Initial Release: 6 October 2017

As a whole package, the game contains a lot of content, in fact, the game last around 25 hours (which is long for a Layton game), but I can’t say that throughout that I was anywhere near as captivated as I was in “The Lost Future” or even “The Curious Village”.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village was the first DS game that I truly fell in love with, despite being a mere 9 years old upon its release I was absolutely obsessed. The mixture of puzzles and intriguing mystery captivated my adolescent brain and sucked me into a world unlike any other. From that point on I was there waiting on release date for every brand-new professor Layton game since, feeling that as I grew up, the games grew up with me. The stories became darker and more contrived, the puzzle difficulty increased and the world became richer with each entry. All of this is why it’s even harder for me now to say that the first major spin-off game (not featuring Layton himself) is by far the weakest the series has ever been.

Now if you’ve never played a Professor Layton game before the premise is simple: you have a mystery to solve and you do so by interacting with characters and completing puzzles. This time though, instead of playing as Professor Layton himself, we follow Katrielle Layton and her assistant Ernest (along with their talking dog Sherl) as they solve different cases in the newly opened Layton’s detective agency. And with a new main cast comes a new way to tell the story, this time the game is split into 12 distinct cases as opposed to the one continuous storyline of the previous games. This was the first of many problems Layton’s Mystery Journey has. For me, the one long continuous story was what kept me invested, the twists and turns that entailed were impactful because I was invested in one long story and not 12 short ones. You became attached to certain characters, you started questioning the story at hand and you would never know where it would end up. The case system completely goes against all of that. While this does have characters that return in multiple cases, due to the change in focus you never really get a chance to get attached to them. Not only that, the twists and turns of one long story meant that it was almost entirely unpredictable, but because each case now lasts around 1-2 hours they are completely predictable. Not once was I ever shocked at the outcome of a case, in fact in 8 out of 12 of the cases I correctly guessed the outcome within the first 10 minutes of playing. This means that the excessive conversations you deal with become very tedious, very fast. The once colourful and eccentric cast become irritating chatty obstacles you have to endure just to get to the next puzzle.

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While most of the cases fell flat I’d like to give a special mention to case number 3 “The stolen kiss” a case that takes place entirely in a cinema. Whether it’s just my love of film that’s causing my biased love to this or whether it’s actually a masterpiece I’m unsure. But its electric, brilliantly written cast, many well-hidden film jokes and heartfelt conclusion stood out to me as one of the few high points of the game. It made me wish that more of the chapters had just as much love poured into them as this one.

The puzzles themselves are for the most part also disappointing, with a much more scaled-down difficulty compared to previous entries. Most of the time the puzzles could be easily guessed or required little more than a process of trial and error to overcome. It all feels much more targeted at a significantly younger audience than the original Layton games were. There are some standout ones that left me stumped, but the idea of “Thinking outside the box” by just going against what the puzzle tells you to do is a solution that appears way too often for it to be a nice gimmick. It may just be the fact that this is the 8th game in the Professor Layton series and I’m just desensitized to the puzzles, but even so, I shouldn’t ever feel like a puzzle has been disappointing to complete. It’s a feeling I had way too often and, because of that, my experiences with new innovative puzzles were dampened. With over 200 puzzles and another year’s worth of daily puzzles to come, it’s not short of puzzles, it’s just short of puzzles that are actually any good. I can appreciate the fact that The Layton games are child-friendly games, but never has a Layton game been this easy. As well as the main puzzles, there are also more minigames to be played in the suitcase menu like in all core Layton games, and those disappointingly play out the same as most of the puzzles. While the shopping minigame can lead to a head-scratcher or two, it still felt incredibly easy even at its last stage, however the cooking minigame is so based on trial and error that after 3 orders I just gave up. The extra minigames have never been a draw for me, but it’s a shame to see them share the same flaws as the rest of the game.

Backdrop

Also unlike other entries in the series, Mystery Journey takes place entirely in London, which means the globetrotting, continent-hopping craziness of the previous games is gone. It’s a sorely missed feature as well because keeping yourself locked to one location is an incredibly limited storytelling mechanic (which is why after the first game Layton began to explore a lot more). While some of the places you visit are interesting, the majority of the locations end up being random streets or shops that provide no lasting impression. The world itself though is still beautiful and the art style still holds up even 8 games in. The character models are still creative and really bring to life the characters you have to interact with. Whether it be the Lipinski twins or the 7 dragons, each and every character is distinctively designed to stand out. I also can’t fault the music, as again the quirky upbeat tones of the previous games return. It’s not distinctively different, but as we’ve learnt from this review that’s probably a good thing. The anime-style cutscenes are another welcome return as well, but there were way too many occasions where a cutscene would last 20 seconds and end, prompting me to wonder why it was even included in the first place. It would have been a more than appreciated inclusion to have some of the more text-heavy cases abridged with cutscenes.

As a whole package, the game contains a lot of content, in fact, the game last around 25 hours (which is long for a Layton game), but I can’t say that throughout that I was anywhere near as captivated as I was in “The Lost Future” or even “The Curious Village”. The storyline fell flat throughout and the puzzles fell with it, leaving me feeling incredibly underwhelmed at the end of it all. What we’re left with is a game that appeals to a much younger audience quite well, but is likely to feel like a large misstep for anyone who played one of the previous games in the once glorious franchise.

Verdict – 4.5 Out of 10

We were provided a copy of the game by Level-5 for review purposes 

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