The Professor Layton series is well renowned for its ingenious brain-busting puzzles and clever crimes. With wonderful animation akin to that of Studio Ghibli, Level 5’s Layton series has been a favourite and has even crossed paths with another popular franchise Phoenix Wright. Now, a new player in the Layton series rises to the top, but can Hershel Layton’s daughter prove she’s good enough to carry the title?
I’ve not played any of the Layton games, though they’ve always been high on my handheld game bucket list. This review was a great way to invite me to the series, both as a reviewer and a prospective customer. My thoughts are, in one word, conflicted. On paper, the game has everything I would like: puzzles, animation and crime solving. The only expectation the game met was my love for puzzles.
No puzzle left unsolved
This is the motto the leading character Katrielle carries throughout the game. Her love for puzzle solving is just as passionate as mine, however, trying to vicariously live through her was painful. But let’s not get to the rough stuff now. The story follows Professor Layton’s Daughter, Katrielle, who is following in her father’s footsteps as London’s next great detective. Hershel Layton has mysteriously disappeared and she’s decided to continue his work and look for clues to his whereabouts. Joining her is Ernest, a smartly dressed side-kick who is constantly pining over her, and a stray talking dog who she names Sherl. Her story, which isn’t particularly linear, follows a number of simple cases culminating in one big standoff at the end.
Charm is a poor substitute for wit, and that’s what Layton’s Mystery Journey is lacking.
After a long and laborious tutorial, you begin your first case solving the theft of one of the giant hands on Big Ben. It’s a nice start to the game and with all the animation sequences, I was quite enthralled and excited to play the game. That quickly faded as I realised just how text-heavy the game is. I found myself tapping the touchpad so often it almost became rhythmic. I’m a big reader and I have no issue with lots of dialogue (the early Final Fantasy games wouldn’t be high on my best playlist if I didn’t like reading), but the dialogue in this game is very boring and, even worse, simple. I don’t mean easy, I mean it borders on juvenile. Each character that is encountered is very one dimensional and sometimes even expresses a pun to extreme lengths. This also applies to the main characters. I no doubt think some people will feel they’re charming, but I don’t. I find Katrielle to be oblivious to everything but puzzles; Ernest, insufferable; Sherl, the token weird side-kick; and Inspector Hastings to be the idiot cop. Charm is a poor substitute for wit, and that’s what Layton’s Mystery Journey is lacking.
A cascade of riddles, brain-teasers, enigmas and conundrums
Story and characters aside, the puzzles, which are the lifeblood of the game, are excellent. I cannot deny the quality and complexity of the puzzles provided. Even the sheer volume is staggering. I was more than impressed, I was stumped. It’s not every day I scratch my head over a riddle or rely on numerous hints to crack the code. The variety alone is enough for me to recommend this game to puzzle fanatics, but it’s a pity you need to play through the game to unlock them. Some I found easy, others extremely tough. I’m sure many others would find my easy puzzles, difficult and vice versa. There are logic, cryptic, image, mathematical puzzles and loads more. I wouldn’t say they’re simple enough for kids so I wouldn’t buy this for a child.
Matching the brilliance of the puzzles is its use of control. All you really need is a stylus as most of the game is played on the touchpad. You’ll move about and solve puzzles on the touchscreen and can read the rules/ dialogue on the upper screen. It’s all very intuitive which makes the need for a tutorial redundant. There’s no need for 3DS as 3D is not applied to the game at all, so any 2DS players won’t feel a smidge short-changed.
As much as I love the puzzles, I really wish they were more connected to each of the cases. In order to proceed, you’ll sometimes need to solve a few puzzles and find some randomly lying around to proceed. However, they have little bearing on the case itself. The only case where the puzzles had a direct effect on the level was the final case. As I’ve mentioned before, the story revolves around cases, particularly involving members of an exclusive club called The Seven Dragons. There are seven members and each happens to be a successful millionaire in London. They form London’s elite and need Katrielle’s help for the most idiotic reasons.
I expected cases involving theft, murder, kidnapping and real trouble. By the end, very few of the cases involve actual crimes. The others are just silly Scooby Doo mysteries, but without any of the wonder, wit and surprise whodunnit twist.
I expected cases involving theft, murder, kidnapping and real trouble. By the end, very few of the cases involve actual crimes. The others are just silly Scooby Doo mysteries, but without any of the wonder, wit and surprise whodunnit twist. Seriously, one of the cases involved getting a birthday present. Another involved finding a runaway pet, investigating a haunted house, and finding out who stole the final scene of a movie. They’re also SO PREDICTABLE! I figured out most of the cases before unlocking the first or second clue. The only case that I enjoyed was the final one, it was smart, well-executed and the puzzles had an immediate effect and made sense.
Moving back to what I actually like, was the amount of bonus content. There are three interesting mini-games which are a different kind of puzzle on their own. There’s plenty of items to collect, new outfits for Katrielle to unlock and loads of additional downloadable puzzles. This game is brimming with additional content and is a true treasure trove of puzzles. Now that I’ve finished the insipid story, I can just focus on the brainbusters.
Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy may not have left the best impression of the Layton’s series’ storytelling, but it sure has piqued my interest in the puzzles. I don’t suggest this game if you think you’ll get something as gritty as Sherlock Holmes or as funny and witty as Phoenix Wright because you will be disappointed. But if you’re willing to look over the cringy story, you’ll be left with over 200 juicy conundrums to sink your teeth into.