With every passing year I look forward to the next installment of Nintendo’s Professor Layton series. This year was no different, as Professor Layton and the Last Specter was recently released. As it is the fourth entry in the series, I expected a nearly flawless game. Despite the few hiccups I noticed, the game delivered in nearly every aspect. A compelling story, fantastic art design, and a plethora of puzzles were among the things this game did right. The Layton formula may seem a bit stale, but it still delivers a top-notch game that you won’t want to put down.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter is a prequel to the first three games released. It tells the story of how Luke met The Professor and winds up becoming his apprentice. Other familiar faces are back, but there is a peculiar new addition to the lineup. Emmy, a woman who seems to know The Professor, winds up becoming his assistant, even though he has no memory of her. Besides these small character interactions the main story involves yet another mystery, this time involving some kind of specter that is destroying the town of Misthallery. The story involves many twists and turns that are all rewarding in the end as The Professor unravels the mystery of the Specter. Compared to the titles before it The Last Specter does a much better job of keeping your interest. Surprising revelations are mixed throughout the entire game and entice you to keep playing to find out what is coming next.
The game may seem story-heavy, and in some cases it is. There are numerous dialogue-heavy sequences throughout the early to mid-game. These scenes are not necessarily bothersome, but you also do not want to feel like you are simply reading a book. The game does make up for this in most cases through voice-acted dialogue or completely animated scenes. These scenes are placed strategically throughout the game highlighting some of the most important parts of the story. After finishing the game the story is what really stood out to me amongst the other features; and this is rightfully so because it is the most exciting and gripping story of the series so far.
The Last Specter plays just like all the other entries in the series; you move from screen to screen solving puzzles in order to advance the story. The town of Misthallery is radically larger than the landscapes The Professor traversed in the past. Moving from the north end of town to the south could be about 25-30 screens to go through. These distances are somewhat annoying at first but fixed early on through the canal system in the game with which you can jump between locations. This helps move you around the town quickly which in turn drives the story much faster, never making the game too tedious.
Intermixed between the story and moving about the town are the puzzles. The puzzles are the real meat of a Professor Layton game as they take up a majority of your time. If you have played the games in the past some of these tread on very familiar ground. They are simple enough that you wont spend hours on them, but there are a few that will stump you and coerce you into using your precious hint coins. The game’s difficulty seems to have decreased via an abundant supply of hint coins.
Easier difficulty and familiar puzzles may seem like a turn-off to experienced gamers, but they are not major hindrances in the large span of the game. There are a bounty of hidden puzzles and extras that will provide a harder challenge to those looking for one. For those not looking for a challenge, hidden puzzles are not necessary to progress the story, allowing it to move ahead with more ease. This is not to say there are not a few puzzles to stump gamers in the main story, but there are a considerable greater number of them in the additional content.
Speaking of additional content, Professor Layton and the Last Specter includes various other mini-games to play and several collectibles to find. Again these are not necessary, but are implemented for those seeking additional puzzles. As a gamer, being allowed to complete as much as we want of a game is nice, leaving it up to us when to advance the story or just sit back and solve puzzles.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter is nothing radically different from the previous Layton games. What the previous games did well is carried over into this title in order to provide a nearly identical experience. This similarity is the game’s biggest fault because it will leave you feeling like you have played this game before. However, this one minor flaw exists amongst a sea of positive elements. A fantastic story, interesting puzzles, and a bountiful amount of content make this Layton entry the one to pick up.
Final Score: 9.5/10