E3 2011: Doctor Lautrec & the Forgotten Knights hands-on preview

There are some who would say that Konami is trying to pull a fast one with their newest puzzle-adventure game, Dr. Lautrec & the Forgotten Knights. Emphasis on puzzles and mysteries? An eccentric lead character with a top hat and peppy sidekick? We’re looking at a Professor Layton clone, right? While Dr. Lautrec does share quite a few similarities with the successful Professor Layton series, our hands-on demo also showed off combat gameplay quite different to any of the mechanics seen in Professor Layton.

First off, Dr. Lautrec is more of a hands-on sort of adventurer. Instead of being limited to the point-and-click style of Professor Layton, players get to directly control Dr. Lautrec and navigate him through various environments. Likewise, the good doctor isn’t afraid of a skirmish every now and then, which gives way to the game’s turn-based combat system.

Our main objective in the demonstration was to find and collect treasure animatis (treasure possessed by spirits) by solving various puzzles. These puzzle minigames range from simple stuff like moving boxes around in the 3D environment to slightly more complicated endeavors like riddles, word games and logic-based puzzles. The puzzles we experienced during our brief time with the game managed to be fairly challenging without being frustrating.

Aside from filling Dr. Lautrec’s coffers, treasure animatis are also used as attacks during the combat segments. During encounters, you get to deploy the spirits on the battlefield and have them fight your enemies for you. The battlefield is a collection of deployment spots that Dr. Lautrec must utilize and these spots can also have varying effects on the spirits you summon (i.e. certain spots will strengthen particular spirits while weakening others, etc).

One issue that’s bound to come up with gamers, however, is just how much Doctor Lautrec looks like Professor Layton stylistically. The animated cutscenes, while incredibly well-drawn, look exactly like something you would see from a Professor Layton game. Not only that, but Lautrec himself looks strikingly similar to the titular Layton too, complete with a conspicuously similar top hat that's even the same color as Layton's. When you compare the two, it's hard to deny that Lautrec's design really looks like Konami is banking on people confusing Lautrec for the more popular and well-established Layton franchise.

While we don’t believe that this game is entirely a rip-off, it’s understandable that some others will. It’s sort of sad, but we foresee this game having difficulty shrugging off the plagiarism accusations it’s bound to receive from Professor Layton fans, and for good reason, at least superficially. However, the game has its own unique story based in Paris and features both 3D movement and a genuinely fun combat system. Add to that, Dr. Lautrec is looking to rock anywhere between 30-50 hours of gameplay. Regardless of its inspiration, we're excited to see how this game turns out when the full version is released early this fall.

Jun 13, 2011

Jordan Baughman is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of GamesRadar and Gamer magazine. With a passion for video games and esports, Baughman has been covering the industry for years now, and even hopped the fence to work as a public relations coordinator for clients that include EA, Capcom, Namco, and more.