Debuting back in the year 2007, the Professor Layton series quickly became a fan favorite. Cleverly designed, and almost always worth checking out, the franchise proved to be a reliable presence. However, with the portable console market drying up over the past few years, the good professor was left in the dust. And, yes, while the titular teacher may be gone, the lineage is far from dead. Enter daughter Katrielle Layton, who has inherited her father’s skills. She’ll need them in order to solve the many challenges of Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy, which is now available on the Nintendo Switch.
Previously released on the 3DS and mobile devices in 2017, Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy is both a deviation and return to form for the series. Instead of one large case like her father handled, Kat is tasked with solving a dozen different cases, albeit, with an overarching connection. Despite the high-profile clientele involved, these mysteries are of a much smaller risk than what dear old dad dealt with. That being said, the way Katrielle solves these cases is typical of the series. She’ll tackle dozens of puzzles that often seem like they have nothing to do with the larger task at hand. This may be a quasi-reboot, but the framework is mostly the same.
With the stakes being lower, the entire experience is decidedly more carefree. When we first meet Kat, she is approached by Sherl, a talking dog with amnesia. Before she can investigate that strange case, she is unwittingly pulled into the web of the Seven Dragons. The Dragons are some of London’s most influential figures, and their troubles are the perfect way for Katrielle to build her reputation. Together with Sherl and Ernest, her friend-zoned assistant, the trio will solve almost any case given to them.
Like a quaint BBC mystery series, it’s the warm characterization that makes the story enjoyable. The main cast is an immensely likable bunch, even if Ernest’s attempts at wooing Kat can be a tad pathetic. The warmth extends to the supporting cast as well — Inspector Hastings and profiler Emiliana spar well with the others. The quaint and charming writing helps make up for the fact that the cases themselves are kind of weak. The clientele may be fun to work with, but the mysteries they offer aren’t up to the same level as previous entries in the series. I do think the episodic case structure is still a good idea — the cases just needed to be stronger.
While puzzles make up the backbone of Millionaires’ Conspiracy, it’s held together by a few other mechanics. When in investigation mode, the game takes the form of a point-and-click adventure. When Kat and crew enter a location, they’ll have the chance to investigate it. It’s limited, as it’s basically just a static screen with points of interest to click on. Most of the time, these sections are used to glean new information, but occasionally you’ll uncover hidden objects. These include optional puzzles, hint tokens (which can be cashed in for puzzle help), and clothes tokens, which help expand Kat’s wardrobe. Like a good sleuth, it’s important to fully investigate any crime scene.
As enjoyable as these moments are, though, the puzzles are still the main reason to check out Layton’s Mystery Journey. Building off the already sizable amount from the 3DS, the Switch re-release contains over 40 additional puzzles. When you add in daily downloadable puzzles (which are being released over the next year), there’s a plethora of content here for puzzle fiends. One thing I always appreciated about the series, which continues here, is the sheer variety. It keeps things interesting, as you can’t really adjust to one specific kind of puzzle. You are constantly forced to think differently as you hop from one headscratcher to another.
Overall, I do think the puzzles here are generally above average. They can be sufficiently challenging, with some of them stumping me for a long while. As frustrating as that can be, that’s exactly what I want out of my puzzlers. I want to be challenged, and I want to have to sit there and really think about the solution. With the variety being what it is, not every single one has the same level of difficulty, but those breathers can be a welcome distraction. I do think the wording on some of the puzzles could be more clear, as the description of what you need to do can be a little vague or ambiguous at times. It’s a minor frustration that can occasionally snowball into a bigger one.
Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy is a welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch roster. It’s the perfect jumping-in point for greenhorns and a welcome return for long-time fans. It can still feel very much like a 3DS game at times, particularly in its visuals, but considering how the title was ignored originally, that’s far from the worst thing. Mystery Journey doesn’t quite meet the high bar of past entries, but hopefully, this is a sign of things to come from Level-5.
This review was based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Nintendo.
It may not quite reach the series' previous highs, but Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy is a more than serviceable addition, and a welcome debut on the Nintendo Switch.