For my critical play this week, I chose to play Layton Brothers: Mystery Room. The game was directed and produced by Tatsuya Shinkai and Akihiro Hino, and is a spinoff of the popular puzzle game series Professor Layton. The game is available for iOS and Android devices. I downloaded the game from the app store and played on my iPhone.
In the game, you take on the role of Lucy Baker, a rookie detective as an apprentice of Alfendi Layton. The game is divided into cases, where each case is effectively a level. In each case, there is a different crime you must solve by examining and analyzing evidence and statements to deduce who the culprit is from a set of suspects. To move on to the next case, you must solve the previous one.
The target audience of the game is fans of the puzzle/mystery genre. The game is appropriate for any age with some understanding of crimes and investigation, save maybe younger children. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the Professor Layton series and generally likes puzzle games, I was excited to give this game a try after hearing about it.
The formal elements of the game are quite straightforward; the rules and procedures are dictated by the flow of the story in each case. The only possible outcome of each case is to solve it, as making a wrong deduction will simply prompt you to try again. The game is single player and can be played offline. The controls are quite simple, primarily including tapping through dialogue and tapping on objects in the crime scene to investigate further.
The main types of fun in the game are fantasy, challenge, and narrative. The game lets you play out a fantasy in which you are an adept detective, expertly piecing together evidence to solve crimes. The game also presents a challenge, in that it is not always clear how to proceed or which logical deductions to make. Narrative is intricately woven into the game and is the strongest element of fun. The full narrative is purposely withheld throughout each case, and the player is only given more information about the full story of the crime as they make deductions leading to the next step of the case. For example, in the first case which I played, you must come to several conclusions as the detective about the murder weapon and cause of death before deciding to question one of the suspects who ultimately ends up being the culprit.
In my opinion, the creators of the game did a great job of weaving narrative into the game in a way that amplifies fun. It was always exciting to move onto the next part of the case and get more information about the crime. However, it did feel a little bit slow-paced and drawn out at times. There was a point at which the case was a foregone conclusion and the game even confirmed who the culprit was, but there were several more interrogations which I felt were unnecessary.
Overall, I would recommend the game to anyone who is interested in mystery/detective type games. As a fan of the Professor Layton series, I was hoping the game would have more overlap with the puzzle realm but I still enjoyed the game a decent amount.