Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Level-5
Developer: Level-5
Medium: Digital/Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

A couple of years ago, at some point in the middle of the 2010s, I went through a bit of a Professor Layton phase. I only had a 3DS for about a year or so, but over the course of that year, I played all six of the mainline Layton games — I never had a DS, so I wanted to make up for lost time, I guess. While I loved each of them, there was definitely a case of diminishing returns the more I played them, and by the time I reached the end of Azran Legacy I was ready to take a break from the series for a couple of years.

Layton?s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires? Conspiracy came just as I had finally gotten over that Layton burnout and was eager to dive back into the world of Professor Layton, and all the puzzles that entailed. Sure, it focuses on the Professor?s daughter, the eponymous Katrielle, but I assumed — wrongly, as it turned out — that would be the only real change.

The bigger change is that the puzzles in Layton?s Mystery Journey are nowhere near as solid as they were in the original games. For one thing, their explanations are pretty lousy. Sometimes this is by design — very early on, there?s a ?puzzle? that?s more about technicalities than it is about figuring anything out, that seems designed to catch how literally you want to read the question — but, more often than not, this is because the game has trouble explaining what exactly it wants you to figure out. I can?t count the number of times I had to use a hint just to get a better idea of what the game was asking.

The bigger problem, though, is that even when the puzzles are clearly explained, they?re often not very interesting. There are jigsaws in which the pieces all have very obvious fits, and games that ask you to count the number of pipes, and all kinds of games where you have to plot out routes, and I can?t say I found many of them all that captivating. I know there are lots of puzzles on offer here — literally hundreds and hundreds of them, hence why the Switch version of the game is called the ?Deluxe Edition? — but quantity isn?t quality, and Layton?s Mystery Journey easily could have gotten away with cutting the number of puzzles in half rather than needlessly dragging the game out.

Of course, the quantity of puzzles is only one of the reasons for Layton?s Mystery Journey feeling longer than it needs to. Another reason is the controls. Simply put, this game really made me miss the 3DS stylus. You can try dragging the cursor around the screen with your thumbstick, but the speed is inconsistent — sometimes it feels like you?re dragging it through molasses, while other times it zips across the screen far too quickly. The other option is to use your finger and take advantage of the touchscreen, but this obviously blocks what you?re trying to see. I enjoyed the game a lot more using the touchscreen than I did the thumbsticks and buttons, but neither one was perfect.

The bigger issue, though, are the characters and the story. Katrielle seems like a lousy stand-in for Professor Layton, with the game giving her an obsession with food in the place of an actual personality. She?s accompanied by Ernest, who?s hopelessly in love with Kat and constantly dropping hints about it, to which she?s oblivious. While I wouldn?t say that the interactions between Professor Layton and Luke were brilliantly-written or anything, they were still far more interesting than everything going on here. They?re also plunged into a story that feels much more disjointed than those in previous Layton games. This may be by design, with a bunch of different mysteries of the week rather than one overarching story, but it does make the whole thing feel more episodic than like a proper game.

(And, to go back to Katrielle for a moment, for some reason the game gives you the option of changing her outfits. It all feels like a pandering, pointless, fairly sexist add-on that only underscores how lousy she is as a character, and there?s really no non-creepy reason for it to be included.)

Even with the game?s many flaws, however, I?m still happy to get a chance to play a Layton game on the Switch. Layton?s Mystery Journey may feel bloated, and have iffy controls, and feature lousy characters, but at the end of the day, it?s still Professor Layton. You?ve got to be willing to put up with a lot of extraneous stuff that isn?t that great, but I?d much rather have this flawed game than none at all.

Level-5 provided us with a Layton?s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires? Conspiracy Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B-