Here’s a mystery for the ages: What manner of woman did the mild Professor Hershel Layton mate with in order to produce the wild-haired Alfendi Layton? More importantly, is the lad worthy of carrying his father’s legacy on his spindly shoulders? After all, few puzzle game series are as beloved as the Professor Layton games for the Nintendo DS and 3DS. Happily, Level-5 seems to realize as much, which is probably why Layton Brothers Mystery Room is its own game—and an engaging one, at that.
There’s not a top hat in sight in Layton Brothers Mystery Room. Instead, you wear the striped socks of his son, Alfendi Layton. Alfendi is an inspector with Scotland Yard, where he sets up shop in the “Mystery Room.” The Mystery Room is stuffed with unsolved cases that Alfendi must comb over with the help of his new assistant, Lucy.
Layton Brothers Mystery Room plays nothing like the Professor Layton titles. The game has far more in common with the Phoenix Wright series (right down to the nutty pun-based character names), as gameplay is divided between investigating crime scenes and then grilling the suspect(s) with the accumulated evidence. The lack of courthouse banter does make Layton Brothers a far speedier play, however, and the experience shouldn’t take you more than five hours to breeze through—especially since there’s no penalty for making wrong guesses.
While poking around 3D-rendered crime scenes, combing through evidence, and piecing things together is fun, there’s a lot of linearity and hand-holding going on in Layton Brothers. Again, you’re not penalized for throwing out wrong answers (though you may get your head bitten off), so you rarely feel like you’re being challenged. In fact, it’s common to get ahead of the investigation with the evidence you’ve gathered, but you can’t simply present it and go home. You need to wait for the right time.
Put it this way. If you’re not in love with the writing and characters in Layton Brothers Mystery Room by the end of the first two (free!) cases, you shouldn’t bother buying the rest. Unlike Alfendi’s dad’s games, there’s little here that will challenge you intellectually, except wading through Lucy’s thick Scottish dialect.
That said, it’s hard not to be enchanted by the game’s sharp graphics, unique character designs, rich soundtrack, and top-notch localization. Moreover, there’s a twist in the second case that drives you forward and winds up as the basis for the game’s climax. Once you start digging into Alfendi’s past, it’s pretty hard to stop.
Layton Brothers Mystery Room is an easy recommendation. If the gameplay is too shallow for your liking, you don’t need to pay for the rest of the adventure. If you find yourself hooked, then by all means keep playing in the Yard. You won’t regret it.