Written Review – Professor Layton and the Last Specter
A mysterious beast has been appearing after nightfall and demolishing the peaceful village of Misthallery. Luckily Professor Hershel Layton has arrived to solve this mystery and restore peace to the humble town. With the help of his new assistant Emmy, as well as his young apprentice Luke, no puzzle will be left unsolved!
The Last Specter is a prequel to the previous Professor Layton titles. This means Layton himself is a bit younger. We even get to see how the Professor meets up with Luke. In other words, The Last Specter is a perfect first game for those who haven’t played the series before, but also an interesting concept for those familiar with Professor Layton.
The Gameplay here focuses on pointing and clicking on the Nintendo DS touch screen to interact with characters, environments and puzzles. You can tap to find hidden coins, talk to residents, examine objects and of course solve puzzles. To navigate through the town of Misthallery you’ll simply tap yellow arrows that appear over the scene. The game then quickly loads that section of the town. This setup is obviously very user friendly, though in my experience it can also make you feel a bit detached from the environments in some ways.
Vigorously investigating every scene will often result in discovering a challenging puzzle for you to solve. A few examples of puzzles include, twisting and turning several objects to perfectly fit them back into a cart, separating a tank of fish from turtles by drawing lines as barriers and even transporting cats, a dog and baby chicks safely across a river. There’s a stunning variety to the puzzles, which are sure to leave you baffled in more than one instance.
If you’re slow witted like myself, the game offers up hints at the cost of coins that you have collected during your sleuthing. This means if you’re not ashamed to ask for help no puzzle will go unsolved. It’s worth noting that if you attempt to solve a puzzle and your solution is incorrect, the reward will begin to dwindle with every wrong attempt. Writing yourself a quick Memo in the game can often be a helpful idea in the trickier puzzles.
From a visual stand point The Last Specter can seem a bit dated at times. Sure, the game is doing what it can with the Nintendo DS hardware, but loading up sections of the town by clicking directional arrows is clearly not as visually appealing as free roaming a 3D environment. While the characters are all well designed, their animations are a bit clunky and lack fluidity. Never the less the title’s visuals work well with the Nintendo DS hardware and honestly I’ll take 2D artwork over 3D models on the Nintendo DS any day.
The game features several beautifully animated cut-scenes to guide you through the story. They’re basically like watching a real animated film, but in small doses. The style has a definite European vibe to it with it’s hand drawn artwork which fits the mood very well. The game is filled with unique, rustic locations, populated by wacky human characters.
The soundtrack here has an authentic classical vibe to it which is perfectly suited for mystery solving. The music is almost soothing, which is great for the many situations where you’ll be racking your brain for 30 minutes trying to solve a single puzzle.
Naturally Professor Layton also features quite a few lines of dialog between characters. The voice actors do a fantastic job with bringing life to the characters in such a subtle manner. It’s rather interesting to see a group of Nintendo characters who are more calm and human-like. It is a bit disappointing that not all of the game’s text is accompanied by voice acting.
The amount of content here is really fantastic. With lots of point and click exploration and over 200 puzzles to solve you’re going to spend a lot of time enjoying the main story mode. You can even go back and replay previous puzzles, though it is less engaging to replay a puzzle when you have already solved it. However, Last Specter’s content doesn’t end there. Firstly, if you’ve concurred all the game’s puzzles and you’re still craving more mysteries you’re in luck! Nintendo will be sending out weekly online challenges for players to download beginning October 23rd. This means you’ll never have to hang up your top hat!
The Last Specter also features an additional Role Playing mode known as ‘London Life’. Here players can explore Little London as a sprite based character. You’ll be exploring the town from a top down perspective, taking on missions to help the locals, leveling up your character, customizing your appearance and even purchasing items for your room.
The London Life RPG mode is a great addition and could easily take up hours and hours of your time. Simply exploring the town and discovering new characters and items is a blast. It’s almost like two games in one!
Professor Layton and the Last Specter is easily one of Layton’s better offerings to date. The title is jam packed with puzzle solving goodness, sure to keep you entertained for many hours. Replay Value is definitely one of Last Specter’s strong points. While I do feel a few aspects come off as slightly dated, there’s no denying that puzzle solving fanatics will find plenty to tip their top hat to here.
9.0 / 10