I’ve been a huge fan of the Professor Layton games since they first released, even though the stories have consistently jumped the shark more progressively than the last. Professor Layton and the Last Specter is the fourth game in the series, but it’s a prequel to the first game. It tells the story of how Professor Layton and Luke first met and developed their friendship. It also has the most bizarre and unimpressive story to date as well.
For those unfamiliar with the Professor Layton games, the core gameplay is all based on solving puzzles and riddles. Some of the puzzles are wordplay, others are little games, and others require some basic knowledge of math. They’re typically fantastic brain teasers that make you feel inept at first but award you with a great sense of accomplishment when you solve the puzzles without using hint coins. The first Professor Layton game tied the story to the puzzle-solving gameplay brilliantly, and none of the games have done as well to date. In a way, it isn’t fair, because the story of the first game centered on Layton’s ability to solve puzzles. In the end, it all made sense why the villagers kept handing him puzzles to solve. None of the other games have done that, and if they all did, they wouldn’t feel unique. However, as the games have progressed, the manner in which Layton is handled puzzles has felt lazy, and this game sparked this feeling of laziness more often than the games before. For example, many of the townspeople Layton came across would simply say, “Hey, I can’t solve this puzzle, do it for me,” or “I’ll give you the info you want if you solve this puzzle.” Why don’t you just say tap here for a puzzle?
I didn’t enjoy the puzzles of this game very much either. I felt that far too many required math, something I really hate, and way too many required basic knowledge of geometry and trigonometry for my liking. There’s a reason why I majored in English in college, and not math or science. In reality, there were probably only 10 puzzles that required geometry of any kind, but that was way too many for me. I like riddles, word games, visual puzzles, and the occasional number game. Please don’t ask me to draw angles to calculate how a bird flies.
As a result, I kept GameFAQs open at pretty much all the time so I wouldn’t waste hint coins on puzzles I wasn’t going to take the time to solve. In the past, I sought out GameFAQs as a last resort. This time, I didn’t care. It shouldn’t be that way for a game based on puzzles.
I kept going through the game for the story. The stories always won me over in the end, no matter how crazy they were in the beginning. This one failed me all the way through. The story this time was about a Specter (yes, obviously) who randomly appears during the night in the town of Misthallery and destroys everything in its path where it appears. A mysterious oracle has been able to warn the police where the Specter will appear so that the townspeople of the area can be evacuated, but it’s not stopping the Specter from appearing and wreaking havoc. The mayor of the town is an old friend of Professor Layton’s, and he has asked the young archeologist to come investigate. It’s worth mentioning that the mayor’s son is Luke, Layton’s soon-to-be apprentice.
It started off interesting enough, but I was permanently lost when the Loch Ness monster appeared. And no, that wasn’t the Specter, so that’s not a real spoiler. From that point on, the game tried to take the player down an emotional road that the player really had no emotional attachment to. The ending was supposed to be sad, but I just couldn’t get sad, and this is someone who tears up at virtually any hint of sadness anywhere. No, really; I cried while reading the end of The Fall of Reach.
Will I get Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask when it releases this Fall? Yes, because I’m not going to turn my back on a series for one bad game. Let’s be serious; I’m still buying Kingdom Hearts games, so obviously it takes 5-10 bad games for me to walk away.