Another gripping story and clever puzzles make this latest outing of Professor Layton another worthy trip to take.
For all who have played the previous Professor Layton titles, Professor Layton and the Last Specter will feel very familiar. Why? Well, you probably guessed it already. The game's presentation is pretty identical to the previous games. From it's visuals to the story telling, this Professor Layton game has changed none.
Of course, in one aspect, that isn't a bad thing at all. The visuals in Professor Layton and the Last Specter contain the same great art style, charming cartoony look and lots of little details in the environments. The character models look good, animations are fluid, and, well, it's the same graphic quality like the previous games had, which should say enough.
For all who aren't familiar with the genius called Hershel Layton, he's an expertly clever professor who doesn't hold back from anything. And as it comes our genius has got a fondness for figuring out the solution of complex and ambitious puzzles. And this is kinda where these Professor Layton games are built of. Professor Layton and the Last Specter is no different, you play through an exciting and gripping story which relies a lot on puzzles. It mixes these puzzles into the story telling pretty well, having a decent connection between story and puzzles, though it gets a little off every so often, especially when the Professor and crew are totally in a hurry, but seemingly have time to stop, take a break and solve another puzzle whenever somebody asks them or if they find a such secretly hidden puzzle. It seems like they'd even have a cup of tea if that would be possible.
Anyways, the puzzles themselves are overall once again cleverly thought up and fun to solve. Puzzles range from laughably easy to tremendously hard and tricky, but most of them still remain entertaining, and the more challenging ones contain a satisfying victory once solved. Once and a while you'll encounter puzzles that fail to entertain because of a bad task explanation, or a poor puzzle solution, but most of the puzzles featured in Professor Layton and the Last Specter are entertaining and simply clever. And if you find yourself stuck, there's even a hint system that helps you figuring out the solution. One hint costs one hint coin (which you can find in the environments by tapping around on the touchscreen), and every puzzle has got three normal hints and one super hint. That should be enough to help solve even the toughest puzzles of the bunch, though remember to be frugal with those hint coins, not that you've got none when you're at the end and trying to solve a puzzle that's mandatory in order to progress in the story, but it's a really tough brain teaser.
Where Professor Layton and the Last Specter also succeeds overall is in the story. It contains some of the games biggest strengths and weaknesses, but luckily, the strengths overshadow the weaknesses for the most part.
So what happens? Everything starts with Layton getting a post card from a good old friend of his, Triton, in which he clearly asks Layton for help. A mysterious giant is going riot in Triton's own little village called Misthallery. Well that's where the story starts at least, but the game starts with a sequence that actually happens in the middle of the adventure, which then leads to the prehistory (beginning of the adventure). This is because the story (at least the introduction and the very last ending sequence) is told or you'd rather say introduced by a woman called Emmy Altava who becomes an assistant of Professor Layton in the beginning of the adventure.
Anyways, after Professor Layton meets his new assistant they visit Misthallery together and that's where their adventure really gets started. What's also important to note is that this game is like a prequel to the first Professor Layton game, in other words, this is the game where Professor Layton first meets Luke.
What's impressive about the game's story once again is of course how gripping, exciting and unpredictable it is. It's clever progress on how things elucidate and clarify in ways you'd never had expected, and this just thanks to the clever brain of our Professor, always has you hooked. Multiple mysteries are to be solved in this adventure, and you'll want to know every solution. Though one problem does exist in this factor: Though most of the mysteries comes up with an unthinkable solution, not all of them are clever. The majority I believe yes, but some seemed very unbelievable and weird. Nonetheless, the story is in that aspect still solid.
During your adventure you'll also face some memorable characters and interesting locations. Characters all have personalities to them self that clarify the more you communicate with them. These characters range from all open to very mysterious, and they are one of the main reasons that make this story so mysterious itself. The story plays in another village, which is luckily also nicely designed, making exploring this village not a drag. The locations you face in this village are interesting, and the game frequently opens up new ways to new locations of the village to explore, few of them that you probably won't see coming. It's one of the many parts that keep this story entertaining.
But like mentioned, there are some flaws holding this story back from being stellar. One minor one is how some of the communication between some of the characters feel a bit weird. Also, some rare parts of the story feel squeezed in a bit, a few times letting you ask how the heck did that work. One of my complaints might sound a bit weird, which is that I really don't find it fitting that during the story our main characters suddenly start to speak about the controls of the game. For a story that's fixated so much on it's own world, it feels simply unfitting. I'm pretty sure there could have been another way to explain the controls of the game. Sure, there are enough other games that do this as well, and though also not that fitting, it's normally not that extreme as it is in this game. Though luckily the controls in this game are simple and easy to pick up, so those scenes appear only twice in the game. It's easy to overlook.
Last but definitely not least, as this is a big unfortunate, the ending for this story is kinda weak, especially the solution for the identity of the phantom. It does have a unique solution for it's overall mysterious story, but one that feels like it could have been much better.
And then there is also the way the story is presented. Though the full animated cut scenes look as good as always, most of the story is out of static scenes with text dialogues that pail in comparison to the animated cut scenes. Even voice acting disappears during these still-scenes, at least most of the times, so your left with dull text boxes to read through. This was acceptable in the first game but till now it's getting kinda annoying when you've got those short, rare, great looking, full animated cut scenes and then those kinda dull static scenes with no voice acting whatsoever that appear almost the whole time. They aren't bad or too annoying or anything like that, but they can turn a bit into a drag for today's standard, especially when there is so much text at once to read through.
I'll admit, for some reason I never played the third part of Professor Layton's series, I started it but never finished it, but I'm pretty sure to say that Professor Layton has lost a bit of his glory with his last outing, though that's not too much of a surprise when considering that this game is out already in Japan since 2009. Nonetheless, it's still a worthy trip back into Layton's adventure-rich world. The story, though not perfect, is another gripping and exciting adventure that will hold your attention till the end, though unfortunately, only to lead you to a more weak ending. Adding to the value are some extra minigames, including a little role playing game that squeezes in another few hours of gameplay. Though surely not a hundred. However, it's real meat are probably still the puzzles. Cleverly thought out and complex, these puzzles are there to entertain you. Professor Layton, despite a few missteps, is yet again back with another worthy 20 hour adventure full of good surprises.
+ gripping story with unpredictable mystery solutions
+ clever, tricky, complex puzzles
+ memorable characters that you face along the way
+ great visuals
+ extra mini games add more length to the play time
- it's presentation is pretty much totally identical to previous entries
- story missteps and a rather weak ending
Review Score: 7/10