Tag Archives: The Curious Village

Games Completed in 2011, #37 – Professor Layton and the Last Specter

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.

The newest Professor Layton game is undeniably Laytonesque

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Professor Layton game, and that’s probably because I’ve only ever played one before, way back in like early 2008. Professor Layton and the Curious Village was a surprise hit in my eyes, a weird mix of puzzles and top-notch animation and genuine mystery and intrigue. Heck, I even used it as evidence to get a girl I was seeing then to buy a Nintendo DS Lite. I played it more for the story than anything else, but the puzzles were varied and kept me thinking, even if the math-heavy ones were too tough for my artistic brain. If anything, this series oozes charm, which always keeps me interested, and so I eagerly sought the latest iteration, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, the fourth title overall and yet a prequel to that first adventure over uncovering the golden apple.

Plus, the newest game comes with a bonus RPG/Animal Crossing sim-like thing called Professor Layton’s London Life, which is extremely adorable and charming and shockingly deep. More on that in a bit.

Dropping back into the world of Professor Layton was a warm, welcoming experience. The music, the look of buildings and cars, the animated character designs, his trunk-space–nothing had changed, and that’s a good thing. It felt like only days had then passed between this new adventure and our last outing. Even the sounds puzzles and hint coins make when found are constant.

The story so far: Professor Layton receives a letter from an old friend; in it, Clark, the mayor of Misthallery, codes a secret message, a desperate plea for help against a giant ravaging the town and townspeople to tears. Off goes the professor, picking up an assistant, too. Her name is Emmy, and she seems to know more about the professor than is necessary. Once in Misthallery, it becomes clear that more craziness is at work, with locals whispering about an oracle and specter. Puzzle-wise, I’ve tackled seven or eight now, and the hardest one was math-based and about mops. I hate mops. Other than that, one of the three minigames in Layton’s trunk unlocked, and I’ve learned just how Layton and Luke meet for the first time. Neat-o!

In Professor Layton’s London Life, you don’t actually play as Hersel Layton. Instead, you are you…or whoever you want to be. You can design your avatar to your liking, as well as picking a defining trait too–I went with shy and, well, something I can’t remember. Good cook? Sexy swagger? Moves like Jagger? Whatever, no biggie. In fact, nothing is big in this realm, as developer Brownie Brown nails the look of an old-school RPG with tiny sprites that are still instantly recognizable as characters from other Layton games. You pick up miscellaneous tasks and focus more on clothing, items for your room, and getting a job; in this way, it’s more Animal Crossing than an RPG, but there’s stats to clothing and some other grindy elements. Right now, Little London Pauly is wearing a red beret, a blue scarf, and some kickin’ pants. He’s also a janitor.

Both games are currently trying to out-charm one another, and I’m struggling with which to play more of first. It’s actually not a problem at all.

How I finally found you, Suikoden III

Yesterday, according to just about every videogames-covering website ever to be put up on the Internet, was the release date for Professor Layton and the Last Specter. This is a game I’m surprisingly stoked for, and I know why. Certainly, it’s not a love for the series, as I have only played Professor Layton and the Curious Village; granted, that’s a great game, one that packaged both cinematic story and varied gameplay nicely, but I never got around to trying the next two to come out. If anything, they all seemed to be more or less that first game again, with different tweaks here and there. So, why am I all atwitter over the fourth game, which is actually a prequel where I’m assuming we learn why a grown man likes hanging out with a young boy so much?

Well, Professor Layton’s London Life. That’s why. It’s likened more to Animal Crossing than an RPG, and there’s a promise of over a hundred hours of gameplay. Yeah, duh. I think I dropped more than that on Animal Crossing: Wild World easy. With pixelated art and a focus on clothing, filling out a house like the rich and famous, and fetch quests galore…well, where do I sign over my first-born?

However, GameStop decided that Professor Layton and the Last Specter doesn’t come out on October 17, but rather October 18. Why? Why not. They make the rules, and so I disappointingly did not get to pick it up yesterday during my lunch break. When I got home from work, I had some noodles in a cup and mustered up the strength to try again; maybe the GameStops in Pennsylvania were more sensible than those in New Jersey. Nope. The one down the road in PA had no copies on their shelves either. Annoying, but kind of expected. However, this one did have a section for used PlayStation 2 games, a section that most stores have now cut due to saving crucial shelf space for things like Kinect Sports Season Two and Puppies 3D.

In my wallet, among other things, is a list. It’s basically this, but scrawled on a scrap of paper, folded and fading. I’ve been carrying it with me for many months now, and every time Tara and I come across a bin of used PS2 games, we search for those I’d like to add to my collection before they all up and vanish without a sound. I always check the “S” titles first, in hope of finding Suikoden III, a game that I never have hope of actually finding. The Suikoden games are some of my favorite RPGs, and while IV got bad reviews, V was pretty good story-wise, but is currently far away in Arizona. And I always heard good things about III, but never got around to getting it, and by the time that I did begin to earnestly search for it, the dang thing went dark, underground. Phooey.

Imagine my surprise then to find the box for Suikoden III last night, tucked safely behind a dingy copy of The Spiderwick Chronicles. And for $12.99, too. I would’ve gladly paid up to $30.00 for it, so in my mind, this was a steal. I mean, I know how high copies of Suikoden II still go for, and this kind of felt like it had the same rarity as its predecessor. Pretty sure my heart skipped a beat, and I’m so happy that I found found my copy of the game, making its acquiring all the more rewarding. I grabbed another RPG called Ys: The Ark of Napishtim for a few bucks, and Tara slid a copy of Monster Rancher EVO into my hands before we hit the cash register.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what Suikoden III is all about, and you can expect coverage here and maybe somewhere else. Stay tuned, my fellow Stars of Destiny.