Layton’s Mystery Journey (Android) Review – A Disappointment?
Platforms: Android (reviewed), iOS, Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Level-5 Inc
Publisher: Level-5 Abby
Release: 20th June 2017 (Android, iOS) / Fall 2017 (3DS)
Price: 17.99 (Android, iOS) / 39.99 (3DS)
Unlike many people who got a Nintendo DS as their (first) handheld, I never was a big fan of Pokemon, hell, I only own Pokemon Platin and already have enough of it. Rather, most of my time on the DS was spent on games like Ghost Trick or, of course, the Layton series. Until my ways with Nintendo´s beloved handheld series came to an end when I decided to buy a Vita, the Layton games were probably my dearest and most played things on this little thing, I loved them. Honestly, the only reason for me to buy a 2/3DS would be this series, I just love riddles, great stories, these amazing characters … everything. Now, as the tenth anniversary of it approaches Level-5 finally releases another Layton game, this time on Android and iOS before the 3DS version arrives later this year. Naturally, I had to check it out after so many years of absence, yet, trust me, it´s by far, not a good start for Professor Layton´s daughter, Katrielle.
Unlike any other Layton game on the Nintendo DS, Layton´s Mystery Journey doesn´t follow a big, leading storyline, instead Level-5 chose a more episodic approach. We´re accompanying Katrielle, the talking dog Sherl and her assistant Ernest through 12, ~2h hours long cases, each featuring its own characters and plot. From rescuing an old lady´s cat to a stolen movie scene, we´ll be confronted with all kinds of cases to solve, yet, this approach has its price.
Personally, as soon as I got my hands on a Layton game, I completed them in a matter of days nearly every time. However, that wasn´t the case with dear Katrielle, it actually took me 10 days to complete this rather “short” entry, taking around 15 hours to complete. The main and only reason for this quite interesting change was this exact episodic approach. Not only are the cases mostly uninteresting, bombarding us with tiny little problems, full of everyday crime series set-ups. Every case only features a handful of characters, making the culprit often way too obvious, removing our desire to reach the conclusion. By presenting us with everyday crime series cases, Layton´s Mystery Journey´s episodic stories fail at living up to 5 years old expectations.
Fortunately, the writing doesn´t suffer from any major issues, offering the same lovely written dialogues, which once again, nail the balance between silliness and serious. Each character has their own style, unique quirks and the whole game is basically stuffed with everything from chit-chatter to case essential conversations. Sadly, no matter how great the dialogues may be, the contents of them still heavily depends on the characters, a quite subjective problem I got with Katrielle and her team. Overall, I find these three new main characters simply way too cliché-y. Surely, Professor Layton wasn´t all that unique as well, yet Katrielle on the other hand, is nothing more than your average food loving cutiepie.
Ignoring these story and more subjective character flaws, Layton´s Mystery Journey is, in it´s heart, a full-blown Layton game. Starting with the anime intro or various anime cut scenes, that look as great and fitting as in every other Layton game, underlined by the simply amazing, catchy soundtrack. If I can watch an intro for the tenth time and still love it, it´s probably a pretty great one. In contrast to the sheer mass of shovel ware, which floods the Google Play Store since years, the sheer amount of effort put into this game is damn refreshing. Considering it will be a full price 3DS title, the asked 17.99 are pretty damn fine price for such a game, especially for Layton fans.
Additionally, Level-5 also did a great job at porting the game to mobile devices, even though you probably shouldn´t play it on a little smartphone screen, if possible. The port does a wonderful job at bringing the 2 screen 3DS game to a single screen, having a high enough resolution and no crashes, slowdowns are any other technical downsides. As the only complaint, I could point out the difficulties I had with some puzzles, when it comes to moving objects or drawing lines, due to the lack of a stylus.
Speaking of puzzles, Layton´s Mystery Journey is basically identical to previous entries in the series, completely focusing on puzzles as sole gameplay, besides moving around. Because of the lacking plot, its puzzles were basically the only motivation that kept me playing, at least they didn´t suffer from any major drawbacks. Layton´s Mystery Journey is packed with riddles, offering more than ever before, often even really cool ones that require you to think around corners. Still, the series always suffered from some illogical riddles and solutions, same here. Every now and then I encountered either “joke puzzles” or solutions I couldn´t quite understand to their fullest, dragging an already flawed experience even more down.
Additionally to the well-known, great puzzles, Layton´s Mystery Journey also doesn´t spare out on the other systems, like the hint coins or optional mini games. While picarats and hint coins still remain the same in function, the movement got a huge overhaul. Instead of a confusing map and clunky arrow movement, we can now navigate from place to place by taping on the map, sparing us from minute long walks, in order to find the right place.
The mini games are also pretty unique and fantastic this time. From a puzzle game, where we have to plan menus for different persons, to fit their preferences, side stories and some more, a lot new things can be discovered here. Yet, if you don´t solve the right puzzles, that unlock new recipes and objects for these, you will soon be stuck in them, something I never quite liked.
Despite the fact Layton´s Mystery Journey is a full-blown Layton game, offering the same polish and effort we saw in previous entries for only 17.99 on Android and iOS, despite the fact it´s probably one of the biggest, most polished and best games in the App Store, Katrielle´s journey can´t live up to my expectations.
After ~5 years of wait, Level-5 ´s attempt at reviving the series by forcing an episodic plot onto the game, which is obviously done to make it a better fit for mobile platforms, takes away a huge chunk of the Layton games’ original charm. Combined with the lacking tension and sometimes too cliché-y character cast, Layton´s Mystery Journey is the weakest entry in the series, by far.
On the other hand, it´s still a Layton game, offering a giant amount of smart puzzles, a simply lovely presentation and pretty much everything we know and love from the series, mixed with neat improvements and a great technical framework. Even though Layton´s Mystery Journey is a disappointment, considering the wait and potential of a new beginning, Layton fans will surely like the return of the series, I didn´t hate it after all. I just wouldn´t recommend paying 40 bucks for it.
[A Review Code was provided by Level-5 Abby]