Professor Layton and the Last Specter

8.0 Overall Score

Continues the tradition of quality the series is known for

New feature is uninteresting and repetitive

Written by on January 30, 2012 in

When it comes to puzzle games Nintendo’s little hand-held that could was no stranger.  With a glut of rehashed and repackaged puzzlers seemed to dominate the DS’s library over its lifetime.  In the midst of that, though, there was always the Professor Layton series.  Far from being just another collection of disjointed puzzle, Layton games brought a touch of quality with endearing characters, meaningful storylines, and more than a few brain busters.

Now, in the waning stages of the Nintendo DS’s life, Professor Layton and the Last Specter has appeared as a prequel to the preeminent English gentleman’s previous outings.  In this installment we encounter the young professor as he receives a desperate letter from an old friend asking for help in dealing with trouble in the small village of Misthallery.  It seems that in this sleepy little town a rouge specter, once thought only a local legend, is causing very real destruction throughout the village.  It is up to the professor and his companions to uncover the truth behind the specter while deducing the solutions to varied brain teasers along the way.  Story has always been a point in which the Professor Layton series has stayed a cut above its peers and The Last Specter continues this trend in similar fashion.  Even with its place chronologically being at the beginning of the Layton storyline many familiar characters make there return while the series’ usual above average voice acting and high quality animated cut-scenes help to flesh out the important and dramatic turn in the tale.

The gameplay of The Last Specter will be familiar to anyone who’s played any of the previous games as it retains much of the same mechanics.  The majority of the game is navigated using a point-and-click adventure game style that is completely controlled by the DS stylus.  Encouragement is given to tap the screen anywhere and everywhere as puzzle, bonus mini games, and the invaluable hint coins can still be found in any random bush, gutter, river, household pet, and the like.  While the puzzle obsessed nature of every citizen of this fictionalized England is still a point requiring a fair amount of suspension of disbelief more effort has been made this time around to incorporate the puzzles into the plot points and environments of the game.  For instance there are a handful of puzzles that will forgo the typical activity book layout and will involve examining the actual environment or answering plot related questions.  This helps to break up the routine of tap, solve, move, tap solve, move if only a little bit.

As for the puzzles themselves, they still come in a wide variety of types and difficulties from spacial thinking to math to logical deduction and many others.  These puzzles are just as challenging and well thought out as ever but veteran Professor Layton players may feel a bit of deja vu as much of The Last Specter’s puzzle index contains familiar puzzle types and more than a few re-skins and rewordings of old stand bys.  Players who have rafted animals across a river, rearranged match sticks, spotted differences between pictures, and charted maze paths will find much of the same here.  Still, all but the most experienced of puzzle experts will still find challenges here and enough variety to keep things fresh.

The one completely new aspect of The Last Specter comes in the from of a separate bonus mode entitled Layton’s London Life.  Unfortunately, though, this new bonus (depending on taste) is probably the least interesting aspect of the game.  London Life is a basic RPG with an extremely simplistic presentation and a structure akin to Animal Crossing.  In this mode the player will create an avatar from a handful of options before moving into an apartment in Layton’s London.  From there they are tasked with completing fetch quests and the like in order to raise their happiness level and purchase new furniture, clothes, and items to arrange in their living space or trade with other players over the Nintendo WiFi connection.  While a player could theoretically draw dozens of hours of game play from this section in practice it is uninteresting, repetitive, and seems like a farmed out afterthought from the developers.

As a whole, Professor Layton and the Last Specter continues the tradition of quality that the series is known for.  Little has changed in this iteration and future installments will likely need to mix things up a bit to avoid stagnation. For now, though, veteran Professor Layton players as well as new comers will find the entertaining and challenging puzzles combined with an interesting and worthwhile story more than worth their time.  As with its predecessors, The Last Specter, is a worthy addition to the library of any Nintendo DS owner and a fine way to close out the life of the aging hand held.


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Author: Tylor Long View all posts by

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