The long-running and much-loved Professor Layton series comes to smartphones with–let’s say it together because it’s a mouthful–Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy. The role of Professor Layton is played by the understudy, his daughter Katrielle. She wakes from a dream of her mysteriously-vanished father and sets about launching her own detective agency.
Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy
Consoles: iOS (Reviewed), Android, Nintendo 3DS (coming soon)
MonsterVine was provided a iOS code for review purposes
It would seem the whole “missing father” angle would provide a useful story hook on which to hang a game, but that’s not so. Katrielle is curiously unbothered after waking up from the dream and proceeds about her day with nonchalance. Instead, the mysteries all orbit around a group of millionaires in an episodic “mystery of the week” style. Rather than all hanging on an overarching plot, they’re all bite-sized story niblets that seem tailored for the mobile format.
Enjoyment of this particular game comes down to your tolerance for whimsy and the nature of the puzzles themselves. The possibly-dark missing father storyline disappears in favor of getting down to puzzle-solving courtesy of a talking dog. More whimsy comes in animated cutscenes that recall a Studio Ghibli production both in quality and relentless good cheer. The voice acting is top-notch, downright amazing for a mobile game. Every character has an accent that feels right and the writing provides at least a simulacrum of proper Britishness about everyone.
The puzzles themselves are a little more up and down. Katrielle does follow the series’ familiar formula of exploring various locations looking for clues and hints, and there are quite a lot of puzzles to be solved. Unfortunately, the quality of them varies tremendously. Some are very simple. Sometimes the difference between a smartphone touchscreen and a Nintendo touchscreen make the puzzles tricky.
There are also a considerable number of puzzles with solutions that seem to exist mainly to show how smart the puzzle designer is. They’re the sort of “gotcha” questions the teacher throws on the test to show how clever they are, where “Just do nothing” is an option and the correct option.
It’s somewhat ameliorated by “hint coins” the game hands out for poking around. As the name implies, they’re a way to buy hints for solving the puzzles. Hints start off very general and become more and more specific (and costly) until they come down to “Look, idiot, here’s how you solve it.”
The hints are appreciated but, for the not-especially clever, rationing hit coins becomes a gameplay element analogous to managing health potions in an RPG. That can lead to the problem of being stumped but having no hint coins left, requiring a trip to Google for a walkthrough.
The Final Word
Katrielle is priced at an eye-watering $16. For those that don’t lurk mobile marketplaces, that places it well above the mobile ports of classics like Knights of the Old Republic or the Final Fantasy series. It’s also priced well above the mandatory mobile port of Minecraft. While that is substantially cheaper than it would be on a Nintendo handheld it’s still a big ask for a mobile title. If you’re a lover of puzzle games and whimsical animation in a Britain of talking dogs handing out riddles, it may be worth a peek, but it’s only mandatory for fans of the series.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 3 out of 5 – Average