The review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on 7th October 2017.
The Professor Layton games began in 2007, with the Curious Village on Nintendo DS. These games became an immediate success owing to their widespread appeal of being essentially puzzle games, however with the twist of having an over-arching narrative and a mystery to solve. Unlike their estranged cousins, the Ace Attorney games, the focus was more on bite-sized puzzles with more light-hearted scenarios, and the games were very popular. Fast-forward to now, and now we are up to the seventh main title, with a new protagonist and two “trilogies” of Layton behind us. But has Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy succeeded in continuing the legacy set by the previous games?
Layton’s Mystery Journey opens with our wonderfully optimistic protagonist (and daughter of earlier franchise protagonist, Professor Hershel Layton) opening a detective agency in London, which she runs with the help of her assistant Ernest Greeves. Her first “client” is an insomniac talking dog, and she immediately takes the case of solving the identity of this mysterious canine. However, before they can begin investigating this initial mystery, Katrielle is enlisted by Scotland Yard in helping them solve another, entirely separate, mystery. Thus begins the main chunk of the game, which is split into individual “Cases” to solve that further push the overall storyline of the title and the interwoven mystery at the heart of it.
The main thrust of the gameplay in Layton’s Mystery Journey centres, much like the other Layton game, around solving various puzzles. These puzzles can involve anything from logic, to visual, to mathematical (my personal least favourite), to riddles and solving the puzzles in the game is the key to the viewing the “true” ending of the game. Every puzzle has a certain value attributed to it based on the puzzles difficulty called “Picarats”. These Picarats will be gifted to the player when they solve the puzzle, but the value that they receive will lower each time the puzzle is guessed incorrectly. However, the player can help themselves with the solution, by using Hint Coins that are found in the investigation sections, gaining more clues for the cost of additional coins. Furthermore, any solved puzzles will be entered into the “Puzzle Index” so that they can be tried again at any point.
The investigation sections make up the other main portion of the game. Using the touch screen, the player can travel around London, finding Hint Coins (by tapping absolutely everything) and talking to the various characters found throughout. These characters may give puzzles for the protagonists (and therefore, the player) to solve, or give clues or key information to solve the case that the player is currently investigating. Of these clues, a set amount of important ones each case will combine together to create an object, then allowing the player to “Solve” the case, then starting a cut scene in which the (often ludicrous) solution to the mystery is made clear. These smaller mysteries make Layton’s Mystery Journey far better suited to short bursts of play than earlier games in the franchise as the player rarely has too much information to remember about a particular case.
Furthermore, as a great feature, the player can return to previous cases, after they have been solved to track down any puzzles or Hint Coins they may have missed, removing the often frustrating missable puzzles in previous games. If you add to this various other little hidden objects to find in each case that further explain the plot, and are disguised as dust specks when tapped, there is a necessity to back track through older cases to make sure that you have left no stone uncovered. Also, combing back through the older cases can also net the player “Fashion Farthings” to spend on unlocking additional outfits for Katrielle to wear in-game and solving every puzzle allows the player to explore the customisation tools for the Layton Detective Agency, which can be altered to a small, but not unnoticeable, extent using “Decor Dockets”. The player receives one docket for every five puzzles solved, giving another reason to solve as many puzzles as they can find, and allow the alteration of the colours and prints of the various furniture in the Agency.
As is the common practice in the Layton franchise, there are also a couple of mini-games that can be played in the pause menu (stylised like a suitcase) that are unlocked throughout the game. So as to not ruin the game, I will only discuss one of these, which is the “Ideal Meal” game. In this, the player has to interview characters from the game to ascertain the likes and dislikes of a particular character to serve them a three-course meal that meets all of their criteria. This, in itself is another puzzle that requires careful reading of not only the “witness” testimonies but the descriptions of the food items too and is immensely satisfying to get right. Also, with various additional dishes and characters requiring ideal meals unlocking throughout the game, this is a mode that is all too easy to keep returning to play and the other mini-games are much the same.
Aesthetically, as expected from the Layton games at this point, Mystery Journey is a beautiful affair. The opening cutscene is reminiscent of French animation like “Les Triplettes de Belleville”, and this beautiful, fluid animation appears throughout the game in cutscenes and in the locations and character sprites during investigations. The in-game character models, however, are 3D in this title (which I believe came into the franchise during the second trilogy of titles) which I personally find somewhat jarring against the beautiful backdrops and with the cutscenes being a very different style. This doesn’t, however, detract from the fact that all of the cast in the game are full of character and are all incredibly charming and unique. This is supplemented by the voice acting throughout being incredible, with every character feeling even more fleshed out because of it. The music throughout the game is very fitting, and perfect for a light-hearted detective tale in Victorian London, but is sadly ultimately forgettable and almost unnoticeable during play.
So, should you buy Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy? If you aren’t a fan of puzzle titles, or if you aren’t a fan of slower-paced titles, give this title a miss as it will hold very little to keep your attention. However, if you are a fan of the Layton franchise, or of puzzle games, I could not recommend this game enough. The charm, depth and wonderful story of the franchise is all present and accounted for, and the new set of protagonists breathes a tremendous amount of life into the universe that Level-5 have created. The puzzles are just as head-scratching as in previous games and the overall plot the usual combination of bewildering and heart-warming. A beautiful title both inside and out.
Thank you for Nintendo UK for kindly supplying the code to review this game.
Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy is out now for Nintendo 3DS and on Nintendo 3DS eShop.