Level-5 hit big with Professor Layton back in the late 2000s. Its titular gentleman puzzle solver was one of the early success stories on the Nintendo DS, and it wasn’t long before a string of sequels, a film and even a crossover game with Capcom’s Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright, followed in its wake.
Yet despite more than 16m unit sales worldwide, the Layton series has been on something of a puzzle sabbatical for the last four years, leaving many wondering whether Level-5’s British brain-box would ever make another appearance on a Nintendo handheld.
You’ll be pleased to hear, then, that Layton is finally making its long overdue comeback later this year with Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy. Only this time there’s an all-new
protagonist and a host of extra platforms in the mix, as Layton’s Mystery Journey will be launching on iOS and Android in July, with a 3DS release following later in the autumn.
“We have a new hero, [Layton’s daughter] Katrielle, who’s opening up her detective agency,” Level-5 Abby’s director of games marketing Lucy Pozniak tells MCV. “In addition, whereas previous titles have had bigger, more overarching story puzzles or a main mystery to solve, this one is broken into 12 chapters and it’s about solving different mysteries within those chapters.”
ALL ABOARD THE LAYTONMOBILE
That might sound like a small change on paper, but with Pozniak going on to mention “certain in-app purchases” for mobile users and a “fuller package” for 3DS owners, it suggests this particular branch of the Layton family tree has been developed with a much more modern, mass audience in mind than its console-bound predecessors.
This presents a number of opportunities for Level-5, not least the chance to broaden Layton’s appeal beyond its core Nintendo heartland, which will be crucial after such a long hiatus. Pozniak wouldn’t be drawn on exact pricing for the mobile version, but provided it’s done right, it could propel the series to even greater heights across the globe, putting it in the same superstar bracket (at least in Japan) as Level-5’s other key franchises, Inazuma Eleven and Yo-kai Watch.
Despite its move to mobile, though, Pozniak’s keenly aware that there are still plenty of 3DS owners out there who have been waiting patiently for Layton’s next instalment. These fans, she assures us, won’t be disappointed.
“Whether you play it on Android, iOS or 3DS, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to have the same experience,” she explains. “What we’ve done is that we’ve made sure there’s absolutely no disparity between the players, so everyone is getting the same content and the same story. Even with pricing and everything else, we’re very confident about how the fans will perceive it.
“We’re not just going to go with mobile like everyone else has gone with mobile and leave the 3DS or the console player behind. The key for us is to make sure we have the same integrity, the same kind of fan experience across all platforms. Mobile just gives us an opportunity now to really reach out to a bigger mass audience, because [before] we were limited to a very [particular kind of ] DS or 3DS title. So now we have the opportunity to talk to more people and find out what really works best for each platform.”
THIS REMINDS ME OF A PUZZLE
Pozniak is also hoping that the game’s new protagonist Katrielle will be another big draw for new players to the series.
“Kat’s a fun character. She’s smart and intelligent and witty and funny, so she’s engaging on an intellectual level, but she also has a tomboy side and she’s down with getting her hands dirty, discovering a mystery and getting into a fight, or whatever it might be. I don’t think there’s any part of her that makes it a barrier for men to play or for women to play.
“She’s a great conduit between multiple ages and genders and everything in between, so we’re very excited for her to be the hero of this game. It’s a nice way to reinvent the title and keep it relevant and current, and instil that intelligence is important. Muscles are great, but at the end of the day, she gets it done without beating somebody up.”
Despite the changes afoot, then, it’s clear the Layton legacy is alive and well in this newest addition to the franchise, but don’t expect either of Level-5’s puzzling pair to appear on the Nintendo Switch just yet.
“We’ve looked at [Switch],” Pozniak explains. “There are some challenges that we fully understand at this time. One of the things we understand is that the Switch has a portability factor, which is really good for this title. However, the challenge for us is the fact that once you dock your system it’s no longer a handheld, so it’s just understanding that [particular issue].
“In addition, we know there are so many 3DS owners who have played Layton previously, so we want to make sure those people who already have devices in their hands have something to play. So specifically the design at this time is for 3DS, so those players can play some more, and for new players who don’t have a 3DS system, that’s why we’ve co-developed for smartphones, so they can jump on this time. But in the future, we’re definitely looking into adapting for the Switch. We love the Switch and we’re trying to put as much on there as we can, but right now, this title is for 3DS and smart devices only.”