Riddle me this.
The last Professor Layton game I played was, I believe, the very first one to ever come out for the Nintendo DS. It was Professor Layton and the Curious Village and it came out back in 2007. I may have played or owned Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box but I honestly cannot remember for sure. This is all really beside the point. What I can say with certainty here is that Professor Layton and the Curious Village seemed to offer a splendid blend of new ideas, lovable characters, absurd situations, and plenty of brain teasers and traditional puzzles to dive into. I loved it. At the time there really wasn't much like it and really, outside of the other entries in the Layton franchise, there still really aren't too many games like it.

Fast-forward about ten years and Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy has just come out. Only, it's out first for mobile devices, at least in North America. As I do not own a Nintendo 3DS, I quickly jumped on the request to put the game through its paces on my Android (Galaxy S6) phone. While I cannot say if the games, spin-offs, and non-game entries that have come out in the past decade are good or not, I can at least hope to tell you if this one is worth your time and money.

Layton's Mystery Journey places you in the sleuthing shoes of Katrielle Layton as she searches for her father, Professor Hershel Layton. As I understand it, this switch to Katrielle being the main protagonist for an entire game marks a dramatic departure for the franchise. Keep in mind here that the last time I played any of these games was about ten years ago now. Deciding that she should follow in her father's footsteps, Katrielle opens up a new detective agency in the heart of London. From there, she is almost immediately thrown right into the first of the game's 13 main cases or mysteries. Many of these cases focus on a group simply known as the Seven Dragons. They're a group of wealthy individuals that all require the assistance of Katrielle to solve a variety of different mysteries.


Sadly, the threads linking these cases together for the overarching plot is tenuous, at best. You will meet characters in each case that don't seem to be of any importance. Only, you'll come to find out that many of them were actually very important and you just kind of go, "oh" once those reveals are explained to you. Despite these loose threads holding things together, the main story does come to a conclusion with a twist that came across more like a bubble being popped instead of a stick of dynamite going off.

The gameplay is still roughly the same as when I played the first game. You, as the player, guide Katrielle around various locations across each case. Using your stylus, or finger as the case is with my phone, you search areas for helpful hint coins, hidden puzzles, or simply tap on people to talk to them for clues. More often than not, these people will dish out the help just as soon as you solve a puzzle for them. The cases are solved by visiting each location offered to you and ensuring you found all of the clues in a given area. Once you do, Katrielle solves the case on her own without anything that resembles actual feedback from the player. I suppose this is a good thing given that some of the solutions seem to come out of left field.

To those wondering about how the game plays on the phone, it plays just fine. My Galaxy S6 is about two and a half years old at this point and it ran without a single hitch. I was worried about the fact that my fingers may not be as precise as a stylus but it never became an issue with this game. You can either tap on the top half of the screen to immediately select an object, or you can slide your finger around on the bottom half of the screen to move the magnifying glass to the area you wish to inspect. A second tap will activate whatever you are looking at. As you may have already gathered, the game is presented in a split screen style format, with the bulk of the action taking place on the top and the bottom half being reserved for things like your inventory, the map, or inputting your answers for the puzzles. During some cutscenes, you can flip the view to be vertical or horizontal but the gameplay itself will be with your phone in the vertical orientation.


It is perhaps a good thing that Katrielle and the varied group of individuals she surrounds herself with are all quite likable in their own ways. Sherl is a sassy talking dog. Yep, there's a talking dog in the game and he's actually quite amusing. Ernest, a human, is Katrielle's assistant. I wasn't really sold on Ernest at the start, but he started to grow on me as the game continued on. Katrielle often comes across as a strong female lead that has a good head about her shoulders. She's smart, thoughtful, and is almost always optimistic. She often seems to be at least one step ahead of the player on the cases, to the point that any time you run into any sort of danger, there's literally nothing to actually worry about. You know this was all part of Katrielle's grand plan and she saw that this would happen and already has an out at the ready. Once you realize this, it lets a bit of the air out of the sails during some of the more dramatic moments.

The dialogue and writing in Layton's Mystery Journey seems to nail the stereotypical English way of speaking. Accents are slathered on as thick as can be here, with no punches pulled in favor of an Americanized localization. This even translates to the written dialogue that drops the "h" from words such like saying "'Arry" instead of "Harry." I just hope you're prepared to re-read a few lines that may not make much sense at first glance is really all I'm saying. Many of the game's major plot points are shown as gorgeously drawn animations. I really love the art style that seems to have stuck around these past ten years and Layton's Mystery Journey is certainly no slouch. The visuals, the animated cutscenes, and the music come together beautifully to create an almost whimsical feeling as you play.

There is something that should be kept in mind when I talk about the game's visuals. My phone only has about a five-inch screen size that runs at 1440p resolution. As such, I do not know if visual fidelity holds up on devices with larger screens such as with a tablet. Many of the 1440p screenshots found throughout this review do come from my device and seem to indicate that a lot of the game's assets are scaled up from a lower resolution to the 1440p output that my phone runs at. Any sort of pixelation or loss of quality wasn't inherent to me nor was it an issue for me due to the screen size. It is, however, just something that you may want to keep in mind if you have a device with a large screen and resolution.


Is that still not enough for you? Okay, then you can also tie your game and device to Layton World. This site brings together Layton fans from all over the world to try to solve a series of puzzles tied to real world locations. Hints are put up where people first try to figure out where the next puzzle will show up. Once that is solved, people near those areas take pictures of the Layton puzzles proper and share the images with everyone else. Social media integration with the site encourages the sharing of hints but seems to stop just short of allowing players to provide the answer to others. The best part about this real world integration is the fact that there is an overarching story and mystery to solve across all of these puzzles. It's almost like getting a bonus case for free. Solving these puzzles will be challenging but you do get to unlock some goodies for use in your game. For example, just by completing about 19 out of the planned 50 real world puzzles, I have unlocked an additional outfit for Katrielle to wear along with a handful of office customizations.

While $16 asking price for Layton's Mystery Journey doesn't sound like much to you or me, it is actually quite pricey as far as mobile offerings go. It will certainly push a lot of people away who are used to playing games for free or just a couple of bucks on their phones, especially on Android. However, the amount of content you get for $16 is honestly amazing, assuming you can overlook the fact that a not-insignificant portion of the puzzles rely on very similar "gotcha" style mechanics. But, if you like getting your money's worth, Layton's Mystery Journey is perfect for you. I do wish I knew what the development team had planned with this franchise. If Level-5 can get things under control with the quality of the puzzles and story, I would absolutely love to see more from Katrielle and her cohorts.


Additional Information
Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy (Developed & Published by Level-5)
Starting at $15.99 (USD) for iOS and Android in North America; Coming October 2017 for the 3DS in North America & Europe; Out Now for iOS, Android, and 3DS in Japan
Rated E for Everyone
This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.

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