Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo DS games
Newest Review: ... The town is plagued by a mystical spectre who appears and destroys various parts of the town. Of course Layton is on hand to solve t... more
Beware the Spectre....
Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call (DS)
Member Name: loopy-lou33
Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call (DS)
Disadvantages: Can only play it once!
Anyone who has read my previous reviews will know that I am a HUGE fan of the Professor Layton series of games for the DS. Having devoured the first three games in the series, I was eagerly anticipating this prequel game, Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call. I have been playing it non-stop over the last couple of days and have completed the main story, so it is time for me to write a review!
For anyone not familiar with this game series, the Professor Layton games are a completely unique concept of handheld gaming. The game revolves around a mystery, which the Professor and his friends must solve. However, to progress through the game, you need to solve various logic and lateral thinking puzzles dotted throughout the game. It is not necessary to solve every puzzle in the game, but there are certain puzzles you must complete in order to progress. The games all have the same format and gameplay style, which is easy to get into and the controls are very intuitive.
Each game begins with a cutscene, which is a very elaborate cartoon sequence, showing off the full capabilities of the DS. The cutscenes, often several minutes long, set the scene for the rest of the story and usually end on a cliffhanger so the player is keen to find out what happens next.
This particular story focuses on the professor's first case and is set three years before the other games in the series. It begins when he receives a strange letter from an old friend who lives in a sleepy village called Misthallery. Every night, a thick fog descends on the town and a large creature called a spectre appears and starts to smash up the houses in the town. A small boy called Luke seems to have the ability to predict when the spectre will appear, but how does he know, and what secrets are yet to be revealed? The prof and his assistant Emmy, go to the town to investigate, and we are shown a tantalising cutscene where we see the spectre appear and start ravaging the town.
The game is easy to navigate using the stylus and touchscreen. You can move around Mistahallery and London by touching the shoe icon in the corner of the screen and following the arrows. There is a map of the town on the top DS screen so you can see where you are going. The town is quite large, but usually, you are given a goal, such as "go to the Plaza" and the arrows on the map will give you an idea where to go.
As you go round the town, you can interact with the people and objects that you see. You can touch a person with your stylus to talk to them. They may give you a clue to help solve the mystery, but may want you to solve a puzzle first. The puzzles come in various formats, from sliding pieces round the screen to make a shape, to solving a maths problem and inputting the answer. The puzzles that really stump me are the ones where you have to think in three dimensions, such as working out what the hidden face of a cube looks like.
You can also interact with objects on the screen. If you tap bushes and trees with your stylus, you may find collectible items or a hint coin which will unlock hints to help you solve puzzles (trust me, you will need them!). You can also unlock hidden puzzles by touching certain areas of the screen. The puzzles, when solved, earn you Picarat coins, which unlock bonus content.
There are also various unlockable minigames available to play. The first game is a train set game, where you have to place track in order to get the train to pass through all the stations. The second game, the fish game, is similar, requiring you to place bubble, which the fish bounces off and chages direction. You have to get the fish to collect the coins. The third game is the puppet theatre, where you have to insert the correct word into the script for the show to go on. You unlock words as you progress through the main game.
As well as the minigames, there are also episodes, which are little cutscenes that you can watch that give the backstory of the characters in the game. This is nice when you want a break from the game! All of the minigames, episodes and collectible items are contained in the trunk at the top right of the screen. You can also save your progress by touching the save option in the trunk.
The game is divided into chapters and each chapter will take an hour or two to complete. There are ten chapters in all. Each chapter seems to unlock further mysteries and the story gets more complicated as you go on. Many of the mysteries are solved in subsequent chapters, and the final chapter wraps everything up nicely. If you are familiar with the Layton games, don't expect a straightforward solution to the mystery. These games are notorious for having weird and wonderful endings with lots of twists and turns in between! I'm not going to spoil the ending, but you may need a spare hanky at the ready!
The graphics in the games are superb, with the custcenes being of cartoon quality. I think that the cutscenes in this game are even better than the previous games, with lots of attention to detail. The world of Professor Layton is an anachronistic parallel world, which seems predominantly Victorian, with London resembling a pretty Cotswold village! However, various elements, such as cars, vehicles, computers and electronic circuits indicate that the time period is ambiguous. The sound quality of the game is also excellent, with top quality voice recording and a music style that has become synonymous with the series (lots of violins and harpsichords!).
The town of Misthallery is lovely, resembling Venice with its network of canals. As well as walking around the town, you can travel by boat. The town has many varied areas, including a bustling Marketplace, an abandoned factory and an old Manor House. The locations are atmospheric and detailed, with lots of interesting features. You can also enter shops, buildings and even stop off at the restaurant for a bite to eat.
I also love the characters in the game, which are well fleshed out and have backstories of their own. I like the fact that this game has concentrated less on the talking animals, which have been a particular irritation of mine in the previous games. Luke does talk to a couple of animals, but paraphrases what they say rather than them talking back in an irritating Bronx accent as happened in one of the previous games I played. The game also brings back some well loved characters from the other games, including Inspector Chelmey and his assistant Barton, as well as Granny Riddleton. Her cat, Keats is always on hand with any puzzles you may have missed or overlooked during the game.
If you haven't played a Layton game before, this is a good one to start with, as it sets the scene and the backstory for the other games. However, if like me, you are already a fan of the games, you will find the style familiar and unchanged and will slip into this game like slipping into a comfortable shoe! I'm glad that they haven't messed with a winning formula!
My only slight gripe is that once you have completed the game, there is very little longevity in the game. The main game will give you about 20 hours of gameplay, and mopping up any additional puzzles may take a bit longer, but other than the minigames, which are not all that good, there is not a lot to come back to once you have completed it. My advice is to complete the game and then trade it in as soon as possible to recoup some of your losses. At £32.99, it is a bit pricey for a game that you cannot return to again and again.
Despite this, I absolutely love the Layton games and the Spectre's call does not disappoint. It contains all the best ingredients of a Layton game and in my opinion, the puzzles are a little bit harder than usual, but I love a challenge. Let's just say I don't have many hint coins left! Just be prepared to put everything else on hold for a couple of days, as once you start playing this game, you can't stop.
Summary: Buy This!!!!