A troublesome spectre becomes the focus of Professor Layton’s latest case, as he finds himself travelling to the village of Misthallery to investigate a series of destructive attacks the creature has made.
Citizens have long passed down the legend of the spectre, who would rise from the mist to defend the village whenever the Spectre’s Flute was played. Yet more recently it has become aggressive, destroying buildings in the middle of the night. Fortunately, an oracle, whose identity remains anonymous to the village, is able to predict when and where the spectre will attack next, ensuring that those nearby are evacuated to safety before its arrival.
With the attacks getting progressively worse, Professor Layton’s old friend, and village mayor, Clark Triton sends a letter with a coded request for assistance, and so Layton sets out to investigate just exactly what’s going on, with assistant Emmy Altava in tow.
Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call is the fourth instalment to see a western release and acts as a prequel that takes place three years before the original immensely popular puzzle-adventure trilogy. Whilst the mystery behind the elusive spectre obviously takes centre stage in terms of plot interest, Layton fans are also able to look forward to discovering how Luke Triton crossed paths with the Professor.
The plot itself is one full of comedy, intrigue and surprise, seemingly set to be one of the best so far in the series until it spirals out of control within the closing portion of the game. Even those with the most powerful deduction skills will be left baffled by a ludicrous twist, and to feel that invested in a game’s plot for it to result in such a way is sure to frustrate numerous players.
More to the detriment of the game are the puzzles in Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call, consisting of the usual brain teaser, sliding, logic and mathematical varieties. Such category familiarity is fine, yet with three Professor Layton titles already under their belt, it would appear that LEVEL-5 are beginning to run out of fresh ideas for their puzzles.
This results in a range of puzzles with incredibly tenuous descriptions, especially within the logic category, that will see the player have to use their accumulated Hint Coins to unlock clues and the all-revealing Super Hint just to figure out exactly what is required of you. Choose not to, and you’ll witness those valuable Picarats flit away.
Misthallery itself is the most expansive environment within the series so far, something that LEVEL-5 address by allowing the player to traverse between each of its regions using Bucky’s Boat Ride service.
Mini-games also feature, that include a Toy Train set where the player must use a specific number of track pieces to ensure the train passes through a series of stations; Fish Tanks in which you shamelessly ricochet a helpless fish to collect coins; and a Puppet Show where you have to choose the correct action for the puppets to enact within the play.
Tapping mice that scurry across Misthallery also reward the player with Mouse Alley, where you must tap as many mice as possible within the time limit whilst avoiding appearances by Luke’s pet mouse. Such additions once again prove a worthy distraction to the purely exploration and puzzle set-up that encompasses the majority of the game, even if they’re similar to efforts within previous titles.
New to this entry in the Layton series is ‘Episodes’, brief dialogue sequences that allow the player to peer into the lives of those that you meet during your investigation. It’s a nice inclusion and serves to expand upon the backstory to each character beyond being solitary NPC’s whose purpose is to solely challenge you with puzzles once approached.
On top of this, you can also look forward to downloadable Weekly Puzzles, unlockable bonus content and Layton’s Challenges – a collection of extra puzzles that prove to be the hardest within the game.
The choice to not localise Professor Layton’s London Life – absent from this European version but present on both North American and Japanese copies – which boasts of providing the player with an additional 100 hours+ RPG, is also a sorely missed inclusion. If it was added, it would’ve made Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call a much more worthy purchase.
Whilst the Layton universe remains to be one of the most enjoyable to step into, following the Lost Future – which for me has been the strongest title within the series so far – this most recent outing disappoints. However there’s still plenty to enjoy here for fans of the formula, especially with the appearance of the series’ best villain, but it just doesn’t result in being the most notable of Professor Layton’s adventures.
Version Tested: Nintendo DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo