Another year, another mystery to solve. Thankfully Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke are still as eager as ever, and haven't lost their appetite for puzzles. And thanks to the engaging characters and ambitious storyline, neither have I.
The formula for The Lost Future doesn't deviate from the previous instalments. As usual, it's a point-and-click adventure stuffed full of individual puzzles. Or alternatively, it's a puzzle book in videogame format, with a storyline built around it. Take your pick.
As usual, the storyline is far-fetched, but not quite to the point that it requires a 'deus ex machina' type ending as Pandora's Box did. While the storyline takes place entirely in London - rather than a fictional village - all the usual Layton hallmarks remain in the town design and its wacky characters. A generous helping of returning characters keep The Lost Future firmly attached to the roots of the series, and we actually delve more deeply into the characters and their pasts with this outing. While this won't be the final Layton game, it adds to the previous games well and makes for a fitting end to the trilogy.
Now... the puzzles: the meat of the game. For the most part they're of a high quality: not too many recycled puzzles, not too many trick questions. In terms of difficulty they're similar to previous games, but more consistent. There are fewer here where the answer is blindingly obvious, but also not so many where you might get completely stuck. While I would've preferred a higher difficulty, on the whole it's a more accessible game. Since it's supposed to appeal to all age groups, there's really no other choice. You can't make puzzles for everyone.
Should you get stuck, there's always the option to buy hints. New to this outing are "super hints", which cost double. I only used one (and I still maintain the puzzle makes no sense), and it essentially gave me the answer. In any case, there's enough hint coins scattered throughout the game that no-one should have any difficulty finishing all the puzzles.
Minigames are provided to break up the action: a toy car puzzle game, a sticker-book in which you have to collect the items and complete the story (more fun than it sounds), and an infuriating game in which you have to draw platforms for a parrot to fly to. The less said about that, the better: 160 puzzles solved, but I can't do even a third of the parrot challenges.
In short, The Lost Future maintains the high quality of the series, both in terms of puzzles and storytelling. The flaws of the formula are still present, and for me it's still a little too easy. But if you enjoyed the previous games, The Lost Future is a must-buy conclusion to the series... for now.