Video Games: Layton’s Mystery Journey

Promotional image for ‘Layton’s Mystery Journey’. Copyright goes to Level-5.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Yesterday, I was able to finish Layton’s Mystery Journey after I just bought it a couple days ago. I’m bored. Can you tell? What’s weird about this game is that I was never planning to buy it in the first place even though I have always been a fan of the Layton series. Why? Because the story just didn’t look that interesting. I grew up playing ‘Professor Layton and the Curious Village’ and when I say it was one of my favorite games when I was younger I am not even in the slightest bit kidding. I would obsess over puzzles for days and sometimes try to work them out when I wasn’t even playing the game. The love for that specific DS game eventually led me to watch the animated movies in the franchise and download the mobile game, ‘Layton Brothers Mystery Room’. I know a lot of people didn’t like that game because it was a completely different game mechanic, but I thought the character development for Alfendi was amazing. All that aside, a lot of hardcore Layton fans dismissed the riddles in this game as too easy and the story as too lighthearted. Considering I just got my Nintendo Switch Lite not that long ago, I had other games I was prioritizing much more because of these lackluster reviews. ‘Animal Crossing New Horizons’ for example. But after another wave of boredom hit me after I binged a bunch of K-Dramas, I thought that a lighthearted story with puzzles that would keep me occupied was the perfect distraction. Is it true that the puzzles are too easy and the story is more lighthearted than usual? Yes. But, I feel like this game has plenty of it’s own charms. LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD and some SPOILERS for past Layton games! I’m just going to assume you haven’t played the game, so I won’t get too much into story details.

The Interesting:

Katrielle: I actually really liked Kat. I know a lot of people are complaining about her because she can have a pretty big ego and is more prone to doing stupid things, but she’s not Professor Layton. It was nice to go through the story with somebody so calm and composed and I definitely miss that character, especially his voice, but Kat isn’t supposed to be him. In fact, her being a bit inexperienced and naive is all part of the character especially because she is so young. And she is lovable in her own way. I’m very glad that this series has never stopped with the eccentric puzzle solvers and investigators. Kat is the type of person who will climb through a window if that means retracing her steps. She does get character development in the game as well because it’s clear to the audience that she becomes cleverer as the game progresses. I am very very happy to see a character like Kat headline a Layton game. The first female character we were introduced to in this franchise was Flora, who I loved but often got left behind for her own safety. Emmy was extremely charming, but they turned her completely insane in a twist in the last media featuring Professor Hershel Layton as its lead. The first female character we got who was smart, sane, and also joined in on the adventures was Lucy from the mobile game. And though I love her, she definitely was not the most interesting character there. Kat both leads this game and is treated as the most interesting and influential character in the game; just like Hershel was. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for a character like this to break into the franchise.

Ernest: Every good investigator needs an assistant. For Hershel it was Luke, for Alfendi it was Lucy, and for Kat it’s Ernest. I honestly think Ernest might be my favorite of the assistants we’ve had so far. He’s such a sweet guy who is so hopelessly in love with Kat that you can’t help but feel for him. But I think his kindness is where the character shines. After a difficult childhood, he took several wrong turns and ended up helping others in whatever way he could. Just the nicest of beans. Not only that, but I don’t think we’ve had a Layton game that’s delved so much into the storyline of the assistant before. This is where I’m going to keep my lips sealed about some events from the game, but Ernest gets character development in droves in this and it was so nice to see. This game really makes you feel for the characters, just like past Layton games.

The Storyline: The game borrows from old Layton mechanics as well as mechanics from the mobile game to separate much of your gameplay into case files. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the cases were too disconnected, but I felt like they connected enough in the end for you to see the over-all plot entwining together each case. Just like all the other Layton games, the ending is emotional and features a twist that you probably didn’t see coming. Seriously, the twists are some of what makes the Layton franchise so good to me. The reveal of Flora at the end of ‘Curious Village’ and Alfendi’s true personality at the end of ‘Mystery Room’ are game moments that are seared into my memory. I think this one goes up there with them. I absolutely loved diving back into the world of Layton and I feel like story beats in this firmly stakes it’s place in the Layton franchise. I also liked how many of the cases had different feels; like a case mimicking Scooby Doo and another uncovering the secret identity of a superhero. It kept the game fun and entertaining.

The Side Characters: A lot the side characters got a lot more than I though they would! I especially liked the helpful restaurant owner and the sweet but lonely Liza Wight.

The Puzzles: I missed these so much! Though I liked the murder mystery elements in ‘Mystery Room’ as well as being able to connect the dots yourself and choose who you thought the culprit was; it wasn’t the same at all. Layton is all about the riddles and the puzzles, so I was so happy to get back to the brain teasers.

The Music: Though I will always miss the original Layton music, I was surprised at how good this game was at having it’s own unique music that still felt true to the original sounds. It wasn’t the exact same, but it felt the same thematically.

The Frustrating:

The Puzzles: As people have said, the puzzles are, for the most part. easier. There are some more difficult ones, but there are also some riddles that don’t make as much sense. I saw an article come out when this game was released about a puzzle that many on Twitter had dubbed as “mean”. This puzzle asked the gamer how many times they would have to move the hands of a clock for it to read twelve on the dot. The answer? None at all, just wait for midnight to come around. It felt like a puzzle that was meant more to be a practical joke. There are a few like that where the answer to a puzzle feels more like a non-answer and you wonder why they chose it for the game. I also wish that the puzzles would have included more riddles. Riddles are definitely my favorite type of puzzle in these games; but there were quite a few puzzles that involved moving pieces around or attempting to trace a specific image instead. I don’t mind those, but it felt like there were more of those than the traditional riddles. I much preferred the puzzles where you had to use a series of interviews to sniff out the liar or figure out which order a group of people was walking in. Unfortunately, a lot of the easier puzzles were riddles.

Easy Cases: Just like the puzzles, the cases were a bit easier to solve here too. I was generally able to solve most of the cases after obtaining three of six clues. There were a couple of cases that had certain details that were a bit more out there. And a couple cases had details that the clues you got didn’t necessarily make clear. The last case went so in detail with things the audience couldn’t have possibly known; but I feel like that often happens in order to allow the major twists in Layton games, so I wasn’t too mad at it.

Sherl O. C. Holmes: I know a lot of people absolutely hated the talking dog. I admit, randomly adding a talking dog into the Layton series which has had nothing unusual like that happen in it before, was an odd choice. At first I just decided to overlook it because they treated it like a mystery, but I was a little confused when they never solved it as a case. I’m hoping it’ll be addressed in a future game or something. But this character didn’t annoy me as much as he seemed to annoy everyone else. He wasn’t one of my favorite characters, but I got used to his presence there and I thought some of his side remarks were funny. I just wished they gave him more to do as a character if he was going to be there. He didn’t really get any character moments and, considering how much they gave to Kat and Ernest, his lack of development really stood out. I just wish they would have committed more to this character if they were going to include him in the first place.

The Stakes: I pretty much live off of lighthearted content right now, so I had absolutely no problems whatsoever with the lighthearted cases. But I do think the game could have done with slightly higher stakes. In the end it seemed like nothing really affected anyone in the end and everyone just went off happy regardless of anything bad they had done. It should have felt a little more earned in the end, in my opinion. But, because it went at least pretty well with the over-all theme of the game, I wasn’t too mad at it.

Over-all I really liked this game! Just like all the other games in the Layton franchise I’ve played, I can definitely see myself going back to this in the future. Don’t let the reviews scare you, it’s actually a fun game to play and the riddles will keep you occupied even if some of them are easy. And I think the character development and the ending of this game alone is worth it even if all the riddles sucked (which they don’t). I thoroughly enjoyed Kat as well as so much of the story in this installment of the franchise. I think this is just one of those franchises that I will continue to enjoy for years to come.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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