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Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Game Shelf: Professor Layton and the Last Specter (3DS)

*Originally appeared on on 2/21/12

 "The Last Specter" is the latest in the much-heralded Prof. Layton series, but it is not a sequel; instead, it is the first chapter in a prequel trilogy, setting the game in a period before "Professor Layton and the Curious Village", the first game in the series. In it, you play as Layton himself, as well as game favorite Luke Triton and newcomer Emma Altava. While Layton and Luke already know each other, we learn how they first met and became partners in mystery solving. Emma has actually worked with Layton in the past, but only she remembers it for whatever reason. In the game, the three characters search the fictional town of Misthallery, located somewhere in England. The town has been overrun by a giant shadow monster known only as "The Specter", which attacks the town on a regular basis for unknown reasons, with each attack being preceded by eerie flute music. It is up to you as Layton to solve the case and find out the truth behind The Specter.

"The Last Specter" follows the same tradition as the previous Layton games as you go around town solving numerous puzzles. Some of the puzzles are part of the story, while others are hidden throughout the game. While this may seem repetitious to some, the fact is that the formula has proven successful every single time it's implicated. As the old saying goes, if it's broken, don't fix it. As for the characters, there are several recurring characters from previous games, such as Inspector Chelmey and his assistant Barton, but for the most part, the cast is completely fresh. The game features the same bright and colorful graphics you've come to know and love, as well as top-notch voice acting.

As an added bonus, "The Last Specter" features a game within a game, titled "Professor Layton's London Life". It's basically just like "Animal Crossing", only you can earn XP as well (called "Happiness" in the game). It isn't overly complicated or challenging, but can be a nice distraction when you want a break from the game. Plus, when you consider it's a free add-in despite being 100+ hours of content, you really can't complain too much.

While I won't spoil the ending of the game, needless to say, it's very touching and serves as proof that it's very easy to become attached to the characters in the game. I found myself very sad to watch the ending cinematic play out, wishing the game could have ended differently. However, when you can touch a gamer's emotions like that, it's a sign that you've written a great story.

Overall, "Professor Layton and the Last Specter" is a fantastic game. I would say my favorite in the series is still "The Unwound Future", but with this being the start of a trilogy, it definitely left me wanting more and excited about the inevitable next installment.

If you like puzzles, loveable characters and good storytelling, then this series is definitely for you.

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