Professor Layton and the Last Specter Review for DS

On: DS
Professor Layton and the Last Specter screenshot
Professor Layton and the Last Specter screenshot

Early on in Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call there's a moment where Emmy, plucky assistant to the top-hatted prof, takes a moment to reflect upon the situation at hand.

"A great archaeological find linked to a mysterious letter with an air of danger about it!" she exclaims. "I couldn't possibly imagine a situation being more Laytonesque!"

The Professor himself doesn't care much for Emmy's new adjective, but she's got a point: there's something inherently familiar about the setup to this, the fourth game in Level 5's series. While the giant, eponymous Spectre adds a splash of Godzilla to proceedings, arriving at night to flatten entire buildings, most of the game finds Layton and his chums walking around a quiet town, prodding the eccentric locals until they furnish him with riddles to solve.

Clearly, this is exactly what most people will want from a Layton title, but it's hard to escape the feeling that everything is overly familiar. Last year's Lost Future had the gimmick of time travel to keep things interesting, while the game before that, Diabolical Box, had the courtesy to give us a mysterious train ride before returning to the established crawl around town. This time we immediately head to Misthallery, another sleepy rural hamlet of winding streets and superstitious, puzzle-obsessed locals.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter screenshot

While the plot does eventually pick up - revealing exactly how and why Layton teamed up with Luke Triton, his schoolboy apprentice - it's the puzzles themselves that you should be concerned with. Here too there's a heavy element of déjà vu, with the usual spread of logic, mathematical and lateral thinking challenges. There's nothing here that you haven't seen before in previous outings, but at least Level 5 maintains the usual spread of diversity. Given the sheer number of teasers on offer (there are over 130) it's still impressive that the game repeats itself so rarely. Even if you detest one particular style of conundrum - the ever-maddening sliding block arrangements, in my case - you can rest assured that you won't have to suffer them very often.

On the rare occasions when a puzzle really does break down, it's usually due to the limitations of the DS hardware, which is beginning to feel a bit old now. Such shortcomings are most evident when you're asked to inspect an image to find a lone, tell-tale detail; we've endured these squint-inducing labours before, of course, but they seem particularly out of place at the tail end of 2011, when most of us habitually carry high-resolution smartphones, iPads, or both.

Elsewhere you'll find a higher-than-usual percentage of puzzles that demand anomalous solutions - or "bullshit", to use plain English. One prominent offender presents an old-fashioned clock, asking you to think of all the times of the day when the same number appears three times in succession - like 01.11, for example. The game then asks you to consider the angle of difference, moving in a clockwise direction, between the clock's hour and minute hands. Finally, you're instructed to state the time at which this angle will be the greatest.

Got all that? Okay, have a think about what answer you'd input.

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Game Stats

Technical Specs
Professor Layton and the Last Specter
7
Out of 10
Professor Layton and the Last Specter
  • Presentation is as charming as ever
  • Mini-games on offer are strong
  • Needs new ideas
  • No London Life
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Release Date: 25/11/2011
Platform: DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Puzzle
No. Players: One
Rating: PEGI 7+
Site Rank: 6,924 271
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