Professor Layton and the Last Specter Review
My original plan for this review was to mimic the very first puzzle you encounter in Professor Layton and the Last Specter. I was going to put a hidden message in the first letter of each row and have it say something really clever. Well, after playing Professor Layton for hours upon hours, my head hurts and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, if you happen to find a hidden message, it is completely by accident and hopefully it doesn’t say anything too vulgar.
For those unaware of the Professor Layton series, the Last Specter is the fourth DS release and a prequel (story-wise) to every single DS game thus far. In this version of the game, the Professor and his female assistant, Emmy receive a letter from a resident of the far off town of Misthallery. It turns out that a Specter (a giant ghost like monster) is destroying the town nearly every single night and Professor Layton is the only one who can help because he’s so great at puzzles.
As you progress through the story, you begin to learn that it was actually Luke (the small boy who accompanies you in every other game) who sent you the letter. Luke can see the future so he joins Layton and Emmy on their quest to find out the mystery of the Specter. While it may seem weird that a little boy can see the future, you just have to go along with the story for the time being because it all works itself out in the end.
The gameplay in the Last Specter is exactly the same as the previous games in the series. You walk into a small area and you use the stylus to either: talk to people, tap the screen furiously to find hint coins (that help you in puzzles) or learn about the scenery. I had dabbled in the previous Layton games and you do spend the better part of the first 30 minutes of the game just tapping the screen and watching cut-scenes with full voice acting (which is so awesome to see in a DS game). Once you get past the story, which does drag on for long periods of time, you are given your first puzzle. That’s when I was hooked.
Puzzles are the best part of this game and if they took out the story, I would have loved this game even more. The puzzles are just so inventive and mind-boggling that it really is a testament to the developers thinking of these thought-provoking puzzles. As it is, I found myself just tapping through the different dialogue scenes because the story was so boring after about 4 hours of playing the game and I just wanted to get to the next puzzle.
Now, not every puzzle is going to be a head scratcher. Some of them I managed to finish in about 5 seconds because they were so easy and obvious but those were very few and far between. As for the ones that are challenging, I found myself spending up to ten minutes on certain puzzles, even asking people for help on some of them. If no one knew how to beat the puzzle, you have the option to use three of your hint coins (don’t be stingy, there are hundreds in the world) to help out and if you still don’t know, you can use a super hint coin to pretty much tell you the answer.
That trait about the game, really helps you get a sense of accomplishment. Obviously you feel better not having to use any hint coins but just beating the puzzle at all gives you such a huge sense of self satisfaction. For those ones that you used all the hint coins for, the game tells you the answer to the puzzle and you really do feel like an idiot for not noticing a shadow pointing in the wrong direction or the smallest little detail about someones clothes. Basically, look at every single part of the puzzle if you’re stumped and you’ll eventually find the answer.
So, while the campaign features some of the best puzzles I’ve ever experienced in a video game, it is bogged down by the really lame story and overly long conversations which really amount to nothing. Especially since the game always has an arrow on the map in the top screen telling you exactly where to go.
The campaign isn’t the only part to the Last Specter. It also features a mode called “London Life” that is touted as a ’100 hour RPG’. While I was expecting something really cool where we used puzzles to cast spells on enemies, it isn’t that type of RPG. It is more of an Animal Crossing type game where you move into a town and just live your life. I did spend some time on it and I can safely say that it was time wasted. I can see certain people loving it (people who like The Sims) but it just isn’t for me. To be honest, I felt that it didn’t need to be included and they should have included more puzzles instead.
All in all, Professor Layton and the Last Specter is a great game. Fans of the series will love it and anyone looking for a great puzzle game, this is the one to buy. While the game does feature a very boring storyline, there is an almost endless supply of puzzles to play through that will last you hours and hours. As for ‘London Life’, it is something you’ll play for a few minutes and then go back to the main campaign and try to solve more and more puzzles.
This review is based on a retail copy of Professor Layton and the Last Specter as provided by Nintendo. You can purchase the full game now for $34.99.