Professor Layton and the Last Specter

Professor Layton and the Last Specter
Professor Layton and the Last Specter Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Puzzler plus bonus RPG
MtAMinutes to Action 9
Keep Playing? Yes and Yes
Buy from Amazon

I’ve played and beaten the first three Professor Layton games, and while I continue to return to them every year like clockwork, they have been essentially the same game every time. Sure, the stories change, and the puzzles are a bit different, but the core gameplay has remained the same: move around town poking at stuff, solve puzzles, talk to people, eventually linearally solve the overarching mystery that ends in some bizarre manner. I don’t hate it, it’s just repetitive.

But I love the puzzles, and the characters and setting are so charming, I can’t help but play. The fourth game in the series, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, has finally been released in North America after being out in Japan for nearly two years. Though we’re slowly catching up, the fifth game was just released earlier this year on the 3Ds, so we’ll hopefully be playing that come next fall.

Last Specter also holds a special surprise: London Life. I don’t know much about the new game, let alone this super-minigame inside it, but there’s plenty of buzz around it on the internet. So for a special first hour, we’ll be playing the first half-hour of the main game, and then switching over to London Life, whatever that may be. Let’s get right to it.

Minute by Minute of the Main Game

00 - I select New Game and the first half-hour of Professor Layton and the Last Specter begins. I enter my name and the game warns me that this is a work of fiction. A narrator begins telling the story of a young girl being harassed by bandits who is saved by a specter. Whenever she was in trouble she would just play a flute and the specter would rescue her. We never see the reader’s face, or the other elderly man he’s reading to.

01 - The Professor and Luke are with some woman in yellow looking out the window of their hotel room at night. They’re talking about the specter. Suddenly, some flute music begins playing and bizarre stuff starts happening.

02 - Some tea rumbles Jurassic Park style and a huge, three story tall black ghost thing is messing up the street. It has ghastly red eyes and freaks Luke out. The woman tries to take a picture of it.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter Emmy car03 - The title screen comes and goes and the Prologue begins: “So We Meet Again...” Another cutscene of the woman in yellow riding her scooter through town. The Professor gets a letter in the mail, but is sound asleep on the couch. His maid or someone tidies up and makes him some tea.

05 - He almost dashes out before he takes his tea, but Professor Layton is a proper English gentleman. The woman in yellow chases after the Professor and eventually cuts him off. She seems to know him, but he doesn’t recognize her.

06 - The cutscene ends and we get some proper dialog boxes and all that, though there’s still voice acting. The woman’s name is Emmy Altava, his new assistant.

07 - Doesn’t sound like she’s going to take the place of Luke, but more of a professional assistant at the university.

08 - She inquires on where they’re going, and he hands Emmy a letter from Clark (someone from a previous game... nope) who writes about the giant, black specter harassing their town.

09 - There’s another message... and it’s a puzzle!

10 - Well, that was really easy. Had to spell a seven letter “word” divined from a message that was seven lines long. Of course, each letter was the first letter of the line, spelling out “HELPSOS”. I earn 10 picarats.

11 - Emmy has clearly been stalking Professor Layton and knows everything about him. Woah, he’s only 34 years old!

Professor Layton and the Last Specter Emmy Rope12 - Layton admits they’re driving to Misthallery, which has been in the news lately for a major archaeological find.

13 - The game’s first two (of 10) mysteries are revealed: Letter and Golden Garden. The garden is spuposedly a city of gold that the village of Misthallery is built upon. I save my game for the first time.

14 - Chapter 1 - The Fog of Misthallery. The duo arrives at the village minus Luke, poor kid, though we obviously knows he appears later from the opening flashforward (or from the present, as we’re probably actually playing a flashback now, WHATEVER). I now have the opportunity to investigate the village by tapping around the screen and moving to different areas. Time to look for puzzles!

16 - A man named Aldus appears and points us towards our first hint coin, which can be used to buy hints during a puzzle.

17 - There’s a few moving and menu tutorials, and then I run into a kid named Charlie who has a puzzle!

19 - In this one I need to select three pictures out of four showing tourists that traveled together. My first guess, based on a dog wandering through the pictures, was wrong!

20 - Ah, the trick was in the direction the shadows they cast! Tourist C clearly has an extended shadow, where the other three look like they might have been there around noon.

22 - We come across two rope bridges, and one is sealed off by a flurry of knots... which brings us to an unofficial puzzle! We cut the right rope and the bridge is revealed. Maybe it was roped off for a reason?

Professor Layton and the Last Specter Village24 - What the? A mouse runs through the area and I tap it to get a Mouse Badge. Okay, then.

25 - We head down the bridge that was previously blocked and come across a pretty beat up section of town. Emmy begins taking pictures of the damage. Poking around reveals puzzle #3, “Pick a Package”!

26 - Emmy solves her first puzzle with ease! For anyone interested, the correct package is the second from the bottom and second from right.

27 - We investigate a broken down door with a red symbol on it and a local boy tells us that’s the witch’s mark. Apparently, get this mark and your house will be destroyed!

28 - As I’m trying to tap a dashing mouse, I instead tap a puzzle!

29 - We’re looking at a 5x6 grid and a bunch of Tetris-shaped blocks outside, I need to work them all into the rectangle.

30 - Ugh, annoying, well, not going to finish this one in a minute! First half-hour of the main game is finished!

Minute by Minute of London Life

00 - I select London Life from the main menu and the mini-game kicks off. First thing it tells me is to put away the stylus! Whoa. Next, I select which gender to play as and then configure my appearance.

01 - Oddly enough, the sprite face for surprised and shy is the same.

02 - After setting my clothes, I can pick a trait to inherit such as Great Cook, Winning Smile, or Smooth Talker. I’ll go with Smooth Talker which means I’m a ladies man.

04 - Finally, set my name and birthday (which the DS already knows), and we’re off... to something. My train has arrived in Little London and I get control of my character in the station. The upper screen shows a map of the town.

05 - The game certainly feels like an RPG, hold the B button to move faster, A to talk to folks and investigate objects, and X opens the menu. My inventory is empty.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter London Life map

07 - One of the ticket agents talks about me getting a job like his, I just need to build up my resume first. This is sure making me curious.

08 - A man outside the station (whose sprite I recognize to be a super miniaturized version of a regular from the Layton series) tells me I’ll be living in Humble Homes, which is just south of here, and that I should meet up with the landlady, Ingrid.

09 - I find Ingrid in the lower left-hand corner, she tells me about the menu, and I get 10 Happiness points. She then shoos me off to City Hall so I can register myself.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter London Life hat11 - I register with Rodney and head back to Ingrid. Received another 10 Happiness and finished off another “request”, the minigame’s name for quest.

12 - Inside my room, just had a really weird sense of déjà vu. This looks just like something pulled out of EarthBound or Mother 3.

14 - After a quick trip to and from the department store, Ingrid recommends I get a job at City Hall, as they’re hiring. Government work? In this economy?

15 - I can also now change my clothing, though I have nothing to change, removing clothing affects stats! There’s coolness, impression, and formality. Undressing apparently reduces all three.

16 - My first job is as a janitor picking up trash! I eavesdrop on a door in the City Hall and just so happen to learn that Rodney will recommend someone as a taxi driver if they do a good job picking up garbage. A new goal!

17 - I pick up one piece of junk and upon turning it into Rodney, get 80 Wealth and 10 Happiness!

20 - More running around town rewards me with a Simple Bed that I can sleep in to speed up time. I head into the menu and set up my furniture, placing my single bed into the corner.

21 - Now what? Sleep, I guess? I can also “party” in my bed. I try it and nothing happens. Not much of a partyer.

23 - Not being able to run diagonally is rather annoying.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter London Life Stats24 - My happiness is going down slowly, not sure what triggers it. Oh, maybe it was when I talked to a cat and got hissed at? I try to enter the casino but it requires 50 formality points! Jerks.

25 - Sleeping again maxed out my happiness. I also receive a daily newspaper which reveals some request opportunities around town.

27 - One guy has lost his scarf near the university. Where is that? Time to explore.

29 - Some woman wants me to juggle, so my character puts on a clown outfit and I get a quick lesson on tossing balls and spinning around.

30 - After a minute I score 2160 points and earned 75 Wealth from a single rabbit watching the show. Well, that’s the end of a half-hour with London Life!

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action in the Main Game: 9 minutes to a puzzle

Minutes to Action in London Life: 4 minutes to walking around, 29 minutes to juggling!

Bias: I have a soft spot in my gaming heart for the Professor Layton series, and while I’ve been progressively giving the series a lower full review score as the games' repetitiveness sinks in, I still can’t help but play every single new game immediately upon release. There’s really no doubt I’m going to keep playing from the start.

As for London Life, I actually knew nothing about it going in! Not sure how much I know after a half-hour, though. Weird stuff.

Would I Keep Playing? Yes! to the main game, and Yes... to London Life. I only solved three puzzles out of hundreds in the game proper, I need to beat them all. As for London Life? I’m really just intrigued at the concept. Do you just run around doing odd jobs, collecting Wealth and Happiness?

There are some things that bug me, of course. In the main game, there still aren’t any major changes to the core gameplay. Not that I was expecting much, and maybe something will be revealed later, but pretty much the only difference is that Emmy is traveling with the Professor instead of Luke, but we know Luke still shows up from the flashforward/non-flashback at the beginning.

In London Life, walking is excruciatingly slow, like, really, really atrocious. If you don’t hold the B button you will go insane. There’s also no running diagonally, something I thought was a requirement in RPGs since 1998?

I’m excited to play both games, but will probably plow through the main game before returning to London Life, need to get my puzzle fix!

Professor Layton and the Last Specter Emmy Luke art