Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy Review

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Posted July 24, 2017 by James Mikolajewski in Video Games

Developer: Level-5

Publishers: Level-5

Release date: July 21, 2017

Available on: iOS, Android (reviewed), 3DS (future release)

“Any mystery solved”. That’s the moto of lady Katrielle Layton, daughter of famous detective Hershel Layton. Following in her father’s footsteps, as well as the lineage of great 3DS titles, Katrielle has a lot to live up to. So, is Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy a strong successor to an already fantastic series? While it has a few disappointing moments , Layton’s Mystery Journey definitely shines in all the right places.

A Great Place for Newcomers

For those unfamiliar with the Professor Layton games of the past, you play as a detective, solving puzzles as you make your way to the end of the game. As you work your way through the story, you move around to different environments throughout the city. Each time you come to a new part of town, you will see a still-frame of your surroundings. From here, you can move a magnifying glass around the image to look for clues, talk to townsfolk, or find hint coins (more on that later). You move around the map by clicking on a pair of shoes or a bicycle (for a longer journey).

Moving from the 3DS handheld to a mobile-friendly cell phone version had me worried at first, but the formula transitions perfectly to the new device. The screen is spit in two, with the top half showing your environment, and the bottom half showing a square area you are able to touch to move about the city, move your magnifying glass around to sniff out clues, and also get to your trunk of belongings. It works so well, it honestly feels like this is where the series should have been all along.

Being on iOS and Android,  however, I feel that the developers felt the need to shrink down the overall experience into a more bite-sized version for the cell-phone-friendly world we live in today. Instead of an overarching mystery like in Layton series past, lady Layton takes on multiple miniature cases. Each case takes roughly an hour to solve, but still feels like a complete story. While I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the larger mysteries of the past, I understand why they took this approach.

Level-5 also made the right decision to start with a new character for this new game play style. As Katrielle is starting a brand new detective agency, it makes sense for her to solve the smaller cases around town, building the peoples trust in her and her agency, instead of just jumping headfirst into a major case. Being a brand new character also starts everyone on the same foot, as you don’t need the story baggage to understand what’s going on.

I do feel the game’s subtitle “Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy” is somewhat misleading, as it makes it sound like there is an overarching plot to the be solved. While these is a case involving a group of millionaires, it is no different from the many other one-and-done cases throughout the game. Leaving the title as just “Layton’s Mystery Journey” would have been more fitting, as you are working your way through the journey of building a new detective agency.

A Puzzling Predicament

A puzzle game is only as strong as the puzzles it provides. Puzzle titles can truly be the most difficult games to balance, as you need to make sure the puzzles aren’t too difficult that the player is completely stumped, but as the same time, you don’t want to the puzzles to be too easy. Otherwise, players may fly through the game too quickly, feeling that the experience has less value.

The Layton series has an interesting way to solve this balancing conundrum – hint coins. As you play through the game and sleuth your way through the environment, you will come across these special coins. As you solve puzzles, you will be given the opportunity to spend this currency for hints. You can use up to 4 coins per puzzle, with each coin revealing a more obvious solution to the mystery at hand. This is great for newcomers to help move the story along, but can also save a puzzling veteran that wants to solve every puzzle the game has to offer.

The original Layton games had their puzzles created by Akira Tago, but, due to his recent passing, the torch has been handed to Kuniaki Iwanami. This may explain why the puzzles don’t feel exactly the same as the originals. While the puzzles are fun to solve, I felt that they were far too simple. While it may be from my history of playing all the past Layton games, I rarely took more than one chance to solve a puzzle. And I used hardly any hint coins during my play through. This is a great balance for newcomers, as they may be stumped by some of the out-of-the-box thinking the game requires, but for puzzling solving veterans like myself, going back to the same old tricks may leave you wanting more.

A Game with Character

Outside of puzzles, the Professor Layton series has always been known for its beautifully animated cut scenes and cast of memorable characters. Level-5 keeps this tradition alive and well, as everything down to the last detail feels like it lives in the Layton world. While Professor Layton or his apprentice Luke are not in the game, Katrielle Layton and her assistant Ernest fill their shoes nicely. They even have their own company mascot, a talking dog named Sherl (after the famous detective Sherlock Homes). While not every character or scene features voice acting, the ones that do all sounds great. The only somewhat disappointing aspect is the voice of Shel the dog, as he comes off somewhere grating and annoying. But, by the end of my time with the game, I grew to like this character.

The town itself is full of interesting characters, all with motives, interests, and quirks. Like other games in the series, you will see different townsfolk reappear throughout the story’s many cases. In order to make you care for the town, Level-5 had to work hard to make each character memorable, and I feel it succeeded. This is a world you will enjoy living in and exploring.

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Another Mystery Solved

Overall, I feel that Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy is a great addition the the world of Professor Layton. While the puzzles overall feel somewhat lacking, and the overall mystery arch missing, the more bite-sized puzzles fit the frame well for a cell phone friendly version of the series. Level-5 has kept the charm of the original series, while making it more accessible for a wider audience. It also makes sense for them to “reboot” the series in this way, as moving it to a new platform and try to carry forward the story from past games, could have alienated future players. I look forward to where Level-5 will take lady Layton and her new detective agency. The future appears bright for this new budding detective and her faithful puzzle solving crew.


About the Author

James Mikolajewski

Host of the Life of Gaming podcast @lifeofgamingpod, writer for @wethenerdy, and huge Nintendo fan boy since 1985.