Critical Play: Layton’s Mystery Journey — Nadin


Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy is a puzzle game developed by Level-5. The game was released for different platforms, including Android, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo Switch. I played on my iPhone (although I noticed that the controls were a bit awkward on mobile since Professor Layton games are usually designed for two screens like a classic Nintendo DS). The game stars Kat Layton, the young daughter of Hershel Layton, and follows her adventures as she opens a detective agency. The advertised target audience of the game is ages 10 and older.

Formal Elements + Types of Fun

Layton’s Mystery Journey is a single-player game where the player plays against the game, and the objective of the game is to solve all the case files (and a secondary objective is to solve all of the puzzles, although not all puzzles need to be solved in order to complete the game).
The game is split up into twelve individual case files that all follow a single overarching narrative. Gameplay proceeds mainly through two different mechanics: Kat navigating around London to pursue leads, and puzzles that pop up as the story unfolds. There are a total of 185 puzzles in the game that can be solved by the player — however, even parts of the game that aren’t explicitly puzzles contribute to the theme of investigation. For example, while some puzzles are directly provided to the player because they are essential to the storyline, others need to be discovered by looking around different locations that Kat visits. Therefore, in addition to solving the puzzles, the player actually has to find them first.
There are also several other mini-games that aren’t necessary for the main storyline that contribute more puzzles and enjoyment for the player. Unlocking new levels for these mini-games is a fun side quest for the player, and gives them an opportunity to take a break and do something else in the game if they find themselves too stuck on the main storyline (I found myself doing this a significant number of times!).

The primary kinds of fun evoked by the game are Narrative and Challenge: Although each of the case files is technically independent, each of the cases builds upon previous information to advance the main storyline that leads up to a climax in the final case. Furthermore, there is a strong cast of characters (including Ernest and Sherl the dog) whose storylines become relevant later on in the game. In addition, each of the puzzles in the game is a challenge for the player to solve, whether it be putting a picture back together, thinking outside the box, or doing some mental math. The wide range of puzzles and mini-games also allows players to set their own goals for the game — some, like me, are completionists that try to find and solve every single puzzle, while others only focus on specific types of puzzles or ignore ones that aren’t essential for the main storyline.

My Impressions

What Works

  • Enjoyable storyline: I really liked how the 12 case files came together at the end to create one overarching narrative — it made the time I invested into the game feel a lot more worthwhile.
  • Graphics are cute: Honestly, one of the main things that I loved about Layton’s Mystery Journey is the graphics. The whole theme felt very whimsical, in line with the main character being Professor Layton’s excitable daughter (rather than the Professor himself). I found myself getting a lot of delight out of the cute illustrations that I got to see as I explored London as Kat.

What Could Be Improved

  • Controls are awkward: I think it was quite obvious that Professor Layton games are originally designed for consoles with two screens (i.e. a Nintendo DS) — the layout was basically directly ported to mobile, and I honestly don’t think it made a lot of sense to split up the phone screen in two.
  • Some puzzles have weird “gotcha” moments: There are many different types of puzzles in Professor Layton games (e.g. logical, piece positioning, pictorial, etc.), and I think that some of them fell flat for me. This is because some puzzles require a “gotcha” kind of insight moment that I wouldn’t have been able to come up with by myself without looking at the hints. However, I did appreciate that in-game hints (unlockable by spending hint coins that are found in various locations throughout the game) existed, since it usually prevented me from turning to the internet for solutions.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.