Join Professor Layton’s daughter, Katrielle, as she follows in the footsteps of her famous father to solve hard-hitting mysteries with her trusty sidekicks Ernest and a talking dog nicknamed Sherl. But without the grandiose of an overarching storyline and the inclusion of bizarre, off-piste puzzles, Kat’s got a lot to prove in the latest mystery for the Nintendo Switch.
Originally released for mobile (Android / iOS) and the Nintendo 3DS back in 2017, Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy was developer Level-5’s first outing since Professor Herschel Layton and Luke’s final journey in Azran Legacy (2013). After Azran’s grand conclusion, it was under Akihiro Hino’s directorial decision (most known for his work on Yo-kai Watch, Dragon Quest and Professor Layton) to introduce a female protagonist to the Layton series. Since half the game’s fanbase was female, it seemed like a natural inclusion to the titular puzzle game. While a bold move for Level-5, Katrielle’s initial debut landed her in the top 30 best-selling games in the UK – not a bad place for the seventh game in the main series.
Since 2007, the Professor Layton series has been exclusive to handheld devices. Feeling most at home on the Nintendo DS and 3DS family of systems, Level-5 dabbled in mobile development with the Layton Brothers: Mystery Room spin-off but never for a full series title – that is, until Layton’s Mystery Journey. Now, an enhanced port is here for the Nintendo Switch, boasting 40 brand new, version-exclusive puzzles and all DLC character outfits unlocked from the get-go.
Taking roughly 25-30 hours to complete, Layton’s Mystery Journey has no overarching story narrative and is played entirely through mini episodic adventures – a series’ first. With 12 cases to solve, you’ll solve mysteries through the eyes of Katrielle, Herschel’s daughter, her loyal assistant Ernest Greeves and a talking dog, bizarrely named, Sherl. After the first case’s contrived, stereotypical view of London (which, by the way, features a hilarious aside to Brexit) in the game’s tutorial, Layton’s Mystery Journey starts to blossom. Each case delivers a new part of London to explore with both new and familiar characters returning, alongside some witty scripting and terribly fantastic puns. The references to modern pop culture, the British Monarchy and our politics are inextricably carved into my mind as some of my favourite moments. Leonardo DeCameo was always going to be a winner in my eyes, though.
Outside of character exchanges and dialogue, investigation mode remains largely the same with beautifully illustrated backgrounds of Tower Bridge, Leicester Square and Chancery Lane to name but a few. Here, you’ll find Hint Coins, hidden puzzles and rare items for your ‘Collection’. Layton’s Mystery Journey also introduces ‘Fashion Farthings’ – an in-game currency, found in either investigation mode or rewarded after solving certain puzzles, to purchase additional outfits for Katrielle and Sherl. There are 50 new outfits in addition to the DLC outfits from the original 3DS game, so there are plenty to peruse.
Like the 3DS, the Deluxe Edition for the Switch has three different control modes to choose from: Motion, Touchscreen and Button. While motion is fun to use for a time, it won’t be your go-to method. Button fares better and is preferable while the Switch is in docked mode, with quick access to different areas. It’s also fantastic to play in this mode with the family watching, offering aid for puzzle-solving – something that’s unique to the Switch experience. Unfortunately, Button mode’s flaw is in its inability to accurately use the memo pad, resorting to players grabbing a pen and paper to solve some of the trickier puzzles. Touchscreen in handheld mode is still the best and most authentic way to play a Layton game, however. It’s a shame, then, that not all the puzzles can be solved by the touch-and-drag approach. A minor but inconvenient flaw to the overall user experience.
It’s no surprise that the Professor Layton series has been praised time and time again for its brilliantly constructed brainteasers. Sadly, Layton’s Mystery Journey doesn’t quite meet those high expectations of years gone by. Puzzles like Weasel Maths, Hands of Time, Puzzling Paints, The Unopened Room and The Perplexed Partner are so far off-piste they’re in a completely different castle realm. The solutions are frustratingly engineered with brazen thoughts, delivering a disservice to long-term fans of the series. There are, thankfully, puzzles that save its bacon. Fraught Fishing, Posing Poltergeists and Level Up offer some of the best conundrums in the pack. While it all boils down to opinion, puzzle solutions seem far easier this time around. But perhaps I’m just showing my age?
On the other hand, the Daily Puzzles – which can be accessed through the title screen or from within the main game – are delightful, well-rounded and exactly what we’ve come to expect of the series. Some personal favourites include: Fruit Farce, Coldstream Conundrum and Dicey Business. While these puzzles won’t necessarily be new to those who played the original, it’s a great break away from the main events.
For a quick change of pace, Layton’s Mystery Journey also contains three minigames: Ideal Meal, Passers Buy and Hound in the Pound. While players won’t gain anything extra by clearing the puzzles with top marks, the satisfaction is good enough. The easiest of the three, Passers Buy, enables players to strategically place items in a shop to deliberately entice customers to buy more. Shady marketing tactics abound, it’s a game to pass the time and nothing more. Ideal Meal contains more logic, however, with players tasked to whip up the perfect four-course menu for the designated character. It’s more trial than error than pure logic, but we’ll take it. The toughest minigame, Hound in the Pound, is easily the best on show. Players are required to navigate Sherl to the goal while avoiding cracked stone and using obstacles to their advantage. You’ll certainly be ‘top dog’ if you can complete all these.
For players who want to test their interior design skills, there’s Fengshui mode. Exchange ‘Décor Dockets’ for beautifully themed furnishings to mix and match the aesthetics of the Layton Detective Agency. While you won’t be able to change the placement of any of your furnishings, it’s a neat addition to the game’s catalogue.
Unlike previous Layton games, it’s refreshing to revisit past cases in investigation and exploration mode. Going back to previous locations often pays off in dividends, with additional hint coins, fashion farthings and hidden puzzles to discover. But the exclusion of an overarching narrative is inevitably felt. Herschel’s legacy is barely visible with the game’s lack of grandeur and spectacle. Perhaps we’ll warm to Kat over the coming years, but she’s got to crawl before she walks.
Layton’s Mystery Journey is a mixed bag of tricks and treats. There’s never a dull moment with the fantastic voice acting and clever script, but without an overarching narrative and below par puzzles, the game’s missing one of its largest draws. The Deluxe Edition for the Switch, though, has a truly unique experience in that it can be enjoyed by many in one fell swoop; a good addition to the family catalogue. For Katrielle, she’s not quite there yet.
A review copy of Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy Deluxe Edition was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.