Visual novels as a genre generally appeal to me. These games follow a text-based narrative with gameplay consisting of puzzle solving and exploration. A few of my favorites from the genre are the Phoenix Wright series, Danganronpa and Katawa Shoujo, but there is one very popular series I’ve been wanting to get into: the “Professor Layton” series.
Recently, Level 5 released the newest entry in the series following a new protagonist. I decided to pick it up as my first entry in the series. When I played it, I was hooked for the majority of my playtime and now want to see more of what the Layton games have to offer.
In “Mystery Journey,” you play as Professor Layton’s daughter Katrielle. You, along with your assistant and talking dog, have to solve mysteries in London. You take on missions from your detective agency and explore the city to find clues, solve puzzles and interact with the city’s many bizarre citizens.
The presentation is top-notch for this type of game. The art style is adorable and transitions well from 2D animations to 3D models. The voice acting is also top-notch. Since the game takes place in Europe, characters are voiced by actors from the area, and you get authentic accents and voices that fit each one.
Game play in Layton is simple and set in two sections. Whenever you are investigating, you look around the environment and interact with certain objects and characters in order to find your next clue, extra items and hint coins to use on the many different puzzles you’ll get into. These puzzles can range from simple riddles to complex brain-scratching problems that test your cognitive skills. Each has a different mood and unique feel to it so play doesn’t get repetitive.
Players may feel stumped at times, but the games let you buy hints with the previously mentioned hint coins and even let you quit out of the puzzle if you want to return later. Some of them really had me frustrated at myself, but the trick is to always think outside the box. It’s satisfying to feel that “Aha!” moment once you find the solution on your first try.
Other than the main quest, there are extras to mess around with. You can customize the office and Katrielle’s clothing, read up on completed or current cases, see an epilogue to a completed case or play one of the three minigames included.
The biggest criticism I have for the game was, unfortunately, the story. Without giving away any spoilers, it starts out great. But then after a handful of cases, the game just ends very abruptly, leaving the plot feeling lackluster. Most of it has to do with the episodic structure of the game without a full overarching narrative.
Either way, I still recommend “Layton’s Mystery Journey.” However, the best platform out of the three options – 3DS, iOS and Android – to purchase it is on a mobile phone. I played the 3DS version, which includes some of the released DLC, but it also cost twice as much as the mobile version.
As a portable game, it’s something you can play for a few minutes and get a burst of enjoyment. So while you are investigating the streets of London finding out who stole the Big Bend’s hand, never forget that the truth is always stranger than fiction!