Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy 3DS Review
I think it would be worth prefacing this review by mentioning that I absolutely love the Professor Layton franchise. I deeply enjoyed all 6 of the main games and even the movie – Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. On top of that I’ve also beaten the first mobile game in the series – Layton Brothers: Mystery Room and would really like to have played the 100-hour RPG, Professor Layton’s London Life but it was sadly never released in the UK. The characters, world, and even the puzzles are just so incredibly charming that it’s easy to lose oneself in the exploration and story. And that’s before considering the terribly intriguing mysteries that spark each adventure – a box that kills all those who dare open it or the Professor’s assistant, Luke, visiting from 10 years in the future are just a few examples of the imaginative cases available to tackle, all whilst developing an overarching story. Sadly, however, after 4 years without a real Layon game, Layton’s Mystery Journal doesn’t really do the series justice and I wouldn’t recommend a newcomer to play it as their introductory title.
The protagonist is Katrielle (Kat) – the daughter of the famous Professor Layton, trying to make her own way in the world by opening her very own detective agency in the center of London. Right away we’re introduced to the ‘comedy’ character – Sherl (Sherl. O. C. Kholmes…), who also happens to be a talking dog with amnesia that only some people can understand. Now, Luke always had the ability to communicate with animals but it was seen as a strange and miraculous gift and is also a major part of his back story. Here, though, it seems only Katrielle and her self-appointed assistant, Ernest, (who happens to be completely in love with her) can talk to Sherl and no other critters. He seems to serve no other purpose than to have a character that no one else can understand making wisecrack remarks throughout the game. Funny at first, maybe, but it gets to be pretty grating and repetitive.
Fortunately, a bunch of less annoying characters are befriended as the game goes on, each with their own unique quirks, personalities, and dialects. This, along with the core gameplay, paves the way for a run-of-the-mill Layton experience. Moving around a magnifying glass over just about everything and everyone in the environment to find puzzles, trinkets, discoveries to further the plot, and hint coins to help with those trickier riddles is pretty much the same as ever. Even the voice acting and animations that start up at important plot points are brilliant. The fact that that half of the game is as great as any fan would expect, however, only further highlights the fact that the story side just can’t hold a candle to the ones before it. So, why is it not on par with the older games? Firstly, there’s a clear lack of an end goal – a main mystery to solve that is built towards for the entire game. Nothing to keep the player excited as they get ever closer to solving the impossible and discovering the truth.
Instead, there are 12 smaller cases that are pretty inconsequential and well…boring to be honest. What’s worse is that Katrielle herself is aware of this and actively yearns for the chance to be trusted with a real mystery, sad that she has to take on these smaller cases in order to build a reputation. I really can’t blame her! Would you rather be looking into the case of a man wearing a mask from an ancient civilisation, performing miracles and turning people into stone or finding some rich woman’s cat? Or if you’r prefer – helping some muppet inspector find a gift for his wife? It’s really only the last 2 cases or so that are interesting at all. Up until that point, which is about 17 of 20 hours in, there is no action at all and nothing but the puzzles to keep the player going. That would be find if it was just a puzzle game but what makes a true Layton game is the combination of these two elements – a multitude of diverse, sometimes challenging puzzles and fantastical tales. Without both sides to hold each other up, it just falls apart, as proven here.
It’s a rule of writing to ask yourself “is this the most interesting part of our characters’ lives” and if Level-5 can answer “yes”, it’s probably best we don’t get another Katrielle game. Anyway, I’m sure many fans of the series would much prefer to see a spin-off series starring already established persons, such as Luke or Emmy (the best character). I know I would. In conclusion, with the interesting part kicking in way, way too late into the game and being left quickly after with an unsatisfying conclusion made me feel like I had simply wasted my time. Having to drone through shallow plots and mysteries that the player figures out ages before Katrielle does just left me wanting to skip directly to the next puzzle or go back and play a much better Layton game. As mentioned, the puzzles and world are as marvelous as ever but I just can’t see myself recommending it to anyone who hasn’t already exhausted every other Professor Layton game first, especially when the physical copy is releasing at twice the price of the mobile version. I hate that I didn’t properly enjoy this entry and will just continue to hope that more Layton games (and movies please!) will come in the future. After all – a true gentleman leaves no puzzle unsolved.