Review in Progress: Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy


Scooby and the gang

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy, which for the sake of brevity will be referred to as Layton’s Mystery Journey for the rest of this review in progress, begins with a changing of the guard. In the fog of London, a young Katrielle watches as her father, the great Hershel Layton, disappears, presumably after telling his family he was just running down to the store to pick up some cigarettes.

It’s out with the old and in with the new. So goodbye Professor and your dawdling around town as you try to solve ridiculous mysteries and crack hundreds of puzzles given to you by normies too stupid to figure them out for themselves. So long to all that and hello to Kat and her dawdling around town as she tries to solve ridiculous mysteries and crack hundreds of puzzles given to her by normies too stupid to figure them out for themselves.

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy(Nintendo 3DS, Android, iOS [reviewed on a 2017 iPad])Developer: Level-5Publisher: Level-5Release: July 20, 2017 (WW on mobile, 3DS in Japan), Fall 2017 (3DS US, EU)MSRP: $15.99 (mobile), TBA (3DS)

Katrielle Layton, one of three known children of the apparently potent Professor Layton, has just opened up her own detective agency. On Chancer Lane, near Big Ben, she’s setting out to make a name for herself in a world that vaguely remembers her father but says absolutely nothing about her brother Alfendi. Along for the ride is Ernest, her puppy love-struck assistant who is less the Ned Nickerson to her Nancy Drew and more the Niles to her Daphne. There’s also Sherl, a talking dog.

I bemoaned this K9’s inclusion when it was revealed he could talk. Despite how it looks in the trailers, Sherl can’t speak to everyone. He also doesn’t know how he is able to speak and is suffering from the common video game ailment of amnesia. Only a choice few can understand the words coming out of his mouth, an exclusive club that just happens to include Kat and Ernest. He can be funny with his so-bad-it’s-good voice actingbut is often more annoying than amusing. Admittedly, I’d rather have more of Sherl than namby-pamby Ernest, but it’s still early in the adventure.

The three of them work together to solve the puzzles and cases brought to the agency. Despite not featuring Hershel and Luke — so far — Layton’s Mystery Journey is rooted in the foundation laid in the Curious Village. I’m still talking to people around town, gathering information, solving puzzles. and slavishly scanning environments for hint coins, trinkets, and hidden puzzles. Despite being on mobile, it plays just like its dual-screen predecessors. There are also additional puzzles I can solve outside of the main storyline, an office I can redecorate, and outfits I can dress Katrielle in, most of which must be purchased along with a puzzle for real money.

The original Layton series features puzzles by Akira Tago, but due to his passing last year, Layton’s Mystery Journey turned to Kuniaki Iwanami for its brainteasers. Though I only have 70 under my belt so far, Iwanami’s puzzles are very much in the tradition of the series. Some are insultingly easy to the point where it’s not even fun solving them, others utilize vague wording in attempting to stump me. Just a few hours in, I’ve seen a few puzzles concepts already repeat but there have also been several clever conundrums that brought a big smile to my face. I have yet to use any of the dozens of hint coins I’ve found but that could easily change later on.

It looks like a Layton game, it plays like a Layton game, but it doesn’t exactly reveal itself like a Layton game. There, so far, is no larger narrative. Prior games introduced the central mystery quite early. Here, I’m not quite sure I know what this Millionaires’ Conspiracy is. I’ve read Kat will search for her father, but that thread hasn’t been introduced at all. Instead, I’ve had three largely unrelated cases brought to the agency, there only to introduce me to what I believe are the central players and possible suspects in this caper.

After those initial cases, the game opens up into a more nonlinear experience. I’m given new mysteries to solve, but I don’t have to tackle them right away or in the order they are given to me. I can revisit old mysteries to find any puzzles or hint coins I might have missed during my original investigation, and it lets me know exactly where I should go on the map to search for them. With everything else in the game being largely the same as the original six, this alteration to how I progress may be the very thing that not only sets Layton’s Mystery Journey apartbut shows actual growth with the arguably stagnant series.

Any troubles I’ve come across are symptoms of Level-5’s decision to develop this title for both the 3DS and mobile. When solving its puzzles and mysteries, my iPad screen is halved in portrait mode to mimic the dual screen set-up of Nintendo’s handheld. During the exquisitely animated cut scenes – produced by A-1 instead of series regular P.A. Works – I must turn my device to landscape mode to actually enjoy them, a requirement that is quite a nuisance when the bit of animation is just a few seconds long.

So far, Layton’s Mystery Journey is very routine for a Layton game and please don’t think of that as a disparaging remark against it. I adore the original concept of the franchise, that my wits and fortitude are relentlessly tested by the citizens who haff twelve metchsteek. I only hope the new focus on solving individual cases rather than one overarching story arc will help make up for the more tired trends that continue to cling to the series like a barnacle on a blue whale.

[This review in progress is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]