Professor Layton and the Last Specter is the fourth game in the revered "Professor Layton" series from Nintendo; but it is the perfect introduction for first-timers because it is a prequel to the first three games. In it, you discover how Professor Layton finds Luke, his able assistant in the previous three games.
Professor Layton is a top-hat-wearing professor who, in addition to being a world-renowned archaeologist, is also a master of solving puzzles and conundrums. This is his first case, the one that makes him famous for solving mysteries.
In this game, Professor Layton receives an urgent request from a college chum to come to the town of Misthallery to help solve the mystery of a "mysterious giant" that is wreaking havoc on the town. You join the Professor and his new assistant Emmy as they head for Misthallery.
How to Play
As with the three previous games, this game combines video cutscenes with exploration controlled by the player. At crucial points, the game provides you with voiced cinematics. But most of the time, you lead Professor Layton around the town, stopping to text-chat with people you meet along the way. Most are friendly, but if you want specific information, you will need to solve a puzzle that they present. There are also hidden puzzles that you can find by tapping on the scenery. And some puzzles just appear in your environment, and require solving before you can move ahead in the story.
The over 150 puzzles run the gamut of traditional brainteasers to novel new conundrums. One of the traditional brainteasers is a puzzle about how to ferry certain animals across a river so that you don't leave two waiting together that will fight each other. An example of a novel puzzle is one where you are shown four photos of tourists at the same sightseeing spot. By paying attention to subtle differences in the photos (particularly the way the light hits objects), you can tell which three tourists were traveling together. There are also mazes, including one that flips each time you enter a hole, algebra-type problems, slider and sorting puzzles, ones about cutting paper to form designs, and so much more.
To accommodate all levels of puzzle-solvers, the game provides hint coins, which are found by tapping around every new location. If you want, you can use the coins to purchase hints; each puzzle comes with three hints and one super hint (which reveals most of how to solve the puzzle).
In addition to this great reservoir of challenging and interesting puzzles, the story is compelling. Early on, you watch a menacing big, black, ghost-like figure smash buildings. You learn of a legendary magical flute that had been used to protect the town from evil; and that, when it was played, it would call forth a big, black specter as a guardian.
Not only is there an overall mystery to solve, but the story also offers smaller investigations to explore. These smaller mysteries are cataloged for you, so that you keep them all straight. For example, to gain access to the black market where an old flute was recently auctioned off, you need to solve the mystery of the black raven characters who appear running over rooftops and through the town's market.
The combination of fun brainteasers and an intriguing mystery make Professor Layton and the Last Specter a great game to play. But it is the added items and resources that move it from great into outstanding. For example, every time you start up the game, it reviews what's happened so far in the story.
Other resources are found in the Professor's Trunk, which is accessed from an icon on the screen. From there you can find Layton's journal, which automatically keeps track of all the facts you learn. You can also review all of the lesser mysteries and see what the Professor is thinking. All of the puzzles you encounter show up here and can be replayed. This is where you can save the game. The trunk also lets you review episodes -- events that aren't part of the main mystery, but which reveal more about the story's characters.
There are also three fun minigames in the trunk. One involves laying down tracks so that a toy train can reach a goal. Another involves a fish tank, and the third is a puppet theater.
The game also comes with bonus features, like new downloadable puzzles and a separate, sort of rudimentary, role-playing game called "London Life," where you can interact with characters from the Professor Layton universe.
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