Originally planned as the first in a new series of games for Nintendo DS, Layton Brothers: Mystery Room is now an iOS exclusive and developer Level-5’s debut title on the platform. Similar to Capcom’s Ace Attorney series, Mystery Room is a spin-off of Level-5’s popular Professor Layton franchise, starring Hershel’s son, Alfredi. Alongside his newly appointed sidekick, Lucy Baker, it’s up to the eager detective to crack a barrage of perplexing cases which slowly begin to reveal the game’s sinister overarching conspiracy.
Despite its apparent pedigree, Mystery Room is a free-to-play game; well, at least part of it. The first two cases are playable from the app though additional ones need to purchased via one of two available bundles. Still, if you’re looking for a quick crime-solving fix, the first two cases still offer a good few hours of gameplay between them.
As expected, Layton Brothers is an incredibly text-heavy game. Though there are interactive segments of gameplay, for the most part, players will be reading dialogue exchanges between characters as well as files, statements and evidence reports. Sadly, there are no voiceovers but this hardly detracts from the experience.
Each chapter begins in a similar manner. An unusual case will be brought before Alfredi and Lucy and they will talk the player through a briefing to outline the crime. From there, you will be familiarised with three suspects before investigating the crime scene. Unlike most detective puzzle games, including Ace Attorney, Mystery Room ditches 2D screen-by-screen environments for a fully 3D representation. Players will be given five minutes to initially scour the scene to pick up clues using gestures to rotate and move the camera. Certain areas are highlighted in yellow dotted rings and, upon closer inspection, will zoom in on objects which can be filed as evidence.
Elsewhere, players can interview suspects, checking their statements against evidence in order to decipher who committed the crime. Unfortunately you aren’t able to freely choose who to interview and which questions to ask. Instead you lead through a linear conversation with occasional question prompts. Even if you choose the wrong question/answer, the game will take a step back and let you try again. Though some might call this “hand-holding” others will appreciate how merciful the game can be despite how much it feels as though you are being guided.
Once you have enough evidence to suspect someone, you will confront them, thereby entering the final stage of a case. Although your discoveries in previous gameplay sections confirm who the killer is, you must recall your findings to contradict their statements and send them down. This is done by selecting certain pieces of evidence and even re-inspecting the crime scene. Though it brings closure to the case it’s this final part of each chapter that feels the most tedious as you essentially backtrack on everything you have done. With that said, when all the pieces fall into place, there is an unmistaken sense of satisfaction.
Just like the Professor Layton games, Layton Brothers: Mystery Room has a distinct art style and tone of music. Both work remarkably well together and even the 3D environments, though rudimental, keep with the game’s core design.
Layton Brothers: Mystery Room is just the game for anyone looking for a detective puzzler with clout. It’s specifically designed for iOS and Level-5 have done a great job in transferring its humour and signature approach to clever story-telling. If you’re still not convinced, Mystery Room’s free entry point is enough reason to at least try it out.