Katrielle's adventure is one of the weaker entries in the Layton series, but it's still a decent low-stakes puzzler for Nintendo Switch owners.
In the ever-expanding pantheon of Nintendo Switch ports, remasters, complete remakes, and deluxe editions with additional content, Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy is a comparatively small name. This upbeat puzzle/adventure game was originally released for mobile devices and the Nintendo 3DS in 2017, serving as both a continuation and a fresh start for the long-running Professor Layton series. Now the Deluxe Edition of the game has come to the Switch with over 40 new puzzles, HD visuals, an enhanced layout, and any previously released DLC. Beneath all of that, though, is still an underwhelming and oversimplified Layton title - but not necessarily a bad puzzle game. Newcomers to the series or other Switch owners just looking for some casual puzzle-solving will still get plenty of fun out of Layton's Mystery Journey.
The game stars a new protagonist for the first time in the main series: Katrielle Layton, daughter of the renowned Professor Hershel Layton, who mysteriously disappeared when Kat was younger. Now 21 years old, Kat has just established the Layton Detective Agency and is hoping to attract potential clients who need help with their unsolved mysteries. Her first client ends up being a talking dog with amnesia, and he seems to believe that he was once human. Under her motto of "any mystery solved", Kat reluctantly takes his case to rediscover his past along with her steadfast assistant, Ernest Greeves. But it's not long before more urgent cases start coming in, and soon Kat and Ernest are off solving the biggest capers in London along with their newly-named talking hound, Sherl O.C. Kholmes.
As the trio travel around London, the player is treated to the always-lovely art and sound design that the Layton series is known for. The HD touch-up of the Deluxe Edition really pays off; the quirky character models and multilayered backgrounds of Layton's Mystery Journey look better than ever. Each character design is wildly different and uniquely exaggerated, making all of them memorable no matter what their role is. Moving between locations feels like walking through equally varied and detailed paintings, and the game encourages you to visually explore these places to find hidden collectibles. Of course, Layton's Mystery Journey is also complete with a top-notch soundtrack that includes plenty of catchy new compositions along with variations on classic tunes from the series' history. The overall audiovisual quality of the game is what gives it its cheery, "Layton-esque" attitude, in spite of some grating voice acting (which there isn't much of).
Layton's Mystery Journey also features an exceptional level of customization for a Layton game. Kat can pick up "Fashion Farthings" from daily bonuses and during investigations, which can be exchanged for full outfits. The Deluxe Edition includes more than 50 stylish custom outfits in addition to the former DLC outfits, and all of them can be unlocked through gameplay. It's undeniably fun to pick out different fashions at any time, and even Sherl can be dressed up in little dog clothes. As the player solves more and more puzzles, they'll also get access to a growing suite of interior design options for the office at the Layton Detective Agency. Everything from wallpaper to upholstery can be redone individually, allowing you to turn the office into a pretty home or a mismatched nightmare.
When it comes to gameplay, puzzles still make up the bulk of the experience. Puzzles are everywhere - they come up in clues, in conversations with NPCs, in random spots on the background... there's plenty of them in terms of quantity. But in terms of quality, these brainteasers are a mixed bag; most of them are fairly simple by Layton standards and can be solved relatively quickly, but some of them can give your mind a nice little workout. Despite the sheer amount of puzzles in the game, a lot of them are also holdovers from previous Layton games. The Layton series has been recycling puzzles at an increasing rate for a long time, and while that may not be a concern for newcomers starting out with Layton's Mystery Journey, the game still recycles its own puzzles as it goes on. There were a few occasions where I finished solving a puzzle and moved on, only to encounter another puzzle of the same type next. It's not that these puzzles are bad in themselves - it's just that the variety leaves something to be desired.
The story of Layton's Mystery Journey is the biggest change of pace for the series so far, but it's not really an improvement. Unlike Professor Layton's longer tales that revolved around cracking a central mystery, Katrielle's adventure has an episodic structure based on solving separate cases. These episodes have little to do with one another and are held together by only the thinnest overarching thread, which doesn't make for a very engaging plot. The thing that makes them downright boring, however, is the fact that Kat automatically "solves" each mystery for the player once all clues have been gathered. Regardless of whether the conclusion is blatantly obvious or patently ridiculous, the player isn't given the chance to work it out for themselves. Some major story threads are also left dangling at the end of the game, leaving too much in doubt about our central protagonists.
Speaking of our central protagonists, the three of them come off as oddly unlikable characters - which is unusual for the series. It's not as though the trio is unbearable, but they're just mildly annoying and don't change or develop much over the course of the game. For a gentlewoman, Kat is often presumptuous and cocky, and can even be exploitative when it come to Ernest. Ernest himself is such a lovesick yes-man that most of his dialogue involves heaping praise on Kat in some way. Sherl is perhaps the worst of them; he's insistently sarcastic and rude no matter the situation. These surface-level descriptions might make them sound worse than they really are, but these are still the tropes that you'll be stuck with throughout the game.
Layton's Mystery Journey isn't the best game in the series by any means, but it can still be an enjoyable collection of low-stress puzzles - especially in the absence of any other Layton titles on modern systems. Between the splendid production values and the large number of clever but recycled puzzles, new players will probably be the ones getting the most out of this Deluxe Edition. Other elements of the game may be disappointing, but it's better to have played a Layton game than never to have played one at all.
Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy Deluxe Edition is available now on Nintendo Switch for $39.99. A Switch code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.