Layton Comes Home:
We were first introduced to Katrielle Layton, daughter to the esteemed professor Hershel Layton, earlier this year exclusively on mobile devices.
Japanese gamers had the option to play through her adventures on her rightful home – the 3DS – back when the game first launched, but we’ve had to wait a little while to do so.
If you’ve been holding out for this homecoming, you’ll be pleased to know that it was well worth the wait: Katrielle proves she’s more than ready to fill the intimidating shoes of her father as King (or Queen) of puzzle games on Nintendo’s portable systems.
After setting up her own detective agency in London, Katrielle Layton is determined to do the family name proud. It isn’t long before she’s set upon by a talking dog with amnesia, and to her credit she takes this entirely in her stride, teaming up with him and her bumbling assistant Ernest to solve the many mysteries the game has to throw at her.
There’s a more episodic feeling to this game than previous titles, with a ‘mystery of the week’ theme running through them whilst sprinkling in overarching plot points to tie the whole package together by journey’s end. It worked on tablets and it works here too, enabling players to hop in and out of game sessions at their leisure. The bitesize puzzles also help with this pick up and play nature, and overall I really dug the pacing of the game. Admittedly it loses some of the narrative verve the previous Layton games surprised me with, and I wasn’t a huge fan of a lot of the main characters, but Katrielle herself is a winner and the writing is always an endearing treat.
The puzzles take a minor hit as well when compared to previous iterations, and the loss of Akira Tago – the mastermind behind the puzzles of all previous games – can be felt in some of the game’s more slapdash brainteasers. Quantity does, in this rare instance, go some way in making up for quality however – Layton’s Mystery Journey is positively bursting at the seams with content. This helps lessen the blow when you come across a few of the simpler puzzles the game tasks you with.
Considering the fact that Katrielle is a self-proclaimed detective, a lot of the game’s overarching mysteries (all of which concern the Dragons of London – a group of millionaires who are at the heart of the individual cases) kind of piece themselves together whilst relegating your own initiative to the somewhat unrelated puzzles. It would have been cool to be a little more Batman and a little less… well, Hershel Layton, I suppose, but then this would be an entirely different beast altogether.
Elsewhere the game remains as formulaic as it’s ever been – hunt down hint coins and talk to endearing NPCs as you explore between puzzles, and then sit and stare blankly at your screen as the next riddle ruins your mental faculties. It’s a good thing that the aforementioned formula is as engaging as it is then, and I never got tired of poking around London’s many mysteries. That ‘just one more’ feel is here in full and is as dangerous as ever.
The artistry and music will also be familiar to long-time fans, with some excellent animated cutscenes really bringing Katrielle to life. The score is as charming as ever, but the voice acting still grates on me. I understand that this stuff is wildly charming to Layton’s oversees audiences but as a Londoner myself the harsh accents just rub me the wrong way.
Professor Layton’s assistant Luke used to make me want to throw my 3DS through the nearest window, and I was hopeful that his absence would have made it easier to finally appreciate the esteemed series vocals, but talking mutt Sherl quickly fills that obnoxious role with aplomb.
‘Layton’s Mystery Journey‘ is a strong start for Katrielle as she attempts to carry on the Layton legacy, and I’m eager to see where the series goes from here. It isn’t the best title in the franchise, and the puzzles suffer from the loss of mastermind Akira Tago, but this rejigged 3DS journey is well worth your attention regardless. It’s a frighteningly addictive puzzle distributor with a heaping helping of charm to bring it all together.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I just figured out the answer to a puzzle that’s been bugging me for the last few hours.