I think I finally understand how some people felt after playing Apollo Justice for the first time.
The Professor Layton series was one that I had largely felt satisfied with. I hadn’t been furiously craving a new Layton game (Except for maybe a sequel to the Mystery Room.), and overall, the series had come to a close in a way that made me feel satisfied; however, a little game called Lady Layton: The Conspiracy of King Millionaire Ariadne was announced and instantly I grew hungry for this next installment in the Layton series. I was all the more excited when I heard it took a page from the Mystery Room and had a more episodic narrative.
The game was… lukewarm at best. There were so many things it tried to do, but it never accomplishes more than making something slightly interesting. Not even the name is good. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy. What a long, boring title. Sure it explains what the game is gonna be about, but couldn’t they have done that in a more creative way?
I can understand why they changed the name, though. “The Conspiracy of King Millionaire Ariadne” implies… a plot… with an overarching mystery, neither of which Mystery Journey has. What the actual journey is really seems to be the biggest mystery of this game. There are cases, sure, and they have some characters that appear in later episodes, but they don’t feed into the big reveal the final case builds up to. Most of the time you’re doing the rich millionaires’ chores for them whether it be helping them with their loneliness, or helping with a festival. They should have called this game Layton’s Tedious Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Chore List. That would have been a million times more accurate, but let’s talk about the game.
The Major Problems…
About five cases into the game, I realized something: I don’t actually make any choices in the game. I’m basically following Katrielle along, hoping I can figure out what the hell is going on, but the worst thing is, I solved the case long before Katrielle most of the time.
Speaking of cases that I figured out before Katrielle, let’s talk about Madame Doublee’s missing pet. I figured out the twist of the case the minute the woman said her “pet was missing,” which is at the very beginning of the case. Along with all the cat stuff everywhere, it’s was obvious that the game wanted me to fall for the assumption that Doubleé owned a cat. So now I was stuck spending an hour watching two adults and a dog stumbling around trying to find a cat where there was none. Despite being able to figure out that the pet wasn’t a cat, I couldn’t figure out what kind of reptile this elusive missing pet was. So here comes Katrielle to the rescue to explain every little thing about the case. Just to mention, there was basically no way to come to this conclusion on your own. There’s bites taken out of fruit, and a reptile skin on the ground, but there wasn’t much to actually pinpoint an Iguana specifically. I love it when a game hides crucial information in an attempt to make the mystery seem more complicated than it actually is. It’s totally not deceptive or annoying at all.
This case showcase what’s wrong with Layton Mystery Journey as a whole. You follow Katrielle around, solve a couple puzzles, and then have the mystery solved for you. There’s nothing to be invested in plotwise.
Not to mention the fact that the game tries to make the reveal of the villain of the final case all cool. “Oh my gosh, Katrielle is figuring out who the bad guy is! This is so cool!” is not what I was thinking. All I thought was, “oh, so they’re using the title theme as Katrielle’s theme. It’s pretty good.” There aren’t any stakes in this game. Katrielle always solves the case almost effortlessly, and the final case isn’t any different.
This game is such a bore to play through. Most of it is just, go to x place, talk to y person, and solve z puzzle. I was so uninterested in the story that I was looking forward to the puzzles more than what Katrielle will figure out next, but even the puzzles started to get on my nerves! By the end of the game I wasn’t talking to anyone. I was just going through the motions, hoping something happens, and that I wouldn’t be forced to solve some kind of annoying puzzle.
I’ve seen reviews of this game that mention that the puzzles in Mystery Journey seem to be mostly riddles, and looking back, it’s true. Professor Layton had its share of riddles, the first one that comes to my mind being that one where Luke is the third youngest child in a family of 10, and it is asked what the sex of the 8th child is. You can reach the answer by trial and error, yes, but if the player thinks about it for a few moments, the answer can be deduced; however, the one puzzle that everyone who’s plays Mystery Journey thinks of when it comes to stupid riddles is the clock puzzle. It goes like this:
“The clock is currently showing 3:30pm. It would be nice if the hands on the clock showed midnight. What would be the minimum number of places you’d need to touch on the clock to show the desired time.”
The answer is zero. Just do nothing. Previous Layton games had their dumb puzzles, but this really takes the cake. The slightly deceptive wording of “what would be the minimum number of places you’d need to touch on the clock” implies some sort of interaction from the person who wants the clock to show midnight. There’s even a slightly clever solution that doesn’t involve doing nothing. Most people would probably first think that you would move both the hour and minute hands to the 12, therefore taking two touches. The player could, alternately, just touch one hand and turn it around, moving the other clock hand with it which would only take one move. There, puzzle solved. No need to make players feel dumb for daring to think that they would actually need to touch the clock due to wording that implied you needed to touch the clock. In the example from the previous Professor Layton game, the riddle doesn’t use any deceptive wording to trick players into believing that they had to do something when nothing needed to be done. It simply mentions that Luke is the third youngest child in a family of 10, and who the 8th child would be. Riddles are supposed to make you think. Not make you think you have to do one thing when really it’s not required at all. This is the second puzzle of the game which really isn’t a good way to start off your game; although, it does highlight that the rest of puzzles just aren’t that good either, which is really bad for a game that’s main gameplay mechanic is the puzzles, and when the puzzles fail, all you really have left to rely on is the story, which isn’t very good either.
The plot in this game is nonexistent. At the very beginning of the game, a tiny Katrielle is shown running after Professor Layton, who turns and walks away. It’s implied throughout the game that the Professor’s disappearance is supposed to be the main mystery of the game, and it’s definitely important to have the link to the previous installments in the series, but this game falls flat on its face in this aspect. It uses the fact that this is a sequel to a beloved series as a crutch. ‘Oh, you’ll buy the sequel just to know what’s gonna happen next,’ and the crappy thing is, I will! I have to hope that something will actually happen in the next game. Call it Stockholm Syndrome, but I want to believe that something good can come out of this turd of a game. Please, make Katrielle a compelling character that I want to draw fanart of and talk about how great she is!
The funny thing is where in Ace Attorney, I’m begging for the main character of the previous installments to be taken out of the limelight because he’s just so boring, I’m begging for the main characters of the previous Layton installments to be the focus once again because the lead we have now is just so boring! Katrielle’s a boring character that goes through no arcs, and is basically perfect. Nothing shakes her up, except maybe her inability to get some popcorn, and she has the answer to every single problem she’s faced with. I hope that she gets some more depth to her character so I can at least pretend this game never happened and write detailed essays about her past and why she’s such a great character; unfortunately, I can’t do that right now.
I’ll also mention the fact that there’s a filler case in this game. A filler case. Even though this game has 12 cases and is 18 hours long, the devs decided that it would be a good idea to include filler in something that doesn’t even address the main mystery of this case. Granted, it has to do with the relationship between of one of the main characters and their significant other, but like the millionaires, it just ends up feeling like we’re doing someone’s chores. What’s the point? This case isn’t ever mentioned again, and the characters don’t help Katrielle, Sherl, and Ernest when their in a bind because Katrielle helped them out that one time. It’s filler in its purest form, which is infuriating whether it be a short story stretched out to fit its running time, or a long, half-baked one where the filler is used to fill holes rather than actual events that further the story.
Now it’s at this point that I should stop mentioning the ways this isn’t a good continuation of the Layton series, and begin to talk about Mystery Journey as its own game, so let’s get to it.
As a Standalone Game…
There are too many problems to even start to wonder if this game would have made it had it not had the Professor Layton name attached to it. The previous games are hardly mentioned save for a reference here or there, which, admittedly, is a good way to bring in new fans who are new to the series; however, those new fans are going to be disappointed at this game because of the previous flaws I mentioned. I’m comparing it more to Ace Attorney than to the games in the actual series it’s a part of because it doesn’t have much to do with the previous games.
I’m not saying that Mystery Journey had to reference the previous games at every chance it got, but it should at least use the connection it established with the main character of the game. If the writers are gonna make Katrielle the daughter of Professor Layton, Professor Layton needs to have some level of presence in the game rather than just being vaguely mentioned every so often, but enough trashing on the story, let’s get onto something a bit more fun,
The Voice Acting…
We’ve gotten to Ace Attorney levels with this one, folks. Now, the voice acting isn’t as bad as Ace Attorney’s voice acting can get. I’m referring more to the inconsistency when it comes to who’s good and who isn’t. I at least like all of the voices of the main characters (For the most part) in Mystery Journey while most of the voices for the main characters in the Ace Attorney games don’t always fit. In Mystery Journey, it’s more of the supporting cast where the quality diminishes. The first character I think of is Phineas T. Barnone. He has this really bad stereotypical southern accent, and I mean really stereotypical. It sounds like what a person who has never spoken in a southern accent would come up with. It’s way too exaggerated, and it makes me want to turn off the voice acting all together. There’s also Caesar Chance. When I first started playing his case, I didn’t have the volume on because I didn’t have any headphones, so naturally, I imagined what he would sound like. I was thinking a more calm and reserved voice to contrast the movements and speaking habits of his friend Taboras Lloyd, but no, we get this high pitched, ear-grating voice that doesn’t match Chance’s character. C’mon Level 5, not every character with glasses has to sound all nerdy and annoying. There was also Chief Inspector Britannias who has a very similar voice to Chance’s. It doesn’t fit either.
I mean, look at this guy. He’s tall, he’s imposing, and he’s stuck-up. Give him a stuck-up voice!
There are quite a few voices that I liked, however. Katrielle and Ernest’s VAs do a good job. I like Mayor Lowonida’s VA, Grant Sloanes and Inspector Hasting’s are probably my favorite. You got an Irish accent and a good, old-fashioned Cockney accent that you can’t go wrong with. I am a bit ambivalent on Sherl’s voice. On the one hand, he does sound like a dog talking, but on the other, he sounds a tiny bit like Scooby Doo. Sure, it’s just the fact that he’s speaking with a looser mouth, but it’s a bit distracting when you expect Sherl to just bark out a “Scooby Scooby Doo!”
Overall, the voice acting here seems to have the opposite problem that the Ace Attorney games have. The main characters are good while the supporting characters are a bit weaker, but nothing could be as weak as,
The Final Case…
Talk about a disappointment. Oh, there’s a character who lost his parents at a young age, and wants to exact revenge on the people that profited off of the death of his family by changing his name and gaining the trust of our main characters? Uh… The Unwound Future is calling; it wants its twist back. Also, at the end of the game, Katrielle says that this character that has lied to her this whole time is still the same person that she knew them as, implying that she’ll be continuing to call this character by their fake name which makes the whole point of this plot twist pointless. Not to mention I couldn’t muster enough to even feel bad about this character’s tragic, heartfelt backstory. I was too busy laughing at how they say ‘mama’. Why give this character such a big reveal if it’s not going to impact the rest of the games? The whole ending to this final case as a whole is just so uninspired. Oh, the Seven Dragons who have proven to be good people turn out to be good people- who would’ve guessed? Oh Katrielle received a riddle from Professor Layton implying that she actually isn’t his daughter-
Wait what? Game, please elaborate…
Oh, we’re just gonna get a picture of a Professor Layton snowman as if this game-changing revolution didn’t just happen? Okay. Guess we’ll have to spend at least another 40 dollars if we want to find out what happens next.
I was absolutely floored at the final cut scene of the game. Katrielle isn’t Layton’s daughter? What? How does that make sense? The exact wording is, “If you’re not really my child, then who, exactly, are you?” Assuming that Katrielle isn’t Layton’s daughter creates holes in the already non existent story: how come everyone, even Dean Delmona, says Katrielle is Layton’s daughter? What about the cut scene at the beginning of the game where baby Katrielle is running after Layton? Why did she choose to say she was Layton’s daughter, a fact easily disproven by either asking Professor Layton, or his two kids (Or at least Alfendi since his brother is MIA as well); however, assuming that Katrielle is Layton’s daughter creates its own problems: why would Layton send this riddle if Katrielle is his daughter? Is he just trolling and making fun of the fact that she’s adopted?
This game is so dense, it’s making my brain hurt.
This one minute clip is the only part of the game that I was actually seriously interested in. I sank 18 hours into this game, and only a minute of it was actually thought-provoking and made me want more.
Well at least it was at the end so I have some hope that something will actually happen in the future games. Maybe we’ll actually get a plot next time.
This game would not have made it on its own had it not had the Layton name attached to it. The writing’s weak, the story’s next to nonexistent, the character’s aren’t all that interesting, and the player makes no choices. Let me ask, what’s the point of this game? The main draw from the very beginning, Professor Layton’s disappearance, is barely addressed, and we got some back story for a character that’s just a copy-paste of Clive’s backstory from ‘The Unwound Future.’ It feels like there was some amount of care put into this game, but it’s undercut by huge, glaring signs of laziness and inconsistency. It’s just a huge waste of time.
So, What’s the Deal With all these Ace Attorney Comparisons?
Before I wrap up, I should mention how I made a lot of comparisons to Ace Attorney. There just seem to be a couple similarities to how both series handle their spin off-esque continuations. There’s a younger protagonist that looks up the the previous main character who has been taken out of the spotlight for one reason or another, there seem to be similar problems with both this game and the most recent installments when it comes to which main characters get the focus, and even the voice acting. It’s also just the fact that these game could also be viewed to exist in the same universe if you take the Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright crossover to be canon. The creator of Professor Layton even took inspiration from Phoenix Wright to create the Professor. I just couldn’t help but draw parallels between the two series. Not to mention all the pun names. They’re everywhere. Professor Layton never had pun names, at least to my knowledge, and if they were there, they weren’t this obvious and on the nose. You have two presumed dead people named Vic and Tim? You have a girl named Hessie Tate? And I thought the Spirit of Justice puns were on the nose. I really got the feeling that this game was trying to be an Ace Attorney game. I don’t know why, but it just has that feeling to it, but despite all of these comparisons I made, none of them affected my final scoring; I just thought it was interesting to mention what one series does well that another series does not, especially since I love both series.
Now to wrap up, I’ll include a summary of my thoughts as a sort of Tl;dr for those interested as well as my verdict on the game as a whole:
There is some stuff to like about this game. The music is good, the background art is fantastic, and the character designs still hold that ‘Layton’ charm. With some more effort, this game could have been a really great continuation of the series.
Everything else. There’s next to no plot, there’s no reason to care about any of the characters, even our main leads, the game uses the main intrigue of the game, Professor Layton’s disappearance, to make the player feel obligated to buy the next game just to figure out what happened to him. There’s filler in this game even though it’s eighteen hours long and has a paper thin plot that could have used the extra hour the filler case took up. It’s a game that looks pretty, but has nothing else behind it to make it worth a play through.
In the very beginning, I mentioned Apollo Justice, a game that, much like this game, deviated from its host series by introducing a new main character and flashing forward in time. Many people didn’t like that game for one reason or another, and while writing this review, it hit me that Mystery Journey suffers from the same fate; however, while I actually liked Apollo Justice, this game was just so hard to get through, not because of any difficulty of the actual game, but just from the fact it’s such an annoying experience. The beginning starts out okay because the player hasn’t become painfully aware of the patterns that the game hardly deviates from, but as the cases go on, it just feels more and more like a waste of time.
So, in conclusion, don’t buy this game. It’ll be a waste of your time as well as your money. Nothing gets accomplished, no characters are developed past a sappy, phoned in backstory stolen from a previous, much better game. There’s no plot, there’s no stakes, and there’s no reason to care. If you’re really interested in seeing what this game has to offer, watch a play through or something.
Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy gets a 3/10