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Ever since Professor Layton and the Curious Village hit the Nintendo DS back in 2008, the Layton name has been synonymous with brain-bending puzzles, complex mysteries, and interesting characters. Now that the brand has come to iOS with Layton Brothers Mystery Room, most of that continues to hold true; but instead of solving head-scratching puzzles with Professor Hershel Layton, you're faced with unraveling a series of complex murders with his inspector son, Alfendi.
Playing as detective constable Lucy Baker, your job in each of the game's nine cases (two of which are included for free; the others are available as in-app purchases for a grand total of $4.98) is to click your way through crime scenes in order to make deductions and learn the truth behind each heinous killing. Searching interactive hotspots for clues is fun in and of itself, but it's the cartoony visual flair, riotously jazzy soundtrack, and entertaining banter between characters that keeps things interesting. After you've gathered enough evidence, you'll get to question suspects and force them to confess in back-and-forth battles of wits by presenting evidence to smash through their lies; the whole affair bears many similarities to Capcom's Ace Attorney series, which recently returned to iOS in HD form. The game also holds your interest through an overarching mysterious storyline that slowly comes together over the course of the adventure.
As enjoyable as the gameplay is, Layton Brothers suffers from a distinct lack of challenge. There's no penalty for making false accusations or wrong deductions (other than occasional scoldings from Alfendi), so it's easy to get through each case without straining the ol' grey matter. There's also the arbitrary nature of the investigations; sometimes you find obvious evidence that you can't do anything with until the appointed time, and sometimes you can't proceed until you click on just the right object that seemingly has nothing to do with the case. The game's heavy use of eye dialect (nonstandard spellings to indicate accents) can be distracting, too.
The bottom line. Layton Brothers Mystery Room may have some annoyances, but overall it's a polished adventure with fun characters and an intriguing story, and the content is definitely worth the asking price.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 4.3 or later
Fun characters and an appropriately mysterious story. Quality graphics and music.
Not very challenging. Some arbitrary progression points and overuse of eye dialect can be annoying.