I bought Professor Layton and the Last Specter back in October 2011 and had to almost immediately give it over to my wife, after her curious levels reached a brand new high. She ate up the game and then had to keep quiet as I finished my playthrough, which I did slowly and in small pieces. Not my fault. Some other heavy-hitters came out around the same time, as well as my continued quest to beat Chrono Trigger. Plus, that little mini-RPG thing London Life was fairly distracting. But I did see it through the end, solving the mystery of the ravenous specter and the disquieted town of Misthallery.
In Professor Layton and the Last Specter, which is set before the other games in the franchise, Hershel Layton and his new assistant Emmy Altava head off to Misthallery after receiving a concerning letter from an old friend. Seems like a mysterious monster–a specter, if the townsfolk are to be believed–is rampaging through the town at night. There, they meet a young boy who is able to predict where and when the specter will strike next. And the plot gets more complicated–and spoilery–after that, so there’s my summary. You wanna know more? Play the game, you puzzlin’ fool.
Story-wise, just like Professor Layton and the Curious Village, twists and turns aplenty. But this time, things get sadder. Even made my wife cry. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t cry, but can understand why she did; it’s like, you know what’s going to happen to your equestrian partner in Shadow of the Colossus, you can feel it in your gut from the very beginning, and then you still feel sick and shocked when the moment hits. There was some confusion towards the end of the game, where a revealed character implies he already knows Layton intimately, but maybe that’s a detail I’m missing from not playing games #2 and #3. Or it’s just a big tease to come for further prequels. Either way, whatever. Mystery solved, new friends acquired, and puzzle skills enhanced by +15.
As it is a Professor Layton and the Adjective Noun title, all is where it should be: puzzles, high quality animated cutscenes, minigames, hidden hint coins, so much dang charm, oh so creepy characters, and infectious music. I played Professor Layton and the Curious Village right when it released, but never touched the other two games, putting a span of a few years between my first adventure and this new one. Surprisingly, not much has changed–and that’s okay. It was a little like going home.
As for the minigames, unfortunately, they are not as much fun as the ones in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Maybe the inclusion of a massive minigame–Professor Layton’s London Life–is to blame. What we have is the following:
- Miracle Fish: Bouncing fish around an underwater room, trying to collect a number of bubbles in a locked amount of time. Trial and error is ultimately one way to solve these, though a few of them are extremely tricky. I did the majority of them.
- Miniature Train: Players must lay out train tracks on game boards of increasing difficulty that will allow a toy train to go from a starting point to the finish line while passing through every station on the board. These were too frustrating to be fun, so I did the first one and never went back.
- Puppet Theatre: A group of puppets perform short plays, and players must help them fill in the blanks with words they collect during the main game. I really enjoyed doing these and trying out different phrases in hopes of getting it right. The plays themselves are cute and down in a nice art style.
The puzzles in Professor Layton and the Last Specter range from super easy to super hard, with the super easy ones sometimes being a mindf*ck in the way that it will seem so easy that you will start second-guessing yourself. Boo to that. But the game’s pacing and charm are top-notch, and I loved being able to play for a half hour before bed, knocking out a few puzzles and progressing the story, but being able to stop for the night and pick it up the next day. You always get a summary of what’s been happening, and if you ever get really lost, you can re-read Layton’s journal for extremely detailed retellings.
I am looking forward to the first iteration of Layton on the 3DS, as well as maybe picking up the other two–hopefully for cheap–over the year for when I need a little more puzzlin’ in my life.