Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call

After three games and over 450 puzzles, it's hardly surprising that Professor Layton is finally losing a little of its charm.

The Curious Village was one of the most important Nintendo DS releases - nay, one of the most important gaming releases - ever, and it's a real achievement that follow-ups Pandora's Box and The Lost Future managed to bottle that breath of fresh air and release it all over again.

Unfortunately, there's only so long you can recycle that air before you're left wishing for something a bit fresher.

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call, or The Last Specter as it's known in the U.S., still has some of that Layton charm, but the puzzles now all look and feel the same as in previous outings, and the story is the weakest to date.

Luke warm

The Spectre's Call is being billed as the start of a brand new Layton trilogy, going back to a time before Hershel and Luke met.

With news of a strange beast ripping up a small rural town, Layton takes off with his new assistant Emmy to solve the case. This, of course, involves walking around town, asking questions, and solving random puzzles that get thrown your way.

If you've played a Layton game before, there's nothing here you won't have seen. Puzzles revolve around sliding tiles, maths-based conundrums, assorted clock-related mind-benders, and the like.

Veteran Laytoners will most likely feel a little disappointed after an hour or three of play. The Spectre's Call starts slowly - so much so that after three hours we had seen just 15 puzzles.

The puzzles take a backseat to the story this time around. It's nice to see how Layton and Luke first met, but otherwise there's nothing much to get excited about.

Riddle me this

And yet, the game eventually gets into the Layton swing of things.

Sure, the puzzles are very similar to those seen in past titles, and there are only so many sliding block puzzles we can do before we tear out our hair.

But even so The Spectre's Call is highly addictive. You'll happily romp through a dozen hours of gameplay, and at 170 puzzles - the most of any Layton title - there's scope to romp through several more before you reach the end.

There are also new elements here and there that help to take the edge off the otherwise overwhelming familiarity.

There are special 'in story' puzzles that take place in the world, rather than on a separate puzzle screen, and every so often Layton will ask his assistants to recall details of their recent investigations, Phoenix Wright style.

Layton and on

So it's another Layton game. If you enjoyed the previous three titles, you'll most likely find Spectre's Call to be the worst of the series - actually, the 'least good' is probably a better description.

If only Level 5 had chosen to include the London Life RPG that's included with the U.S. and Japanese releases then maybe we'd be singing a different tune.

It's a huge shame that it was left out, and the omission leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth. You're still getting a meaty game without it, but knowing that it exists in other territories is bound to rankle.

If you've played the previous Layton titles, you'll enjoy Spectre's Call. If you're new to the series, however, we recommend that you go for The Curious Village instead.

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call is more of the same great puzzling gameplay, but it's definitely starting to lose its appeal