The classic Layton puzzles come back but the overall experience doesn’t match up to the Professor’s old adventures.
The Professor Layton series is one that struck my fancy when it debuted in America on DS in 2008. The mixture of thought-provoking puzzles, inspired art, and a gonzo story made for a wonderful concoction. After seven games released in a six-year span, the traditional Layton game faded away as the series moved on to weird mobile spinoffs and obscurity.
Developer Level-5’s newfound focus on mobile games has resulted in a new entry in the classic Layton puzzle style - Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy. This time, however, the adventure stars the Professor’s daughter Katrielle. She’s starting her own detective agency, which leads her to solving puzzles much like her old man as she sets out to solve 12 different cases with talking dog Sherl and assistant Ernest.
While the different cases do have ties to each other and wind up having some sort of payoff in the end, the lack of a strong and clear driving mystery hurts the overall experience. The cases, with few exceptions, just aren’t as compelling or well-crafted as even the lamest of stories in past Layton games. A number of factors contribute to this. The characters aren’t familiar and most of them feel like they just fit into past Layton archetypes anyway. While every case has some twist, nothing comes close to the absurdity of the reveals in past entries.
Fortunately, while the story’s disappointing, the puzzles are perfectly fine. They seem to skew easier (or I’ve gotten smarter), but they’re just as occasionally mind-bending, tricky, and engrossing as in the past. New in Mystery Journey is the ability to revisit cases after you complete them, so you can no longer miss puzzles. New puzzles are also added after case completion, so even if you’re meticulous, you still have a reason to return.
While Layton’s Mystery Journey will come to 3DS later in the year, I played this on my phone (a Google Nexus 5, for the record). The Layton games are almost a perfect fit for mobile, and I’m far more likely to actually work my way through the extra downloadable puzzles than ever before. The phone essentially maps both screens together, making it easy to settle into if you have experience with the DS or 3DS games. The issues I had with the mobile version were minimal. The memo function was not that useful, mostly because it’s hard to use any sort of nuance on a smaller screen with your finger. Saving was also a little weird. You have to manually save, which you can do at just about any time, but even still, that’s not that convenient on a device you’re likely to pick up and put down at a moment’s notice.
I’m glad to see the Layton series back. I really did miss it, but Layton’s Mystery Journey is on the lower end of the spectrum for the series. The puzzles are totally adequate, but the story isn’t compelling, not even in its new case structure. Hopefully, if the Mystery Journey series continues, the stories will get stronger and way more out there as we get more familiar with the new cast.
A Note on Price and Differences Between 3DS and Mobile: The mobile version is available on iOS and Android for $15.99 and features the entirety of the main game. In-app purchases are used to unlock alternate outfits that are bundled with extra puzzles. The 3DS version, due out in the west later in 2017, will contain the same content, though as of right now, the price isn't confirmed. Level-5 Abby's Lucy Pozniak did say that they are "very confident" about how fans will perceive the price of the 3DS and mobile versions.