I have been playing through Professor Layton and the Last Specter the past few weeks. I was hoping to complete it in time for review, but gaming has taken a surprising backseat to other pursuits during recent months. That is a different editorial for a different time, however, and I have still sunk a solid 10 hours into the title. Thus, I would like to pass along my impressions framed by a comparison to the only other Layton title I have played, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future.
I received Unwound Future through my weeaboo hipster Canadian job and I am quite glad about that as I probably would not have tried out the series otherwise. I was familiar with the general gameplay of the games, but I was still taken aback by the quality. The story was sincere and well-told, the dialogue was charming and comical, and there were enough gameplay variations to keep the game interesting.
Unwound Future glued me to my DS like a good novel and I completed the title faster than I expected to. Naturally I have since gained an interest in the series and requested a review copy of The Last Specter from my weeaboo hipster Canadian job so I could get a head start with the game.
I expected the gameplay to be extremely similar to Unwound Future, but I did not expect it to feel tiresome as a relative newbie to the series. While I was correct about the gameplay not feeling tiresome, I have yet to connect to The Last Specter in the way I did to Unwound Future. I am moderately interested in the story, and I feel the need to see what happens next, but it is not the same hunger I experienced the first time.
Perhaps because The Last Specter is an origin story and I am less familiar with the series as a whole, I am picking up fewer references to hook me in. Perhaps I am moments away from a big reveal that will suck me into the world for the remainder of the game. However, at the 10 hour mark, it would still be much later than when Unwound Future had that effect on me.
When trying to come up with specific reasons why The Last Specter does not have the same traction, I was able to narrow it down to a few theories. Firstly, Unwound Future started off with a bang that would be hard to replicate. The prime minister disappears in an explosion along with the scientist who supposedly created a time machine. Having witnessed this event, the professor and his assistant, Luke are led to a place they are told is London ten years in the future by none other than a future version of Luke. In this place, Professor Layton is haunted by a lost love while future Layton is known as a villain.
All this happens fairly early on in the game, so every detail is soaked in mystery and intrigue. The Last Specter does not have nearly the same punch in its initial premise. That is not to say that this latest title is entirely void of a well-constructed mystery plot, it is just difficult to match the many interesting layers that Unwound Future was able to skillfully lay down in a short amount of time.
Another factor holding back The Last Specter is its more obvious plot twists. I am not the type to attempt to figure out a twist before it happens. I would rather let the story take me on its intended journey. While I had theories on the go during Unwound Future, I was never entirely convinced of one nor was I ever one hundred percent correct. In The Last Specter, I find myself well aware of minor plot twists before they occur. The professor’s assistants seem entirely oblivious while the answer stares them in the face and I roll my eyes at the obvious nature of the twist.
I understand the need to make an audience feel smart, but The Last Specter appears to have scaled back the target demographic by 10 years when compared to Unwound Future. However, the actual gameplay puzzles have not scaled back in difficulty, so that theory does not line up.
Ultimately, I find myself interested in The Last Specter. I wonder how a much younger Luke is able to predict the location where the Specter – a mythical monster – will strike next. I wonder about the true nature of the monster and what the ultimate motivation for all the destruction is. Still, after Unwound Future knocked me on my ass and impressed me from start to finish, I always have the desire for a little more when I pick up my DS to solve a few more puzzles in the professor’s latest adventure.
At least the music is still amazing.