By Spencer . October 23, 2011 . 5:30pm
The previous Professor Layton title, The Unwound Future, ended Layton and Luke’s adventures. Professor Layton and the Last Specter rewinds time and explains how the puzzle solving duo met. Before the story begins, we’re introduced to Emmy who was hired to be the professor’s assistant. She proves to be just as sharp at brainteasers when she decodes a letter from one of Layton’s old friends. The two head to Misthallery, a village in England with a supernatural conundrum. A boy in the quaint town by the name of Luke Triton can predict where a destructive specter appears, which means there must be more to the mystery.
Of course there is, but you have to solve a few dozen puzzles before you can get there. Just like other games in the series, everyone wants Layton’s help to figure out the next playing card in a sequence or how to arrange apples in different baskets. Puzzles range from mini math tests to word twisters to mazes to rearranging blocks. Level-5 designed the DS game with a good amount of puzzle diversity. Although, the types of puzzles in The Last Specter should be familiar to people who played the other games. The puzzles have an outside of the box trick to them that Professor Layton fans will probably pick up on quickly. If you get stuck you can spend hint coins earned by tapping the background for clues. Players still have to tap everywhere, but a helpful fish reveals some of the hidden hint coins.
The fish collects coins in its own mini-game where players place bubbles that make your gilled friend bounce in the opposite direction. Another new mini-game is toy train where you have to drag and drop train tracks so a train can visit all of the stations. Puppet theater is the final (and perhaps simplest) mini-game, which has players pick words to direct a play. These three diversions meant to be a break from the puzzles. While trading solutions for story progression may sound like old hat, Professor Layton and the Last Specter’s captivates players to see Hershel solve the next mystery. Seeing how Luke and Layton interact when they first meet is a treat for fans that played through the first trilogy (The Last Specter starts a second) and compared to the previous games the story is a tad heavier. Since The Last Specter is a prequel, its also more welcoming for newcomers.
While The Last Specter’s main story doesn’t stray far from its formula, Level-5 and Fantasy Life developer Brownie Brown created a second game that’s completely different. Professor Layton’s London Life (not included in the European version) has a pixilated look similar to another Brownie Brown game, Mother 3, but the two titles couldn’t be more different. London Life is more like Animal Crossing. Your life begins after you create a 2D avatar with rudimentary clothing and take a train to London. Ingrid gives you an empty apartment to live in and you have to pick up litter to buy furniture. Trash duty is just one of the odd jobs in London Life. Fishing and driving a bus are other ways of earning wealth (that’s the game’s currency stat) and increasing happiness. You can moonlight as a delivery boy for the townsfolk who happen to wait at the same place each virtual day. Hang around long enough and you’ll see some pixilated characters from the Layton series pop up.
Puzzles from the main game
Why bother earning wealth? You can spend money on new items for your room and outfits. Clothes move the game along to some degree because what you wear changes how the game reacts to you. The impression stat affects the number of requests (read: errands) are available and formality allows you to enter fancy buildings like the town’s casino. Also similar to the Animal Crossing games, you can invite a friend over to visit your London through Nintendo Wi-Fi or set up tag mode to trade items plus spread happiness.
Nintendo boasts London Life has over 100 hours of gameplay and while I’m not even close to that figure, I’ve seen some repetition already. There is an actual story to complete, but the core of London Life is collecting and that means doing the same jobs over and over to earn wealth. Professor Layton’s London Life is optional, you can play through the puzzle solving main game and ignore it or vice-versa. As a bonus, London Life is a big one, but it might not be the RPG you’ve been waiting for – since there is no combat and leveling up consists of purchasing new pants.