After the amazing game that was Unwound Future, the Professor Layton series resumed not with a continuation, but with a prequel trilogy set before the original games. The first of these, and the fourth game in the series, is Professor Layton and the Last Specter.
This game starts out with higher stakes than the previous three, as a mysterious specter (which amusingly looks a bit like a Heartless from Kingdom Hearts) attacks a small town every night. Professor Layton is called in for help, where he investigates the mystery with the help of his friend’s son, Luke Triton.
Yes, Luke is introduced for the first time in Last Specter, and we get to see how he became Layton’s apprentice. They aren’t alone, either. A young woman named Emmy joins the team as the professor’s assistant. She caused quite a bit of speculation among fans, because she didn’t appear at all in the original trilogy. The reason for this, however, wouldn’t be revealed for two more games.
Unlike the first trilogy, where each entry stood mostly on its own, the prequel games have an overarching plot. Last Specter sets down the roots for this larger story, although it’s still self-contained enough to leave you satisfied at the end. And since it’s a Layton game, you can expect some crazy plot twists.
The core of the gameplay is solving puzzles, of course. As you explore the town and learn more about the specter, characters will give you puzzles to solve. These puzzles come in all forms, from riddles to block-sliding. Not all are required to complete the game, but if you decide to solve them all, you won’t run out of content for a while. Mini-games, another common feature of the series, return and unlock bonus puzzles if you finish every mini-game stage.
Finally, the Japanese and American versions of the game include a side RPG called Layton’s London Life, which served as a prototype for the developer’s later RPG Fantasy Life. In Layton’s London Life, you interact with characters from the series while doing tons of quests and making a life for yourself in the city. It’s quite charming and fun.
Overall, Last Specter adheres to the Layton formula, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The story is exciting and entertaining, and London Life adds hours of additional content. Professor Layton fans should definitely check this one out and it’s also one of the best starting places for a series newcomer.