We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Games software Reviews
15,670 Reviews PC Advisor Best Buy Award

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call review


Manufacturer: Nintendo

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

Professor Layton returns in his longest and most intellectually stimulating adventure yet.

How many other games can wear the badge "formulaic" as a compliment? The fourth game in the franchise, but the first chronologically, Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call isn't very different from the previous games in the series. You have the same go-there-solve-puzzles-save-the-day format as always, but when a series has found such solid footing, is there really any need for drastic change? As always, the cut-scenes and voice acing would feel right at place in a feature-length animated film. The soundtrack is by turns soothingly familiar and exciting. And the story...well the story could use some work.

Like any graphic adventure, Spectre's main draw is in the puzzles and the narrative. And like the previous games, Layton's adventure yo-yos between pulp mystery intrigue, cartoon antics, and out-of-nowhere plot twists. The red herrings feel a little cheap when they involve characters and events never previously alluded to, but the foundation is still enjoyable. You get to learn how the Professor met his ever-present apprentice, and you get quite a bit of set up for the Layton animated film, The Eternal Diva. At times, the story's genuinely moving and heartfelt, while other times you meet plot twists that are so painfully obvious you want to smack the characters around.

But Level-5 has perfected the balance of narrative and puzzles. Do they try to integrate these puzzles into the story? Sometimes. But it's more about the suspension of disbelief that everyone you meet will want to challenge the Professor's world-renowned puzzle-solving skills, and that any obstacle can be overcome by moving a few wires around. Sure, one or two of the puzzles might be worded in ways that lead to a wrong answer, but it's impossible to get frustrated when the game is so generous with hints. As always, you'll find coins hidden around the game world that can buy you clues (and eventually answers) to any quandary blocking your way.

But just so you know, that's cheating. Real gentlemen solve their puzzles without using Hint Coins.

If you've played every previous game, you'll find familiar puzzles and variations on past themes. But Last Specter has a much more balanced overall puzzle roster. With rare exception, few puzzles repeat, and even then you won't see some of those variations until you get to the extra puzzles at the end of the game.

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call

Of course, Last Specter holds plenty of new extra minigames to pass the time as well. You'll find an annoying train game that takes too long to reset when you mess up, a simple fish one that's low-key fun, and a word-matching puzzle that's way too easy for the amount of time it eats up (though it contains some adorable art). But like always, these aren't central to the game; they just unlock even more puzzles. Sadly, the substantial and well-written RPG sub-game London Life available in Japanese and US versions of the game has been excised from the UK release – it’s a terrible omission, and it brings the score down.

While it doesn't change much from Layton's previous adventures, the small tweaks (and the generous extras) make this my favourite Layton game to-date. The series is one of the few remaining champions of the graphic adventure, and, fortunately, they're doing a damn fine job of keeping that genre relevant for a modern audience.

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call Expert Verdict »

Supports Nintendo DS and 3DS Age rating - 7 Released on 25 November.
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

Diverse puzzles, a fun plot and the same high-quality experience as always – but it’s tragic that the London Life additional adventure has been removed from the UK version of the game.

  • Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent review

    Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent

    A delightfully eerie and expertly atmospheric game, Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent is a worthy debut for Telltale's innovative Pilot Program, even if it occasionally suffers from vague puzzle instructions and unclear hints.

  • Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective review

    Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

    Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a wonderfully inventive puzzle game for the Nintendo DS, where the wonderfully inventive puzzle game is king.

  • Razer Starcraft II Spectre Gaming Mouse review

    Razer Starcraft II Spectre Gaming Mouse

    The Razer Starcraft II Spectre is a gaming mouse designed for real-time strategy games - and StarCraft II in particular.

  • Dracula: Origin review

    Dracula: Origin

    Ever fancied your chances at a little vampire hunting? Now’s your chance, with Ascaron’s Dracula: Origin game

  • HP Spectre 13 review: smart, attractive Ultrabook laptop is portable and easy to use

    HP Spectre 13: smart, attractive Ultrabook laptop is portable and easy to use

    The HP Spectre 13-3010ea is a thin-and-light laptop that is smart and good-looking. The key feature is a really big trackpad, so if you are looking for a laptop that is portable and easy to use, look no further. Here's our HP Spectre 13-3010ea review.

IDG UK Sites

Best Black Friday 2014 tech deals UK: Get bargains on phones, tablets, laptops and more this Black...

IDG UK Sites

Tomorrow's World today (or next year)

IDG UK Sites

25 iOS apps turn (Red) for World AIDS Day campaign

IDG UK Sites

Advanced tips for Mac OS X Yosemite: use Yosemite like an expert - 5 new tips added