After visiting the future, Layton takes a trip to the past
Taking a hint from the Star Wars films, Professor Layton has to ask himself a very difficult question. Where do you go when you’ve become so emotionally invested in some of the most loveable characters ever created that you’ve shelled out your heart on a silver plater? You travel back to the beginning of their trials and tribulations together and find out how it all began, with a brand new trilogy of prequel titles. Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call attempts to answer even more puzzling conundrums, whilst clearing up any discrepancies between the relationship of a mastermind professor and a young child. But seeing as we already know where Layton got his infamous hat…do we really need to know any more about the ultimate gentleman? Professor Hershel Layton is completely apprenticeless, but that’s the least of his worries right now. A new assistant has turned up on his doorstep unexpectedly, his office is in a state and to top it off, he’s received a distressing letter from a stranger in the town of Misthallery. Succumbing to the might of a monstrous spectre laying waste to the town, Layton and his self-established assistant Emmy arrive in Misthallery to consult the oracle of the town, a boy who can predict precisely where the spectre will strike next-a boy named Luke. It’s not long before you start dabbling in brain teasers and a familiar investigation filled with puzzles arises. Something feels overly familiar about these ones though. The thing I love about the Layton series is that old saying ‘There’s only so many stories in the world’ is chucked in the bin with its interesting and dynamic storytelling, but it appears the puzzles are succumbing to that rule. Some intellectual conflicts feel like rehashes of past conundrums, and although the solutions may not be the same, the processes you’ll undertake to solve them haven’t really been altered. Of course this doesn’t mean to say the whole title is a complete remake of previous additions, it just all rather familiar. Mini-games make another return, but if you’ve played Layton’s last outing even these have a sense of deja vu about them. You’re able to herd a fish into collecting coins scattered around his tank by placing bubbles about to affect his trajectory. Fun, but awfully like the parrot based mini-game we saw last time. You’re given a toy train set to construct challenging paths to reach a specific destination whilst avoiding obstacles…much like a toy car related mini-game seen before. And, much like the former, there’s another ‘Missing words’ game, where you must insert words to make cohesive sentences. They may ring a few bells, but they’re nice brainy breaks for when the mind frazzles at the prospect of the mounting quizzes against you. With the progressively more insane premises that the Professor finds himself in, we should have a Sherlock like dubiousness around the absurd. Thankfully this adventure builds a far more respectable paranormal aura than an episode of Most Haunted, each mystery solved uncovering more to ponder over in hours to come until its gratifying conclusion. Kicking off a new trilogy of prequels in the series, Spectres’ Call should really be an origins story at heart though, and this is where the game has troubles in ensnaring us. I was really hoping to really get to know Luke as a character like I now know Layton. Instead, after he’s got over his initial darker edge at the beginning, he quickly becomes the same old cockney kid we’ve know and…strive to love. This game really needed to focus on the relationship between the old professor and the young wannabe, but it really is as basic as it could be. They meet, they team up, tada. Ironically, the supposedly final game Lost Future rummaged into all the personal crannies of the past and turned out to be a deeper delving into the characters personalities than this instalment.
The Spectre’s Call is by no means a Layton title that will leave fans weeping in disappointment
But enough of my doting on past titles, that doesn’t mean to say the characters aren’t loveable, and whilst a minute number of cast members return, the ensemble of new additions are just as charming in their own right. Inspector Grosky takes the helm of Scotland Yard interceptor replacing grumposaurus Chelmey, and his brash stormlike demeanour is a stark contrast to the inspector he’s replaced. The honorary spotlight stealer of the title is clearly the Professor’s newest assistant Emmy, a chirpy investigator from the get go whom constantly surprises with her eccentric yet professional personality. Unlike Luke who unfortunately seems to retain a rather one dimensional cockney (who’s accent raises severe questions considering he comes from quite the affluent background), Emmy is one who constantly keep you on your toes, a firecracker that multiplies upon bursting. Whereas Layton holds good intentions every time he states he can’t allow a female to get into any form of danger, women would always take this into account in such a patronising demeanour. Here, Layton can barely get through half a warning before Emmy can roundhouse kick a problem in the face. She’s got enough sense about her to become a respectable investigator, but dozy and innocent enough to get a few chuckles. She’s tough enough to kick ass when the need arises, but not so much that she sports the tattoos of all the men she has killed over her cow sized biceps. The trademark aesthetic attentions now come as standard, and are about as comforting and as expected as a cup of tea as soon as you walk through the door. Wonderful animations still glisten your eyes, rewarding you with your sleuthing. Voice-over work reaches yet another fantastic par, with the Professor’s humbled wisp, Emmy’s pitch perfect perkiness and with Luke not getting on your nerves just enough to make you want to smack him in the face. And, once again, the musical score is pitch perfect offering up familiar tunes and haunting melodies to accompany your exploits. The Spectre’s Call is by no means a Layton title that will leave fans weeping in disappointment. It bursts with the familiar same charms and has an impressive plethora of puzzles to dish out. It’s just with the origin plot taking the narrative backwards a few steps, the gameplay held onto its hand and followed along with it. The series was always envisioned as a trilogy, and although this quite nifty workaround doesn’t stain its reputation with that horridly musky cash-in odour, The Lost Future neatly tied up loose ends and told us all we needed to know about the intrepid investigators. If your DS is yet to be introduced to the puzzle-busting exploits of London’s most cryptic and gentlemanly investigator, start off your long overdue adventure with this instalment and you’ll find the series’ chronological end more of a crescendo. The plots will always keep me coming back to the adventures of the new trio, I just hope the 3DS’s upcoming Layton adventure Mask Of Miracle’s series of quizzes bend my mind (and most likely eyes) in some more fresher scenarios.
The Bad: Some r
ather familiar sounding puzzles and mini-games creep in, Story lacks the hindsight many prequels relish in