Sunday 18 November 2018

Mirthful mystery moves to mobile

Layton's Mystery Journey (iOS/Android) ★★★★ Age: 3+

Layton's Mystery Journey
Layton's Mystery Journey
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Professor Layton is the oddest canary in the coal mine. But the release on mobile first of the newest in the long-running Nintendo puzzle series surely sounds the death knell for the 3DS console, for so long its natural home.

This is no abridged version of the charismatic cartoon brain-tickler. From the Studio Ghibli-esque visuals and the creditable voice cast to the wryly funny script and hundreds of knotty puzzles, this is Layton as we've known and loved.

Except, of course, without the titular Professor himself. This instalment features his daughter Katrielle as a private eye hunting for her missing dad while solving a series of mysteries in London.

In practice, the change makes little difference. Mystery Journey strongly resembles its forebears - including, bizarrely, a pointless emulation of the dual screens of the 3DS on your phone or tablet. The puzzles suffer occasionally from poor explanations that obscure a solution and, as always, they frequently bear little relation to the storyline.

Nonetheless, Mystery Journey proves a charming romp, though it faces a challenge persuading notoriously parsimonious mobile users to part with its €18 admission price.

Aven Colony

(PS4/XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 7+

Hands up if you remember SimCity, a building-simulator franchise that lies dormant after a disastrous sequel by EA in 2013. Aven Colony takes the concept into space, asking you to develop and manage outposts on a remote and hostile planet.

A hand-holding story mode establishes the ground rules - chiefly, mining sufficient resources and ensuring every corner of your biome is connected to adequate power. While it lacks the outright politics of SimCity, AC still requires you to juggle priorities to keep your colonists happy and safe.

Outside the hermetically sealed walls of your gleaming settlements lie threats from aliens with tentacles and meteor showers, among other things. But it's the dangers from within - diseases and discontent - that will keep you busiest in this enjoyable taken on a once-great sim.

Miitopia

(Nintendo 3DS) ★★★ Age: 7+

Inserting yourself into a story is a cheap form of entertainment and Miitopia extracts maximum mileage from the notion of incorporating your Mii avatar (and those of your friends, enemies or favourite celebs) into a breezy role-playing adventure.

It's undoubtedly fun for youngsters, who'll be amused by the gentle humour and wacky scenarios. But even they will recognise the lack of true depth in the turn-based combat and the linearity of the plot.

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