Any mystery or any puzzle solved! That’s our motto!
One of my favorite tropes in any type of media is the idea of passing on the torch to the next generation. With that in mind, it’s only natural that I was excited upon learning that we’d see this happen with one of gaming’s most interesting protagonists, Professor Hershel Layton. A spinoff of Level-5’s fantastic DS and 3DS point-and-click puzzle series, Layton’s Mystery Journey puts players in control of Katrielle Layton, the famous professor’s daughter, who has opened a new detective agency on the streets of London. Can Kat live up to her father’s legacy both in universe and out? Well, the short answer is no, but she does still manage to have her own unique charm regardless.
Layton’s Mystery Journey begins with Katrielle’s first day as a private detective, opening the Layton Detective Agency for the first time. While hanging her new agency’s sign, she is approached by a mysterious talking dog who doesn’t remember who he is or where he came from. The dog, named Sherl after Sherlock Holmes, asks Kat and her personal assistant Ernest to take on his case, but this immediately falls on the backburner as they are called on to solve a high profile burglary at Big Ben. The newly-formed team of three then move out to solve the various crimes around London. Unlike past games in the series, Mystery Journey does not have an overarching plot or mystery building up to an epic conclusion, but instead is made up of several smaller cases each with their own defined beginning and ending. This makes the game much easier to pick up and play in short bursts, but fans of past entries may find it slightly underwhelming when compared to titles like Professor Layton and the Unwound Future.
Gameplay in Mystery Journey has remained relatively unchanged from past 3DS titles like Miracle Mask or Azran Legacy. Each screen allows you to poke around using a magnifying glass, talk to various NPCs, or observe your surroundings for clues. The player may also stumble across hint coins, collectibles, or, in typical Layton fashion, a puzzle. Once a player has encountered a puzzle they will be sent to a new screen where they will be presented with a lateral-thinking puzzle for them to solve. Each puzzle is assigned a number of picarats it is worth, which function as the player’s score throughout the game, the harder the puzzle the more picarats it is generally worth. If a player gets the puzzle right on their first try they are awarded the full amount of picarats available, but if they get it wrong the amount the puzzle is worth is reduced and they are given the option to try again. Hint coins can be used to purchase hints if you find yourself stumped, but overall the puzzles just didn’t seem quite as challenging as they had been in the past.
This difficulty issue ties into the fact that in general the game struggles to truly live up to the series’ legacy. Kat is a charming protagonist and honestly cute as a button, but Hershel Layton leaves a very large hat for her to fill and she just doesn’t seem quite up to the task. Even the mysteries Kat is given to solve seem to be of a far smaller scale than even the earliest games in the series, meaning that the player will likely have figured out the solution before even she’s done so. During investigation Kat will stumble upon a piece of information she can use to figure out exactly what’s going on, represented in game by a small puzzle where each clue is one piece, but it’s very unlikely the player will ever miss a single one of these as you are usually required to get them before you can even move on to the next area. Another issue is that her supporting cast unfortunately does not share her charm, with Ernest only sticking around because of a one-sided crush on Kat and Sherl seeming to exist only as a dog pun delivery vessel.
Overall, while her debut adventure is not nearly as grand as anything her father did, Katrielle’s story is still full of the same wit and charm one can expect from a game in the Professor Layton series. If you like past games in the series, you will probably still enjoy this more laid back entry, but first timers would be better off starting from the beginning. Various side features like dressing Kat in different outfits or decorating the agency’s office give the player ample opportunity to sit back and take a break from all the puzzles, and London’s streets are still fun to explore, especially when coupled with another fantastic soundtrack from series composer Tomohito Nishiura. If you find yourself craving some puzzles and English accents, Mystery Journey is a game you should look into picking up.