Mystery Room

The premise is fun — the player takes the role of a detective’s assistant working in the eponymous “Mystery Room,” a back office where Scotland Yard’s most bizarre and troubling homicide cases are solved.

I’ve never been much of a fan of adventure games, nor have I played many of them.

The majority of my experience with the genre comes from having played the more famous DS adventure games, such as “Trace Memory,” the DS port of “Flower, Sun, and Rain,” and the original trilogies of the “Ace Attorney” and “Professor Layton” franchises.

The first three Layton games were and still are some of my favorites on the platform, since their challenging puzzles and offbeat charm made them stand out from the pack. Unfortunately, “Layton Brothers: Mystery Room” does not live up to the name of the series from which it originated.

“Layton Brothers’” premise is unique; rather than being an actual investigator, the player takes the role of a detective’s assistant working in the eponymous “Mystery Room,” a back office where Scotland Yard’s most bizarre and troubling homicide cases are solved using crime scene reconstructions. During each case, the player picks the suspect they believe is the killer, looks for clues that bring different details to light (such as what the murder weapon was), and brings in their suspect to wring a confession out of them.

Playing second fiddle to a detective who automatically knows all the answers ruins the effect of this format, however, as the suspect of focus is pre-determined regardless of player choice, the two protagonists openly state the implications of most pieces of evidence, and the interrogation scenes proceed in almost the same way as an “Ace Attorney” court sequence, just without any of the aspects that made those sequences challenging (such as having a limited number of guesses or having to root through statements to find a contradiction). The investigative portions of the game are also similar to a toothless “Ace Attorney”; only at the very end of the game does the player need to look for unmarked clues, and there are few puzzles to solve.

The plot of “Layton Brothers” is nothing to write home about, either, and given that it has to compete with the likes of “Danganronpa,” “Ace Attorney,” and the first two Layton games, I’d say there’s not much reason to play it beyond its low price point (around a third of that of most of its competitors). For $5 dollars, I got around 12 hours of content, which is a decent value, but the wide array of superior games with similar subject matter available makes it nigh-on-impossible to recommend, except perhaps for children, which it might be better suited to than the aforementioned alternatives.

To end things on a positive note, I will say that Layton Brothers has exceptional visual polish and a fine soundtrack to boot. Reconstructions are fully modeled in 3D rather than pre-rendered or painted, and the stylish visual effects (like arrows zipping across the screen and colliding with characters to show the impact a statement has on them) add a lot to the carefully-drawn presentation of the dialogue and interrogation scenes. The jazzy, occasionally bombastic music evokes images of the likes of “Ironside,” “Columbo” and “Hawaii Five-O,” making it a perfect fit for the game’s tone.

If you’d like a cheaper, easier, or more streamlined equivalent to the “Ace Attorney” games, I’d say to give “Layton Brothers” a try, despite its flaws.

Gaget is a student in Fairbanks public schools and has developed and published three games, “BORINGCORRIDOR,” “Accelerant” and “HouseThatJackBuilt.” He is a neutral game reviewer.

If You Play

Game: “Layton Brothers: Mystery Room”

Platform: iOS, Android

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 

Price: Two free trial levels and two level packs costing $2.99 and $1.99 respectively

Internet Usage: About 100 MB plus another ~ 400 MB for save data

ESRB Rating: None, but listed as “12+” on the iTunes Store

Release date: 09/21/12

Genre: Adventure/logic puzzle

Developer: Level-5 (Professor Layton, Yo-Kai Watch, Inazuma Eleven), Matrix Software (Alundra)

Challenge: Low

Novelty: Low

Polish: Heavy