Layton Brothers: Mystery Room is a strange mix, one of Level-5’s trademark cutesy charm and a more brutal world than the team has depicted before, and it doesn’t always feel like a comfortable artistic fit. Rather than bring the charm and whimsy of the Professor Layton series to smartphones and tablets, Level-5 has opted for a noir crime-scene simulator complete with gruesome kills, saxophone solos and heated confrontations with the accused.
Set in Scotland Yard, you take on the role of rookie detective and latest apprentice to one Alfendi Layton, son of the famous Professor. Examining the reconstructed scene of a crime – a timed routine of spinning, zooming and discovering each shred of evidence – you’re then tasked with pointing the finger and (hopefully) delivering justice. It plays out as part interactive story – there are gripping multiple-choice exchanges with hot-headed suspects and a substantial amount of backstory for each case – and part linear puzzle game. The initial cases are free (barely an hour’s worth of play with the first half a tutorial case and some scene-setting) with two meatier case collections available through in-app purchase.
It’s a flow, formula and atmosphere removed from that of previous Layton titles, but there’s enough shared DNA besides Alfendi and Hershel’s to warrant the game’s brand association. Production values are high, with iPad providing the best canvas yet for Level-5’s animation and colouring. And though the puzzles and narrative take on a different rhythm to the core series, the delicate balance in their concoction and the demands of their solution – requiring equal amounts of logical and lateral thought – echo those of father Layton’s finest.
Layton Brothers: Mystery Room is out now on iOS.