Everything in life can be solved with puzzles.
The Professor Layton series is charming, wholesome and fun for the whole family. There's enough entertainment value in the stories and characters for the little kids, whimsical action and adventure to satisfy older gamers, and it encourages reading and building logic skills, so even the most hardcore of education-pushing parents would give these games the tick of approval.
Each new game has featured the same style of mystery-based storytelling that slowly trickles out clues, allowing you to (with enough imagination) piece together the big climactic plot twist before the game reveals it. Along the way, you'll explore picturesque towns and villages while solving puzzles. The art and music direction is, to put it simply, gorgeous.
The Last Specter follows this tradition perfectly—it's more of the same and that's exactly what's right about it. If the series were to undergo a sudden change in the art design, or forgo the puzzle aspect for some other genre of challenges, it just wouldn't be Professor Layton.
This game is considered the start of “season two” of the series, though it is actually a prequel that tells the story of how the Professor first met Luke, and details the beginning of their adventures together. Layton and his new self-proclaimed assistant Emmy travel to Misthallery, where a giant shadowy creature known to the locals as The Specter has been laying waste to the town to the sound of a mysterious flute.
Just like the games before it, The Last Specter has an almost overwhelming amount of puzzles to solve, including sliding panels, hidden pictures, mazes, logic riddles, and even algebraic brain teasers. Each of these can be found as you progress through the story by talking to the various characters and searching the areas you visit. Completing certain puzzles along the way will give you pieces of mini-games to play in the pause screen, similar to those seen in the first three games but with their own unique spin. These in turn unlock special bonuses in the main game.
True to series expectations, completing the game will open a plethora of bonus content (depending on the amount of Picarats earned from the puzzles), such as grouped selections of extremely difficult puzzles, movie and sound galleries, and (again, like in the first three games), a series of secret bonuses that can only be unlocked when you earn a special code from the next game on 3DS and bring it back to this one. Sure it's a cheap way to get you to buy the sequel, but when the games are this good it's just an added incentive to get something you can expect to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Finally, this game includes something truly unique to the series. Not only does it feature more puzzles than ever before, the cart also comes packed in with a simple RPG game called Professor Layton's London Life, a kind of miniature day-to-day simulator that features characters from across the entire Layton series and allows you to participate in a number of activities and occupations to earn money and happiness. Completing errands and making friends in the game will help earn you furniture and items to decorate your room with. For a bonus content mini-game, it takes around 100 hours to fully experience and is incredibly addictive.