Lady Layton: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy [Review]

Let’s drop some asterisks at the beginning. {Thanks to Brendan for setting me up with a review copy just wow that’s awesome. Secondly,} this review is aimed at the currently available mobile version of the game, which I played on iOS. Level-5, developers of this title, have said “AndroidiOS or 3DS, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to have the same experience”. Call me a sceptic, but as this game is only $25 on the Apple Store, it is hard to believe that claim. Perhaps some content will be additional DLC or something. Suffice to say, if you’re angling for the 3DS version, maybe add a grain of salt to this review.

I’ll open by laying my Layton fan membership card on the table. Alongside Ace Attorney and Nancy Drew, the Professor Layton series fills one of the spots in my personal mystery puzzle holy trinity. So yeah, I’m kind of a fan.

Let’s dive into the review of Lady Layton, shall we? As a returning fan, let’s discuss the old stuff and the new, which coincidentally lines up with the good and the bad.

For the unfamiliar, puzzles lay at the centre of all Layton games, and the latest iteration is no exception. New characters asking you to prove your worth, uncovering testimony, discovering new evidence, all fall under the purview of yet another puzzle. Even my favourite, “ooh look at [thing] it reminds me of a puzzle” comes back around, just for the sheer lunacy of it. “Why look a dead horse, with all the blood and gore! Oh, the inhumanity! It reminds me of a puzzle!!” Maybe this is me looking through nostalgia goggles, but I really felt like Lady Layton was a little short for puzzles. In previous iterations, there was at least one puzzle so brilliant I had to stand up and take notice. It could be that I’m just better at sussing out the tricks in the puzzle, but I can’t really claim any teasers were particularly memorable. In fact, the only thing I noted was how a handful of puzzles had one of two of the same answers. All in all nothing outstanding, but otherwise it’s on average not bad.

Aesthetically and Thematically, Lady Layton still hits the mark. There’s a little magical realism sprinkled in, what with the tritagonist being a talking dog and all. The art style as always is such a distinctive cartoony take, I mean it’s truly fantastic stuff in this regard.

However, Ladies, gentlemen and non-binary friends, here is the turning point. Let’s get into gripes.

This entry follows a new protagonist, Katrielle Layton, daughter to the great professor Hershel Layton. At the game’s opening, she, along with assistant Ernest Greeves, is opening a detective agency in London. Accosted by a talking dog, to discover his origins, the dog named Sherl O. C. Kholmes (basically all the names are freaking puns in this game) forms the mystery solving trio. Solving murders, finding superhero secret identities, uncovering haunted houses, it’s all just another case for the Lady Layton.

If there’s one thing that jumps out to me from the Layton series, it’s the story. Things start off simply, a death of a friend, a missing inheritance, and balloon from there. Action cutscenes, moustachioed villains, and curiosity after mystery after question arise. Eventually, all the pieces coalesce into a single melancholic, but joyous crescendo. The game is hence broken up into chapters, and returning players are treated to a “previously on…” section to bring players up to speed

Let’s just say Lady Layton throws this to the wayside. It may not be the first time this series has dipped its toes into the mobile space but it feels like it. Replacing the larger story is a series of 12 “cases”. I can see what the developers are going for, they are really trying to fish for some mobile gamers here. Sure, I’ll concede it may be an easier ‘in’ for people new to the series. The problem I have is it does so at the detriment to the game as a whole. The 12 cases, while special in their own right, get devalued when they’re one of a dozen. Hell, compare this to the previous mobile game, Layton Brothers: Mystery Room, and it’s clear, fewer cases and a shorter game, make each case impactful and interesting.

Even when you ignore its delivery, the story is nothing to write home about. In fact, reminds me of mediocre anime. Most of the plot is spent pottering around with the case, leaving no space for continuity or a story running through. Technically, there are connections, but bare minimum “oh that lady from the other case” connections. It’s fair, I suppose, to say that Lady Layton has a big ending, but I’m not sure how much I can praise them for this. See, the other thing with mediocre is, shall we say, Sudden Finale Syndrome. The light cheerful plot caves into a melodrama out of nowhere. In the case of the game, the final case is some stupid Saw-but-you-pay-with-your-money-not-your-life trash (side note: a mysterious terrifying villain threatening to donate money to charity is hilarious in a not flattering way). Furthermore, no continuity means no lead up with a bit of consequence. Firstly, a great legendary fortune just bloody appears just to prop up some stakes. Secondly, the game ends on probably the most left-field twist that is pulled completely from nowhere. Seriously a general allusion to the character doing literally anything vaguely suspicious would have been nice, and simply put the evidence involved, I mean it felt like a self-parody at that point.

OK, so it goes without saying Lady Layton, isn’t going to get Game of the Year. The simple truth is I don’t like this game as much as I wanted. I understand what Level-5 is trying to do, bring in more fans into the franchise. If all else fails it showcases the style, and the puzzles fairly well. But of course, I am a fan of the series. I hope more people can fall in love with the series as I have, but I feel in this instance I have to love Layton a little less.

3.75 out of 5

+ Puzzles are still fairly good, despite no stand outs
+ Aesthetically and thematically solid
- 12 cases diminishes the story telling