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Review: Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy (iOS)By Adam Riley At 09.10.2017 08:50

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Katrielle Layton is a brand new character, and the previously never mentioned before daughter of Hershel Layton, puzzle solver extraordinaire. She takes the place of Professor Layton in this new adventure, since he has apparently gone missing, possibly due to being in trouble (as some think), or just the fact that he is deeply engrossed in a mystery that nobody else knows about (as hoped by his daughter and other close friends). Whatever the case, it is up to Katrielle to build up her own reputation for being a master case cracker in her father's absence, opening up the Layton Detective Agency in the heart of the UK's capital city. Early on in the story, she is quickly teamed with Ernest, a smitten young chap that hangs off her every word, and Sherl O. C. Kholmes, a talking dog… that can only be heard by Katrielle, Ernest, and other animals.

Something apparent right from the off, especially for long-term fans, is how the structure has been adjusted to suit mobile format, coming in bite-sized chunks, rather than the vast, sprawling chapters of the past. Katrielle and her cohorts take on 12 different cases throughout, some of greater interest than others, but none really tying anything together, so it feels like this should have been released episodically, rather than as one great whole. The fact that it was not spread out as such gives the impression that Level-5 did not have enough confidence in the strength of the cases, and, honestly, it was right not to because the sum of its parts might be acceptable, but alone some of these cases would have been disastrous for the series' reputation.

Okay, that sounds far too negative - best move onto some positives. This is absolutely gorgeous, with spectacular animation and video sequences and a wonderful soundtrack that powers the adventure onwards with great aplomb. The main characters, and supplementary ones, are also all fantastically voiced, showing just how far Level-5 has come from the early days when Curious Village debuted on Nintendo DS. Even then it looked impressive, but the quality levels all round have been upped to movie standards, and although some of the actual core mysteries are not as gripping as in years gone by, the cast have some great quips and hilarious moments, especially the quick-witted Katrielle Layton and her sometimes cutting remarks.

That is a bit better, right? Well, yes, but one of the major criticisms levelled at earlier outings was how even though the puzzles were highly engaging, getting the ol' grey matter working on a regular basis, and although the over-arching story approach was intensely addictive, the integration of both elements together was not particularly strong. It was remedied over the initial three-game arc, and just got better and better in the prequel trilogy. Therefore, it is quite bemusing to find Layton's Mystery Journey regresses so much, back to the almost complete separation of story and puzzles. In fact, it is like the writers actually realised that the lack of Akira Tago-led puzzles (rest in peace) made it harder to slot the awkward puzzles (more on that later) into the tale and instead started even poking fun at the juxtaposition. After all, the London setting becomes puzzle-central, with them 'hiding' all over the place, and the characters even allude to the fact that it seems, well, not exactly natural, to say the least.

It could be forgiven if the puzzles were of the highest calibre, but sadly they are far too often cheap, relying on trickery to fool players into making mistakes, rather than actually causing gamers to sit back and really think about something, working through conundrums to find the correct solution. For every gem, there are several disappointing ones. It does not drag the overall experience down too much, but when a lot of the weaker-themed puzzle styles are repeated, it does leave you wanting to just get through as swiftly as possible to progress the story…

…which brings things right back to the cases and the fragmented nature of the situations Katrielle, Ernest, and Sherl are faced with. There are flashes of genius throughout, enough to carry players through right to the very end, but there is also a lot of filler content where the writers either struggled to hit that 12 cases total, or thought it would be a good idea to take a change of pace from time to time (finding a present for the police chief's wife is simply ludicrous, just as one pertinent example). The resolution of cases also falls flat far too often, with everything being too linear in the way events progress. Previous Layton entries may have been slightly linear, but fooled gamers into thinking things were more open-ended. Here, there is no smokescreen, even in the way Katrielle 'solves' cases, where at certain points of the story and after a certain amount of puzzles have been cracked, Katrielle adds a piece of a shape specific to the case to her collection. Users then have to drag it into the correct area of the on-screen silhouette before moving on. There is no actual case solving, though, as people are held by the hand as the game automatically - and often slower than the user - reaches the conclusion.

It is amazing that even though this all sounds awful, Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy is thoroughly enjoyable. Crazy, right? Well, it packs in so much content that even with the dips mentioned, there is a powerful beating heart in the midst of it all that does not stop pumping like mad. The smooth interface of old is still there, scouring every inch of the areas visited with ease to uncover hint coins, find people to talk to, and discover those all important puzzles (hint: do not skip too many, as even though it is possible to keep skipping, the total completed is totted up later on for a specific reason…). There is also a massive selection of extras, from Animal Crossing room decoration antics, to various different mini-games that alone would not impress, but as bonuses are great additions to bring more longevity to proceedings, plus there are lots of bits and bobs that unlock upon completion of the main story (oh, the sublime music player!), depending on how many Picarats have been gained (in-game 'puzzle' currency accrued for each successful completed conundrum). Overall, it ends up coming down to the price factor, and whilst on Nintendo 3DS it is tougher to stomach the £34.99 price-tag because of the slip in quality, on iOS it costs what mobile gamers may think is an expensive £17.99, but it is an absolute bargain at that price.

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Final Score
[i]Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy[/i] is certainly somewhat of a step back for the venerable series, which may come as a big disappointment to series loyalists. However, there is so much content packed into this absolutely gorgeously presented package, and at the right price-point on mobile formats, as well, making it is hard not to enjoy the overall adventure. For every downer, there are several positives to keep gamers locked in until the end, at which point numerous extras come into play to keep the fun times a-rolling.

7

/10

User Comments
#1 Adam Riley (News Editor) - on 09.10.2017 at 09:51

I should add that there are - at current count - 100 daily puzzles added in the bonuses section, as well as a museum section where you can gain access to 'exhibits' from the six Professor Layton games, unlocking them the more daily puzzles are completed.


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