Sunday, 28 May 2017

Professor Layton and the Unavoidable Spoilers

It's a mystery worthy of the professor himself, is it possible to avoid spoilers for Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy? If you play the previous two games in the series and watch the trailer then the lion's share of the twists and turns are spelled out for you.
Here be spoilers.
Early in The Azran Legacy, we're introduced to the character of Desmond Sycamore, a friendly professor and expert on the ancient Azran civilisation in need of Layton's assistance. Astute players might notice that he has a similar build and tone of voice as Layton's nemesis in the prequel trilogy, Jean Descole. Both characters are also opposed to Targent, the paramilitary archaeology organisation mentioned in previous titles. These are points that could be dismissed as meaningless, were it not for the fact that both characters also share the same butler. Though he is first introduced to the characters in this game, the audience will remember Raymond from his brief but memorable appearance at the end of The Miracle Mask and from his cameo in the very first scene of The Spectre's Call.

Allowing the audience to know more than the characters can be interesting, in this case, it could have allowed us to appreciate Descole's manipulation of Layton without having to replay the game once the secret is revealed. But Layton's a rather trusting sort in this installment, requiring very little diabolical string pulling. Descole as Sycamore does one manipulative thing when he asks the inexplicably Irish Aurora for the key and then drops the charade immediately after.
What a swell guy!

Whuuuuuu?
Then there's everything given away in the trailer. A hitherto unmentioned "truth" is introduced and then spelled out almost immediately. A young Layton is greeted by characters we know as his parents and then parts company with another child. This taller child then says "Be happy brother. This is the start of your new life, your life as Herschel Layton". So: Layton's adopted, Herschel Layton isn't his birthname, and based on his eyes, skin and hair colour his brother is likely Sycamore who is likely Descole. Some mystery.
A diverse collection of #looks, but I think he pulled them all off

It's possible that some of this was deliberate, an attempt to lure players into a false sense of security. There are still two plot points not spoiled ahead of time: Bronev is Layton and Descole's father and Emmy is working for Targent. The first of these is strangely inconsequential, as in many ways is the brotherhood reveal. The Emmy twist is genuinely surprising, perhaps helped by the fact that we’ve already had one traitor in the ranks that we the audience thought we were clever enough to spot in advance. However, it isn't really dwelt on for very long, with her conflicting loyalties to her "uncle" Bronev and the professor confined to a few lines.
All in all, it's hard to say what the correct way to enjoy what is otherwise another fine Layton game is. The Descole reveal is especially strange, given how just giving the butler a disguise of his own would have avoided it. Really, what is the purpose of creating a new identity for yourself and wearing a mask at all times if you then continue to hang around with your longtime companion? A mystery for another time. That'd be like if I continued to write this blog anonymously but kept posting pictures of my nights out with my close personal friend Ian McKellen.

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