When is this out in Europe?
The original Professor Layton trilogy is over, and now Level-5 has seen massive success around the world with Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box, and Professor Layton and the Lost Future, it is starting out afresh with the first game in a series of three titles that explore Hershel Layton’s early adventures and how he came to have the young Luke Triton as his apprentice-cum-sidekick. After such a strong finale last year with The Lost Future, the task of surpassing that with Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call is a mammoth one. Swallowing the disappointment that European gamers do not get the added RPG mode, Professor Layton’s London Life from Nintendo-owned Brownie Brown, despite it being included in the US edition, Cubed3 delivers its verdict.
There are some places that just get forgotten about, and Misthallery in one of them. A small, sleepy village in the middle of nowhere is the setting of Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call, though, with Hershel Layton being beckoned there by his old friend, Clark Triton. It is here that he crosses paths with an old ally, Emmy Altava, and joins forces with Clark’s son, Luke, in an effort to find the reasoning behind all the bother that has been going on lately. Seemingly a giant monster, named the spectre by those in Misthallery, has been terrorising the populace, threatening to level the land, causing damage wherever it appears. Everything appears to be rather mysterious to Professor Layton, and so the investigation commences, with plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns along the way, plus the usual mix of weird and wonderful characters that keep the story driving onwards at a fair pace, throwing in dark humour and insidious tones in good supply. Whilst not quite as gripping as the conclusion to the original trilogy in Professor Layton and the Lost Future, as the start of a fresh arc Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call does a fantastic job of laying the foundations for what is bound to be truly epic fifth and six adventures on Nintendo 3DS.
Any complaint from the first two games, Curious Village and Pandora’s Box, can be wiped right from anyone’s mind, since The Spectre’s Call follows perfectly in the footsteps of The Lost Future by trying its hardest to implement puzzles into the main story as smoothly as possible. Of course there are still scenarios where there are awkward moments when someone talks to you about a particular subject and then randomly states, “Oh, by the way, try to answer this!” but it has definitely been considerably toned down and there are plenty of situations where the solution to a conundrum is actually of great importance to the progression of the story, be it working through a maze, flicking switches to open passageways, or testing your skills to prove that you are indeed the renowned Professor Layton to gain the trust of others.
Anyone wanting to complete every single puzzle in the game is going to find that there is plenty of repetition in the types of puzzle found, such as ones where an object must be moved from one side of a case to another by sliding blocks around, or rotating and flipping various cumbersome-looking shapes in order to make them fit into a confined space. However, in order to merely work through the main adventure, flicking from the crazy happenings in Misthallery, to Scotland Yard, and even stopping by Professor Layton’s regular haunt, the fictitious Gressenheller University in London, the array of puzzles in pleasing indeed, and everything is held together wonderfully by the gorgeously animated video cut-scenes, general attention-to-detail in the characters met throughout, and the strong voice acting that is plentiful in nature. There are even plenty of chances to interact with the scenery, whether it is to capture mice running wild, uncover hidden artefacts, grab hold of useful Hint Coins that open up clues during puzzles, or even get little comments from Hershel Layton, Emmy and Luke whilst travelling around.
If there is one aspect where Level-5 appears unable to put a foot wrong it is that of its games’ presentation and the high level of detail included. Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call is sumptuous to watch, play and listen to. There are more than 170 puzzles to conquer, including those unlocked after the main story has been completed (albeit if you have collected a sufficient amount of Picarats, the points gained from successfully solving puzzles in the main game), plus weekly ones to download via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. On top of that, there are extra little mini-games to try out during Professor Layton’s journey, such as one where a limited amount of bubbles must be placed in a fish tank at just the right place before setting a gold fish off on its route, aiming to collect all the coins strewn around within the set time limit. Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call may not quite hit the highs of Professor Layton and the Lost Future, but it sits close behind it as the second-best release out of the four adventures on Nintendo DS. Europeans may not be getting Professor Layton’s London Life included, but The Spectre’s Call is one meaty adventure nonetheless.
Fans of the previous three Nintendo DS Professor Layton games will feel right at home here, with logic conundrums, mathematical quizzes, slide puzzles, and more pouring forth as usual. For The Spectre’s Call, though, it definitely seems the difficulty level has been slightly reduced, perhaps to remove frustration for newcomers, but the extra mini-games thrown in are great compensation for veterans.
The weird and wonderful characters from the mind of the development team at Level-5 are just as intriguing as ever, with firm favourites returning and a whole batch of new charismatic creations. Everything is placed in a wonderfully animated world, full of attention-to-detail, and with the added bonus of movie sequences to drive the story along.
It is not only the French-tinged accordion themes that make soundtrack stand out from the crowd, but the wide range of differing styles, ranging from the catchy piano pieces to the uplifting string sections and even the haunting tunes that grace the more macabre elements of the adventure.
There is a solid twenty hours of gameplay to be found in Professor Layton, with 155 puzzles in the main story, 15 post-game extras, plus lots of treats to unlock. US readers can add one point to this score due to the addition of the exclusive extra mode, Professor Layton’s London Life.
Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call (or Professor Layton and the Last Specter in the US), is easily right up there with the other three games, following on nicely from last year’s final part of the original trilogy, Professor Layton and the Lost Future. The only drawback is that there seems to be more repetition of puzzle types in this fourth outing, and as the start of a new trilogy, the story does not grip players quite as much as the enthralling climax in the previous release. The Spectre’s Call is definitely the second best out of the four entries in the Professor Layton series so far, though, and a fantastic treat just in time for the holiday period.
When is this out in Europe?
Thanks. What's London Life? Feel like I'm missing out on something big here!
I haven't jumped into London Life properly, yet. I have access to the US version, but I need to focus on games like Zelda Skyward Sword and Mario 3D Land first...and then if I have some breathing space I *may* try to do a separate review of London Life.