25 November 2012 | robotbling
Another fun investigation for fans of Layton's formula
(www.plasticpals.com) Professor Layton & The Last Specter is the fourth chapter in the series, and the final installment on the Nintendo DS. Like the previous installments players can solve around 150 puzzles, all while uncovering a central mystery. This time a monstrous phantom is attacking the town of Misthallery, and Layton is summoned by an old friend to get to the bottom of things.
The far-fetched plot of The Last Specter should come as no surprise to those who have played Layton's previous adventures. Although it is meant for all ages, it's disappointing that the series veers into the realm of total fantasy.
Professor Layton is portrayed as an intelligent investigator who solves mysteries with logic and deduction, much like Sherlock Holmes. However, the actual mysteries he uncovers always feature a catch so ridiculous it can't be fully predicted. It just feels like lazy story-telling to rely on outrageous plot devices.
This chapter is a bit different than the others because it is actually a prequel. It depicts Layton's first adventure with his pint-sized sidekick Luke, and a beautiful young assistant named Emmy.
This game is played entirely using the stylus, making it very user-friendly and easy to pick up and play. You simply tap on characters or objects to interact with them.
You'll do much less back-tracking in this one thanks to a character who transports you around town, which was a nice addition. And if you miss any puzzles, they can be accessed by finding a cat that appears in most zones. Additional weekly puzzles can be downloaded for free using a Wi-Fi connection.
Players won't be disappointed by the game's production values. The standard set by the previous games is maintained, including voice acting, several high quality animated movie sequences, and detailed hand-drawn backgrounds.
As usual there are a few mini-games that serve as a diversion from the regular puzzles. They're similar in nature to those of The Unwound Future, and if completed will unlock additional puzzles after you've completed the game. Unfortunately once again one of them is basically a simple ad-lib storybook.
In addition to the main game there's a full-fledged side game called London Life, wherein players interact with personalities from the Layton universe in Little London. Developed by Brownie Brown, Layton's London Life is drawn in the same delightful style as Mother 3. Unfortunately, you don't actually play as Professor Layton or Luke but instead customize a male or female avatar.
Although it was billed as a role-playing game, this is more of an interactive town simulation similar to titles like The Sims or Animal Crossing. That being said, this extra features more emphasis on story than either of those games. You can collect furniture for your house, clothes to change your appearance, and perform a variety of simple errands for the citizens.
At one point in time it seemed as though this final DS chapter would not see release outside of Japan, which would have been a shame for a series that got its start on the touch-based hand-held. Nintendo had already launched the 3DS, and this particular series is quite tricky to localize for other markets due to its wordy nature. I was very glad to see it released, as I've thoroughly enjoyed this series. Each chapter has been a great way to spend a few minutes or hours solving brain teasers. The game has at least 15 hours of content, and coupled with London Life, the potential for many more.