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Review: Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call (DS)

Professor Layton has been somewhat of a surprise success. Originally released when everyone was crazy for Brain Training games, Layton grabbed the world with his British-Japanese charm and still remains hugely popular - he even had a (straight to Blu-Ray) film, created by the same people who makes the wonderful animation for the games. The Spectre’s Call is the Professor’s latest (well, earliest) adventure, bringing about it’s own set of bizarre plot twists and lovely characters.

The Spectre’s Call is the start of a new trilogy of Layton games, and takes place before any of the previous three. If you’ve yet to experience Layton yourself, the fresh start makes for the perfect point to jump into the series. After getting a letter from his good friend Clark Triton, Layton and his assistant, Emmy, head off to investigate mysterious happenings in Misthallery. A giant spectre, supposedly controlled by a flute, has been attacking the city. Thankfully, with help from the predictions of Luke Triton, nobody had yet been hurt. It’s up to Layton, Emmy and Luke to hunt down all of the town’s secrets to find out who, or what, is behind all this.

The Spectre’s Call brings about a lot of character development, which is further expanded by short story segments called “Episodes” that you unlock during the course of the game and can watch at any time. On top of the story of how Luke and Layton met, you’re also introduced to new main characters: The Professor’s new assistant, Emmy, and a fiesty Scotland Yard detective Inspector Grosky. There are also many other characters that are important to the story with their own interesting back stories. Not to mention Granny Riddleton’s cat, who collects all missed puzzles throughout this adventure.

In terms of gameplay, The Spectre’s Call doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s essentially a case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Many of the puzzles will seem somewhat similar, the same kind of puzzles but with different answers. Veteran Layton players will breeze through the majority of puzzles, but one or two will still catch you out. That doesn’t mean that the puzzles have lost their importance - they’re still very much an important part of the Layton franchise. The story simply wouldn’t be the same without the puzzles.

As with the previous Layton games, The Spectre’s Call also includes a couple of more substantial minigames: Toy Train, Fish and Puppet Theatre. Toy Train Gives you a square grid with stations and obstacles. You have a limited amount of fuel (one piece of fuel equals one square of movement) to get the train through all stations and to the finish point. Simple enough to start with, but deceptively tricky with the addition of moving obstacles and longer trains.

In fish, you have to place bubbles in order to bounce fish into coins. You have to work out a course that will collect all coins in a very short amount of time. It’s simple yet surprisingly difficult - it’s also something you’ll want to try and try again until you get it right. The final one, Puppet Theatre, is frankly an insult to anyone over the age of 10 who has an understanding of the English language. The game tells you a story, and you have to fill in the spaces using a list of verbs.

So, while The Spectre’s Call doesn’t expand on the gameplay, it’s still a fantastic new story and setting for the Layton franchise. The music and voice acting are as great as ever and the lovely hand drawn graphics look great no matter if you’re playing on the DS or 3DS. The pre-rendered animated cutscenes still have their lovely art style and sadly, end way too soon, as always. If you like Layton, the choice to purchase this is a no-brainer. If you haven’t tried it before, then this is the perfect opportunity to jump on board.

9/10

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