(Disclaimer: Images taken from Google. They are not mine and I don't claim any ownership of them)
Professor Layton and the Last Specter is the fourth game in the puzzle adventure series of Professor Layton, released in 2011. The previous three are The Curious Village, The Diabolical Box, and The Unwound Future. The four games have been released for the DS, and a 5th (and later 6th and final) game will be released for the 3DS (The 5th game, "Mask of Miracle," was released in 2011 in Japan. I wouldn't be surprised if the title was changed/spiced up for America as some of the others were by the time it releases this year).
The story is set in the past, following the fateful meeting and first pairing up of Professor Layton with his protegė, Luke. He has an assistant in this game, Emmy, a character who is tolerable but definitely annoying and I wanted to punch her several times in the face by the end. Prof Layton maintains his adorable demeanor and Luke isn't nearly as whiny as I remember. Most characters were entertaining and pleasant.
Exploring the market.
I don't want to spoil any of the story, so I'll just say that like the previous 3 games, it begins with a mystery that is supposedly supernatural but where Professor Layton is certain there is something fishy going on and there must be a logical explanation. The ending, like most of the other games, is half-predictable, with a pleasant and enjoyable surprise twist that I SWEAR you could never guess. Unlike the other games, I totally cried at the end as it was much sadder than I anticipated.
There are 170 puzzles in this game. They are found by talking to various people and tapping everywhere on the screen with the stylus. Hint coins are also found through tapping. It has gotten more lenient by sending puzzles you miss to a Puzzle Hut more frequently (in previous games you'd have to seriously go look for the hidden ones). Either that or I was so used to scouring each screen that I missed very little by this point. The puzzles themselves were vastly improved from the past two games and reminded me of the rush I felt in beating the first game of the series. It felt as if there was a much more even variety of puzzle types (sliding puzzles, math, riddles, etc.), whereas I felt that the prior two were quite math-heavy. Most of the puzzles weren't hair-pulling difficult and instead felt very good to beat... until the bonus puzzles. The last two were absolute KILLERS and I admit I used a guide for one of them (-_- ' ). Hint counts abound, you will never run out of them. They give you a bit of help MOST of the time when you need it. Need a hint? Spend some coin.
Many puzzles were relevant to the situation as well, making it feel more connected.
The mini games presented in this game were quite challenging and fun, even if I DID rage at some of the train puzzles. In one of the mini games you get a certain number of tracks to lay (based on the amount of fuel you had) in which to guide a train through various stations to an end point. Seems easy, until you have to manage two trains at once, or have to maneuver around a set train or car, or have 6 train cars. They can't collide! It was very tricky at some points, for sure. As in the previous games, you unlock them through conversations with people and advancing the story.
Oh, they get much harder.
The next mini game was gathering coins before time ran out by strategically placing bubbles around an aquarium to guide your fishy. If it hit gold bubbles it would be out of control for a few seconds and take out any bubbles in its path, so you had to be careful!
This one was much more lighthearted and fun.
Just as all Professor Layton games have albums of some sort, this one has a puppet theater. It wasn't very interesting.
There was one major addition to the game called "London Life," which is kind of like a mini-Sims. It is unrelated to your gameplay and is just for fun! You can use Wi-Fi to connect with friends and such. You create an avatar and get jobs to earn money to buy clothing and accessories in order to develop certain aspects of your character. I spent nearly the entirety of my time in Little London learning to juggle and earning a crapton of cash.
One of the main squares.
You can work on a variety of aspects of your style. Or just earn money. Or decorate your room. It has no real purpose!
Overall, I felt that Professor Layton and the Last Specter followed the formula of the previous games, a formula which I enjoy. Critics of the game complain that the difficulty of the puzzles is inconsistent and that the puzzles were often either too vague or too familiar. Personally, I think that it's impossible to find a medium, and that a range of difficulty is a good thing so you don't get burnt out. There are also only a certain number of puzzles these geniuses can find, and it was quite well-balanced! I don't know what else they want. I would enjoy it if they revisited such themes as the matchstick puzzles from the first game
, but all in all I was just happy that not everything had to be sussed out with math on the shitty notepad (can you tell I have no patience with lame-o math?!). I very much enjoyed the story, and the graphics were charming as always.