we said. “If you just have to wait until midnight to happen for the clock to say midnight?”

Well, guess what:

layton’s mystery journey puzzle
Wow.
Level-5

Not even two full puzzles into this brain teaser of a puzzle game, I feel totally tricked by it. And this is why, for as beautifully crafted Layton’s Mystery Journey is, I will have to take a very, very long break from it, lest I do something to my phone that I regret.