So, a big thing about taking time off and applying for a job with the government is that you have a lot of hurry up and wait time. This is both enjoyable and irritating at the same time. Ultimately, I listened to a lot of music I’ve been intending to hear and I’ve played a number of games, specifically on the iPad, that I wanted to enjoy. Layton Brothers’ Mystery Room was a revelation for me, combining elements of an episodic story with mildly interesting characters (some of which I could have really enjoyed a lot more without having to understand cockney). Generally though the elements I find most enjoyable about a game were all present. This review will detail each:
Story: You’re a new inspector trainee assigned to the brilliant and Holmesian Al Layton. Named Lucy Baker, the protagonist is plucky, if not represented as a brash and daring East Ender. The game offers a total of ten scenarios (nine cases and a prologue; more on this in a few), through which you discover Lucy’s world as a detective and where you basically control her deductive reasoning through the cases. Further, the interplay between Lucy’s development to a fully established detective and Layton’s great mystery is interesting. Layton generally comes off as unhinged at times, a touch brutal and a bit admiring of criminality. So, Lucy has to deal with her own development and the continued erosion of Layton’s sanity it seems. It’s interesting, if not light storytelling (never really going into great amounts of depth). Nemesis style criminals are included and make story arcs over the nine cases and tie to the big finale.
Game Mechanics: Essentially, if you’re a fan of Law and Order style police procedurals, you’re going to be familiar with the way the game presents the case files. X crime has occurred, Y individuals are suspects, and the crime scene is reconstructed by Layton’s staff and forensic’s lab in his Mystery Room. Layton serves as your character’s logic wrangler and advisor on the case; seeming to personally train you. Most of the time, the game relies off simple logical constructions to lead you through; however, as the cases become more difficult, you sometimes have to infer a whole lot to get through a case without the evidence really justifying the claim. It does make sense when the case is finished, but sometimes that path to get to the end is really, really strange in the leaps of logic you have to take. Most of the time it makes sense; in some cases (specifically Case 004), you’re left scratching your head.
Graphics: This is an iOS game. It’s graphics are limited to the display of that particular piece of hardware. However, the cartoon/comic book style definitely works well here, and the camera is nearly completely under your control in the investigation. You have to really examine a scene at times and the camera does scale down to particular items well.
Presentation: The goal of this is to be a police procedural drama. It is done using Noir style elements, specifically in the case introductions with comic style art panels and dialogue boxes. There are no voice overs (completely fine with me, but could be a problem with others). Generally, this is well done, but being in Lucy’s head, you have to translate her dialogue to your own understanding, which can be difficult. There are clues to the case in these, you have to pay attention. In other words, there are no wasted parts here. I’m a bit nonplussed by the inclusion and representation of Lucy at times due to the way the game developer chooses to demonstrate her femininity and their general representation of other ethnicities (referring to case 003 and case 005 with the main suspect in each).
Music: The game’s music is inspired by 1950s to 1970s era jazz, funk, and blues fusion. It never gets in the way of your thought process. It’s flat out enjoyable to hear.
Overall, the game is fun and worthy to play through. It’s not overwhelmingly annoying at any point nor is it absolutely stunning. It’s a solid, casual gaming experience for the iOS that is worth the free download (for the prologue and first two cases), and then paying $3 for the DLC for cases 003 through 006, and the $2 for 007 and 009. I hope they attach more DLC going forward.