A game of Layton with a side of Animal Crossing.
At this point in the series, you likely know where you stand on Layton games. You’re either chomping at the bit, waiting for the next game in the series to be localized, or passing on each successive entry because you are not interested or got tired of the formula. If you’re in the latter group, Layton’s fourth adventure, the prequel Professor Layton and the Last Specter, won’t do much to bring you to the fray. Outside of some mildly refined mechanics and the Animal Crossing-esque experience of London Life, Last Specter just gives you another ridiculous story and new puzzles.
For most players, that’s all you need. Like every sequel to the series so far, Last Specter offers more puzzles than the previous entry, this time bringing the total to 170 plus weekly downloadable puzzles. The puzzles are more of the same, with a variety of brain-teasing logic puzzles testing your wits and smarts.
The story, a prequel, is about how Layton met his apprentice-to-be, Luke. At the beginning of the Last Specter, Layton is given an assistant, Emmy, who accompanies him on his trip to Misthallery, where he goes to visit an old friend, who happens to be Luke’s father, with a problem. Luke winds up joining up with the professor and Emmy and they try to unravel the mystery of the village. It’s par for the Layton course, complete with requisite twists and turns that are somewhat nonsensical. It doesn’t quite the pack the emotional punch of last year’s Unwound Future, but it’s still a good tale, serving as a nice entry point as well.
In addition to the 15 to 20-hour adventure, the game also comes packed with London Life, a purportedly 100-hour experience that is sort of like Animal Crossing with Layton characters in the art style of Mother 3. Developed by Brownie Brown (developers of Mother 3 and Magical Starsign), London Life begins with your created character arriving via train to Little London. Naturally, the train you roll in on is the Molentary Express, which played heavily into the story of the second Layton game. That’s representative of what the experience is: a bunch of cute references to past Layton games alongside a variety of fetch quests. The magic is in the laid-back atmosphere and its wonderful presentation. You won’t mind traversing the map routinely so you can build up enough money and happiness to buy a new bed for your meager apartment. Your mileage may vary, but London Life is a great bonus that could suck you in for hours.
The mini-games aren’t the best in the series, but they’re still entertaining. The train game involves guiding a track through multiple stations while conserving fuel and avoiding obstacles. The fish game involves places bubbles in the right spot to help a fish collect coins quickly. The weirdest one is definitely the puppet theater mini-game, involving picking words to further silly plays. It’s funny, but it’s not engaging.
Professor Layton’s escapades are a known commodity by now. The Last Specter does nothing to dilute the brand, offering the same polished gameplay and presentation the series is known for. Throw in London Life, and it is the most robust game in the franchise, more or less containing two games in one. It might not pull in new players, but it will continue to make the same players happy.