As a big fan of Level-5's Professor Layton franchise, I had been waiting for Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy to be released since I first heard about it a year ago. I was afraid of what I might find, though. The last game we got was a mobile spin-off in 2013 entitled Layton Brothers: Mystery Room. While I seem to be the only person I know who even somewhat enjoyed it, I was fearful that this new game would follow in its footsteps too closely. I've been playing Millionaires' Conspiracy since it released this past Thursday, however, and I have, for the most part, been pleasantly surprised with what I found.
If you've played a Layton game before, you'll feel right at home with Millionaires' Conspiracy. If you haven't, however, it's a fairly simple concept. You wander around town, investigating a mystery of some sort. Your investigation could take the form of talking to townspeople or scrutinizing something odd in the environment. Information isn't always free, though. Many times you'll find that the piece you're looking for will be locked behind a puzzle. Solve the puzzle, and you'll unlock that which you seek.
In previous Layton games, the plot focused mainly on one overarching mystery with a few subplots that tie in to the case as a whole. Millionaires' Conspiracy is more in line with Layton Brothers: Mystery Room in that regard. That is to say, you take on a series of small mysteries in chunks as opposed to a large one that spans the entire game. The first eleven cases in Millionaires' Conspiracy, aside from sharing characters, are largely independent of each other. It isn't until the very end that things get tied together and the truth about the titular millionaires' conspiracy is revealed.
This layout lends itself well to the mobile format. Each case, on average, took me an hour to complete without investigating every nook and cranny. These short bursts of gameplay make it easy to pick up when you have a few moments and easy to put down when needed. The cases found within the game showcase a range of scenarios from the fun of planning a birthday present and investigating a haunted mansion to the seriousness of theft and murder.
As interesting as these cases on their own are, I would have loved to have seen more interconnectedness between them. Instead of using these cases as a way to build the story to a gripping finale, most of these cases serve little purpose other than being extended character introductions.
Speaking of characters, Millionaires' Conspiracy offers a fairly diverse, if somewhat lackluster cast. The star, of course, is Katrielle Layton, daughter of the famed Professor Hershel Layton. Katrielle is every bit her father's daughter, often explaining her actions by claiming, "That's what a gentlewoman does." Katrielle has a big appetite for the truth, but an even bigger one for food, leading to some hilarious scenarios throughout the cases.
She is also joined on her journey by her doting assistant Ernest Greeves, her mysterious canine companion Scooby Doo Sherl O.C. Kholmes, and Scotland Yard Inspector Ercule Hastings (major props to Level-5 for the Doyle and Christie references, by the way). In addition to these allies, Kat quickly finds herself in a fierce rivalry with Scotland Yard's criminal profiler Emiliana Perfetti.
The other major cast of characters are the seven millionaires of London, collectively known as the Seven Dragons. Throughout the game, Katrielle solves a case for each Dragon, allowing us and her to learn more about each one. Unfortunately, for playing such a vital role in the game's most important and interesting case, these characters are mostly forgettable.
I would be remiss in discussing a Layton game if I didn't talk about the puzzles. Millionaires' Conspiracy features a wide variety of puzzles that Layton veterans would be familiar with—logic, spatial reasoning, and numerical puzzles are abound, along with many other types. In my playthrough, I came across 79 puzzles, though by my calculations, the main story has around 169, and that's not including bonus and the downloadable daily puzzles.
Part of the reason for this discrepancy is that Millionaires' Conspiracy allows you to go back to previous cases to find any puzzles you missed. Each case also has new puzzles that aren't available in your first run through anyway, adding to the game's replayability. This means that the Riddle Hut doesn't make an appearance this time around, but there's no need for it since none of the puzzles are missable.
My only real gripe with the puzzles is that they seem to reuse a lot of the solutions. The first time I ran across this, I was thoroughly perplexed and entertained by the result. By the end of my game, however, whenever similar puzzles came up, my immediate reaction was "Ugh... so help me if it's this again..." To my extreme disappointment, most of the time, it was.
All in all, my fears about how the game would translate to mobile devices were put to rest early on. Level-5 did an amazing job capturing the essence of the Layton games of old and crafting a brand new experience from it. Though there were a few missteps, Millionaires' Conspiracy certainly earns its place in the franchise. The game raises more questions than it answers, leaving room wide open for at least one more game in the Mystery Journey series.
Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy is available now for $15.99 on iOS and Android enabled devices.