Professor Layton and the Last Specter

Game review by
Mark Raby, Common Sense Media
Professor Layton and the Last Specter Game Poster Image
Captivating puzzle game makes doing brainteasers a blast.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn critical thinking and puzzle-solving skills by adventuring with Professor Layton. A fascinating story line propels kids through a mystery, which unfolds piece by piece as players solve a wide variety of brainteasers. Puzzles range from basic math problems to complex spatial recognition activities to word problems. Most can be solved using logic, but a few require basic algebra and geometry. Stumped players can always access hints. Tackle a compelling mystery and fascinating puzzles in Professor Layton and the Last Specter.

Positive Messages

The underlying story in this game of puzzles and riddles involves Professor Layton, his assistant, and his apprentice all working to unravel the pieces of a mystery. Although the story involves destruction and violence, there is a strong sense of togetherness among the main characters, all of whom are model citizens with strong morals and ethics.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Professor Layton and his team of Emmy and Luke are positive role models. Professor Layton is a very polite and well-mannered gentleman who easily puts the well-being of others ahead of his own. His assistant Emmy is a clever assistant who also has good martial arts skills. She protects the team from an attack by thugs. And Luke excels at figuring out puzzles by using logic.

Ease of Play

This game contains a wide variety of puzzles that will have even the most veteran game players and smartest individuals scratching their heads. The level of difficulty varies, with the more challenging puzzles generally appearing as players progress through the game. The puzzles test players' ability in math, logic, spatial recognition, and many other fields. That being said, they are designed for nearly anyone 12 and older to be able to solve as they focus on aptitude and critical thinking rather than knowing specific facts or formulas. Players with a basic understanding of algebra, geometry, and logic should be well equipped to get through most of the puzzles, though if they come across a real stumper there are hints available to help them progress through the game. And while you can skip some puzzles, there are times when the total number of puzzles solved is a requirement to proceeding further in the game.



There are some moments in the game's scattered cutscenes which depict violent activity, including a mysterious ghostly figure that wreaks havoc on a town, an explosion that leaves residents scrambling for safety, and a street fight with thugs. These events add to a sense of peril and urgency in the story but are secondary to the game's much stronger focus on puzzle solving.


There is some sexual innuendo in the dialog such as a character pining after her "man of chesty destiny." In the add-on London Life role-playing game, one of the defining traits for a character can be "Smooth Talker," which makes that character more attractive to the opposite sex.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are a few references to alcohol including a scene in a wine cellar and one puzzle is about sorting wine bottles.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Professor Layton and the Last Specter is a prequel to the other titles in the popular Professor Layton series. This game focuses on character development and helps reveal the backstories of the professor and his companions. In this installment, Professor Layton meets his new assistant Emmy and the child Luke (who becomes his apprentice in the other games), and together they try to figure out the mystery behind a ghostly figure that haunts a small town. In the process of telling the story, there are some scenes of violence, a few references to alcohol, and a smidgeon of sexual innuendo -- though the game's focus is on the puzzles and riddles that players must solve in order to continue.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 12-year-old Written byResponibleParentOf2 August 31, 2012

*sigh* Was the sexual talk really necessary?

My middle school boys are not yet permitted to play one of the few educational games I can find nowadays due to the sex humor. Why, developers, why?
Parent of a 9 and 12-year-old Written bystuhlly July 6, 2012

Couldn't Put This Down

My 12 year old daughter couldn't put this down. She loved it and wants to play the other Professor Layton DS games.
Teen, 13 years old Written byItalyJapan9 January 7, 2018

Amazing Game!

Professor Layton games are always incredible. Story line and puzzles. This game was a great introduction for Luke. The story is completely appropriate. The main... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old October 23, 2017

Best educational game!

This game is educational because it's a puzzle game that involves mathematics, storytelling, etc.

What's it about?

Professor Layton and the Last Specter is a prequel to the other games in the much-heralded Professor Layton franchise. Players learn the back-stories of Professor Layton and his sidekick Luke, while also getting to know Emmy, a new character. Players join the three while they solve a mystery about a ghostly "specter" that haunts a village and threatens to destroy it. As players progress through the game, they must solve a continuous slate of puzzles that relate to the story. For example, after Professor Layton receives an unusual letter, players must solve a puzzle to figure out a hidden message in the letter. The puzzles test basic math skills as well as critical thinking, spatial and object recognition, and deep levels of logic and reasoning.

Is it any good?

Professor Layton and the Last Specter continues to live up to the outstanding reputation of the franchise, with an all-new round of captivating and truly unique puzzles and riddles. This latest entry continues to use the same addicting formula of puzzles that are instantly accessible but sometimes seemingly impossible to figure out. Just like its predecessors, players earn more points if they can solve the puzzle on their first try and without a hint, making the rush of submitting an answer for each puzzle as addicting as ever. The story is likewise brilliantly told and captures the imagination. This game is a must-have for puzzle aficionados and is sure to bring hours of fun and enjoyment to Professor Layton veterans as well as newcomers to the franchise.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how playing through a compelling story can make you want to tackle brain-stretching puzzles. Would you try to solve the puzzles if they weren't contained within a story?

  • What puzzles were easy to solve and which ones were more challenging for you? Did you like having hints available? Did you use them?

  • This is a game that takes a long time to play through. How do manage your time playing video games?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo DS
  • Subjects: Math: measurement, patterns, sequences
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, collecting data, logic
  • Price: $29.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release date: October 17, 2011
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Alcohol Reference, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence, Simulated Gambling
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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