- Developer: LEVEL-5
- Publisher: LEVEL-5
- Release date: 08/11/2019
- Price: £34.99 / $39.99
- Review code provided by LEVEL-5
I’ve been a fairly large fan of the Professor Layton series of games ever since I was in high school. I discovered them through a close friend and have tried my best to keep up on the series as much as possible since then, though due to limited funds, I fell away from it a bit when I was in college. I’ve always considered them to be one of the best puzzlers on the 3DS, but they’ve started coming to mobile devices as well in recent years. I was surprised to see a game from the 3DS come to switch, though. While putting a 3DS game mostly controlled by the touch screen on a tablet made sense as you could just split it down the middle to have both screens, I was interested to see how they would make things work for the switch.
Jolly Old London
Before getting into how Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy – Deluxe Edition (Henceforth referred to as Mystery Journey for simplicity) plays, let’s talk a little bit about story since Mystery journey functions very differently in regards to this than most of the Layton franchise. Instead of being one long story broken up into a variety of chapters, Mystery Journey instead works off the central basis of the main character running a detective agency by having many different smaller cases that are solved. I’m of two minds on this. On one hand it does solve a problem that the Layton games had with the stakes of the story inflating more and more with each game, bringing things down to a much more personal and local level. It also gives a wider variety in the type of mystery that we encounter from theft to murder and disappearances. On the other hand though, it leaves the game with a weaker core thread running through it. There are a few ideas introduced in the prologue that seem like they might be solved (Such as the mystery of where Professor Herschel Layton is since we play as his daughter this time) but these are not really fully resolved. A little searching tells me that these were handled in the anime series that serves as a companion to this game, but it’s a shame that in order to get the most out of this you need to seek that out. The nice thing about the game being broken up into the different cases is that they serve as good bite sized bursts of play with clear stopping points. I could go on if I wanted, but concluding a case gave me a nice way to take a break without leaving me with the need to barrel on like ending a chapter in prior entries would.
The setting and characters are charming enough to make up for it. The typical exaggerated Layton character design is out in full force and while some express better in the 3d modelling than others, every recurring character is distinct enough that you won’t be forgetting them. The animated cutscenes help this all the more as the animation is bright and expressive and brings a level of nuance and detail to movements that the simple movements of the models might not provide. The characters are a little flatter than I would like them to be, but this could be due to the fact that this is their first outing in a game and they haven’t had 3 or 6 games to round out like other main characters in the series. They’re funny and expressive though, so I found myself adequately charmed, even if I would have preferred the prior casts to this one.
It’s a Mystery
Like I said before, I was interested in how LEVEL-5 was going to make a game series that was usually built with two screens in mind work with just one. I was delighted to find that the Layton series transferred to a single screen better than I would have thought that it would. When you’re exploring the world, what you see is what would normally be on the top screen in a more recent Layton title, with the area and the people there laid out for you to see, but now instead of moving your stylus on the bottom screen to move the cursor on the top for investigation, you simply move the cursor by either motion controls or the stick of your joy-con. Any icons from the bottom screen of old are placed discretely along the edge or in the corners of the screen to be access by either touching them with your cursor or at the press of a button.
When it comes to puzzle solving, you can see the layout here.
While it might seem like those are a lot of small boxes, when you’re playing it works just fine. I personally had no trouble seeing what I was doing or reading text while in both docked and handheld mode. There is an option to draw on the screen in order to make notes, but unfortunately this is the one area where I think the transition just didn’t work out too well. When on the small bottom screen of the 3DS, the fact that writing with the stylus was done in a somewhat pixelated style wasn’t much of a bother, since you would only be able to write so small on there anyways. In the jump to the Switch, though this pixelated style of writing was retained. It wouldn’t be that much of a problem if not for the fact that the pixels are just a bit too large on the larger screen, making it hard to write when it was already hard to do so without a stylus. This isn’t so bad, since I was easily able to make any notes on my phone, but it is disappointing that I can’t do so in the game itself easily.
I Think I’ve Got It!
The puzzles themselves offer a nice range of difficulty and the fact that you can collect hint coins to buy hints to help you on the ones that are either tougher or you just don’t click very well with does mean that there will rarely be one that you can’t solve at all. Even then, a lot of the puzzles end up being purely optional if you find them while you are looking around an area instead of being given them by a key character that you are talking to. Sometimes a puzzle might seem laughably easy to you only for the next one you come across to have you buying all 4 available hints. I don’t think all the puzzles are really suited for a younger child to try and solve, but the range hasn’t seemed to shift any harder than when I was a preteen to young teen. For kids that age, this can be a great way to get some logic practice in, even if now and then they will get thrown a puzzle that is absolutely a trick question. Additionally, due to the daily puzzles that can be downloaded, there is plenty of reason to keep coming back on a regular basis.
A highlight of the game is there is not a reason to shut it off when you find yourself becoming irritated with a puzzle you just can’t seem to solve. During the game, you will acquire 3 mini-games that can be played at any time in order to take a short break from puzzling. These don’t have much depth to them, really, but as a small side way to get your mind working in a different way and take a break from the standard puzzle solving game play.
While the characters aren’t the ones that we know and love from the other Layton titles and you’re going to have to hop into an old game or watch an anime in order to see the beloved Professor in action again, this title is more than enough to scratch that puzzling itch that fans of the series get now and then. With all the DLC content included as well, if the 3DS edition of this game passed you by, this way of play might take a little time to adjust to, but will serve you just as well. For new players, this is a good place to jump in and get a feel for the game with simpler and shorter mysteries before sliding into one of the other titles in you need a more expansive title.
- Delightful visuals
- Easy to pick up and play in short bursts
- A variety of content
- Good range of difficulty on puzzles
- Difficult to use note taking feature
- Weaker overarching story for the series
- Some questions only answered in an anime companion
The perfect puzzler for those looking for a little charm and humor along with their thinking, even if the story is weaker than other entries.