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May 112018
 

I love the Professor Layton series, and I was excited for Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy.

Unfortunately, it has claimed the throne as my least favorite Layton game.

I’ll start with some positives, because it’s not all bad.

I like these characters!

Katrielle is a very different sort of character from Professor Layton. A little out of touch at times, obsessed with food, and very willing to let people do work for her, but she has a good heart and her quirks make it easy for other characters to play off of her.

Sherl’s dialogue mainly consists of dog puns and questioning Kat’s work ethic, which makes them a funny pair with entertaining dialogue. As for Kat’s assistant, Ernest, he’s probably the weakest of the main cast, but even he contributes to the humor at times.

They’re good characters. If only they debuted in a better game.

When they said this game would focus on smaller mysteries, I imagined something like Layton Brothers or mysteries with lower stakes like Curious Village. Given the game’s premise and title, I expected an overarching story about a millionaires’ conspiracy along with Katrielle searching for Professor Layton.

Instead, there is virtually no overarching story to speak of.

Professor Layton’s disappearance? Mentioned a handful of times at best. The conspiracy? Restricted to the final case. Even Sherl’s origins aren’t explored. The closest thing to an overarching story is that several cases involve the Dragons, the millionaires in London.

But I wouldn’t necessarily object to smaller stories with no overarching plot if they were actually interesting stories. However, the majority of these cases have such low stakes and obvious twists that I never felt compelled to see what would happen next.

If you find the first case’s twist to be cute and harmless, you’re in for a lot more of that feeling.

Most of Layton’s Mystery Journey was simply boring. The exceptions for me were:

  • the Ratman case, which was actually pretty funny and engaging with its Batman parody
  • the flashback to how Ernest and Katrielle met, which actually felt like story progression even though it occurred way too late in the game
  • the eleventh case, which actually had stakes
  • the final case, which finally felt like a Layton game
Click for Layton's Mystery Journey Case 11 spoilers
And since Britannias had no relevance to the rest of the game, Case 11 actually feels like one of the game’s most disconnected cases despite being one with actual stakes.

Yes, it took all the way to the final case to even capture that Professor Layton tone. It was surreal. The “conspiracy” that appears in the game’s title is the one thing that actually felt like the premise for a Layton game, to the point where it almost distracted me from the fact that I went through over 20 hours of cute, harmless, low-stakes mini-stories to get there.

So if you’re playing Layton’s Mystery Journey now and wondering if these mundane non-mysteries will ever give way to something more interesting, the answer is yes, but not until you’re almost done with the game.

To its credit, the final case really does feel like a Layton story.

Click for major Layton's Mystery Journey spoilers
It even had a suitably ridiculous twist that I never saw coming. Every other case had a pretty obvious twist, but the final case just came out of nowhere with its revelation.

In retrospect, I think they built up so slowly because they wanted the player to get used to Ernest as a character, but they still could have done that with more interesting stakes.

I fervently hope that the final case is what Level-5’s CEO had in mind when he said there will be smaller-scale mysteries for the next few games.

All right, the Layton games might be story-driven, but a lot of people come for the puzzles, right? At least it has those?

Well…

Layton’s Mystery Journey absolutely has Layton gameplay. You tap around to find hint coins and puzzles, solve tons of puzzles, and get some mini-games to do as well. The mini-games were great. They felt very Layton-esque.

The puzzles, however, favored the “trick question” style a little too heavily. Professor Layton always had a few of those, but they were especially prominent here. It also suffered a little from the problem I saw in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, where some instructions were unnecessarily confusing (and in one case, actually incorrect).

It also felt like the writers abandoned all creativity when it came to characters referencing puzzles. The old “That reminds me of a puzzle” might be silly, but at least it made more logical sense than “Look, here’s a hidden puzzle,” which Layton’s Mystery Journey uses for almost every puzzle found in the environment.

Maybe it’s picky to prefer “The smoke coming from this chimney reminds me of a puzzle about smoke” to “Hey, there’s a puzzle coming out of the chimney!” but on top of everything else, this really started to annoy me.

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy focuses much more on a series of unrelated incidents than on a mysterious journey or a conspiracy. It has a fun cast of characters, a mixed batch of puzzles, and abysmal storytelling until near the end.

But hey, it also confirmed Layton Brothers: Mystery Room as canon, so maybe Alfendi will return in the next entry.

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  2 Responses to “Layton’s Mystery Journey: A Series of Unrelated Incidents”

  1. […] the best thing I’ve heard about this new game so far. Layton’s Mystery Journey suffered from both a weak story and weak puzzles, and the puzzles are what I was most concerned about going […]

  2. […] came Layton’s Mystery Journey, which I had… mixed feelings […]

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