I’ve played all the Professor Layton games, and reviewed several of them on this blog. In the abstract I think really highly of this series, but as I was putting together my thoughts on this one, I went back and read what I had written about the last three games in the series, including Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright, I realized that I had similar complaints about those games to the ones I have with this game.
I still don’t like the split between tapping the bottom screen and the cursor on the top screen, the game feels padded out, with puzzles spread far too thin, and I don’t think those puzzles are as good as the used to be. The new complaint with Layton’s Mystery Journey is that now the story is purely episodic and of the game’s 12 episodes, only about three of them feel like they really matter. While I mostly enjoyed my time with the game, when I finished I was really ready to be done with it. After a few days to cool off, I feel a little more fondness for the game, though I think that this is the first time my annoyances finally outweighed my enjoyment.
I’ve complained about my problems with the cursor before and I still have them. It is makes me a little nauseous managing that split between top and bottom screens. I’ve complained about the length before. I’ll have to go back and check the DS games, but this feels like a 12 hour game stretched out to take nearly 20. With Layton v Wright, I complained about the puzzles, but I thought it was just because that game was a spin off. The puzzles here feel imprecise. They aren’t perfectly crafted to make you think or mess with you assumptions, these just feel imprecise. Sometimes the wording is so vague it nearly impossible to tell what the puzzle is. There are still plenty of good puzzles, but there are way too many weak or simply bad ones.
The story is the other big problem. The structure fails this game utterly. If there was an initial mystery that lead to all the other cases it would have felt like a real story, but instead it just introduces a bunch of characters before moving to a toothless epic final showdown. It does start with a pair of mysteries, one involving the disappearance of Professor Layton and the other having to do with Sherl, the talking dog that shows up at new protagonist Katrielle’s shop. Those mysteries are not dealt with at all. Professor Layton is gone, as are all the characters from the previous 6 games, and Katrielle has a talking dog. Instead of dealing with either of them, you spend most of the game solving non-mysteries for the police, with a few good ones mixed.
I don’t really have a problem with change in cast, it was time for a refresh, but other than changing out the cast, the only change this made to the series was a downgrade in puzzle quality. This is still largely the same game as the last few in the series, but the returns are really diminishing now. I hope the next game gets things back on track.