After a decade of traipsing through mysterious villages, travelling through time, and investigating Aztec ruins with Professor Layton, it’s time for the passing of the torch. As Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy shows in its opening sequence, Professor Hershel Layton has vanished mysteriously, and it’s up to his daughter Katrielle Layton to take up puzzle-solving in his stead.
Joining Katrielle on her journey is the talking amnesiac dog, Sherl (named after Sherlock Holmes), who seeks her help to figure out where he came from and why he can talk, and her lovesick sidekick, Ernest. Unfortunately, it seems that Sherl isn’t the only amnesiac of the trio—Katrielle quickly forgets all about solving Sherl’s case, and the mystery of why there’s a talking dog or where Sherl came from is abandoned two minutes into the game, never to be touched upon again. Even more disappointingly, Katrielle seemingly forgets all about her father after the opening cutscene, and by the end of the game, we’ve made no progress towards knowing where Hershel Layton went or what he’s up to.
Instead, Katrielle sets herself to solving various mysteries around town, most of which involve a quirky group of millionaires nicknamed the Seven Dragons. Unlike past Professor Layton games, Layton’s Mystery Journey releases first on mobile devices, and as such, it’s structured a little differently for mobile play. Instead of one overarching mystery, it’s divided into twelve different cases, each about an hour or so in length.
The gameplay in each of these cases will be familiar to anyone who’s ever picked up a Professor Layton game: you’ll travel around town, tapping on backgrounds to collect Hint Coins, talking to passersby, and finding a seemingly never-ending series of puzzles to solve. This is something that’s actually very well-suited to mobile gameplay, what with all the tapping on background elements and sliding pieces of puzzles around using the touchscreen of our device.
As you progress through each case, Katrielle will pick up six clues, and, upon finding the sixth, solves the mystery of the case. I say Katrielle here, because it really is Katrielle solving each mystery and not the player. Some of the cases were blindingly obvious, so much so that I had the mystery figured out from the get-go but couldn’t do anything to solve it faster, while in others Katrielle keeps information hidden to herself in order to spring a “gotcha!” while players are still in the dark. The player doesn’t have any input on solving the mystery, just on walking through the story and solving the puzzles that are placed in the way.
Part of the issue with this is the length of the cases. At only an hour long each, there’s not really enough time to build up the kind of incredibly bizarre twists the Professor Layton series is known for. Instead, Katrielle is limited to smaller problems like hunting down a missing pet or figuring out what happened to a professor’s missing research notes, and while the characters are still charming and some of the dialogue is clever, none of the twists are anything spectacular. (And, I mean, there’s a talking dog right there to work with! I would love to see the Layton universe’s explanation for that! But sadly, no.)
Put the plot aside, though, and Layton’s Mystery Journey offers some pretty decent puzzle fun. In addition to the main puzzles you’ll find in each case, there are three minigames that unlock as you go, and can be played at any time. “Ideal Meal” sets you to piecing together a four-course meal to match your customers’ picky tastes, “Passers Buy” tasks you with luring customers down paths in a store to get them to buy the most items, and “Hound in the Pound” is a block puzzle/maze game of guiding Sherl to an exit in a limited number of turns. Fans who play Layton games just for the puzzles and the joy of collecting a perfect score of Picarats likely won’t be disappointed—and, to be honest, since solving puzzles is most of the game, it’s a very good thing that it’s strong in that regard.
As a mobile game, Layton’s Mystery Journey isn’t bad. I can’t help but worry that it will feel a little threadbare on the 3DS, though, especially when going up against the library of past Professor Layton games. I worry, too, that the short-case format means that there are DLC cases waiting in the wings that will have to be bought separately in order to flesh out the conclusion, though Level-5 hasn’t yet announced any plans in that regard. Overall, Katrielle is an entertaining star, and while I enjoyed my time rooting out the mysteries of the Seven Dragons with her, I do wish that Layton’s Mystery Journey had actually lived up to its name and explained a thing or two about Layton’s mysterious journey.
|Publisher: Level-5 • Developer: Level-5 • ESRB: E – Everyone (4+ on App Store) • Release Date: 07.20.17|
Katrielle Layton takes the stage as a brand-new puzzle-solving star. With twelve short cases to solve, Katrielle’s adventures are ideal for those who want to solve a quick puzzle, though somewhat lacking for fans that enjoy the build-up and twists of past Layton games.
|The Good||Some nicely animated cutscenes and humorous references make for the occasional treat amongst all of the head-scratching puzzles.|
|The Bad||Layton’s Mystery Journey may be too light on content for fans used to Professor Layton’s much-longer adventures, and fails to deliver answers to two mysteries of the game’s premise|
|The Ugly||Lip-sync isn’t tied to the English voice acting at all, often leading to characters flapping their mouths for an extra second after every line.|
|Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy is available on iOS and Android and coming later to Nintendo 3DS. Primary version reviewed was for iOS. Review code was provided by Level-5 for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|