It’s interesting to see the trajectory that Level-5’s Layton series has taken over the years.
While remaining true to its roots as an interactive puzzle book with a narrative tying things together, each individual installment has experimented with the formula somewhat, even going so far as to replace the iconic protagonist Professor Hershel Layton with other leads in more recent installments.
Which, of course, leads us to Katrielle Layton, Hershel’s daughter and a wonderfully appealing character in her own right. Let’s take a closer look!
Katrielle is the star of Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy. At the outset of the game, we’re led to believe that Hershel has gone missing, and Katrielle is keen to track him down.
In true British stiff upper lip fashion, however, Katrielle does not allow the mystery surrounding her father to get her down, and instead remains relentlessly chipper throughout the game, setting up her own detective agency alongside her adoring assistant Ernest Greeves (who emphatically wants A Piece of That Ass and is almost certainly Never Going to Get It) and an amnesiac talking dog that she and Ernest name Sherl O.C. Kholmes.
Over the course of her game, Katrielle investigates a variety of different mysteries around London, and inevitably discovers that truth is stranger than fiction. This is entirely in keeping with her personality, however, because despite being extremely well-spoken and very polite (most of the time, anyway), she is also highly eccentric and individualistic.
During a case where a scene has been stolen from a film premiere, she spends a lot of her time more interested in the limited-edition durian flavour popcorn than the actual case itself. She believes that detectives who rely purely on concrete evidence rather than allowing gut instinct to enter the picture are doing themselves and their cases a disservice. And she is completely unshaken when incidents in her cases take a turn for the bizarre or seemingly implausible — or indeed, when a talking dog shows up on her doorstep asking for help recovering his lost memories.
Throughout Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy, Kat’s approach to solving mysteries with a combination of evidence and “miraculous instinct”, as she calls it, often puts her at loggerheads with rival detectives, such as Scotland Yard’s criminal profiler Emiliana Perfetti.
Perfetti, as her name suggests, believes in the absolute perfection of criminal profiling based on available evidence — but she’s inevitably outfoxed by Kat, who is willing to take those extra little leaps of logic and consider the seemingly improbable possibilities. This is, of course, firmly in keeping with the famous Sherlock Holmes quote by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. (The Sign of the Four, 1890, chapter 6, page 111)
Quite a few elements of Katrielle’s visual design bring her father to mind — particularly her “in the field” outfit, where she covers her red dress with a tan coat and small top hat at a jaunty angle. She has many of her father’s mannerisms, too, including pointing dramatically at the camera when solving puzzles and, indeed, a general affinity for both solving brainteasers herself and challenging her companions to figure things out.
Level-5 know that she has appeal beyond just having an outfit that looks a bit like her father’s, though; a significant part of Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy’s longevity comes from the wide variety of customisation options available, including a range of costumes for Katrielle to wear, plus decor and furniture to change the look and feel of her office. You probably won’t ever get her to tidy her desk up, however — and I can respect that, as I sit here surrounded by mountains of detritus, or the “ring of chaos” as my wife sometimes refers to it.
The dub versus sub argument will doubtless forever rage when it comes to Japanese popular media, but in the case of the Layton games there’s a strong case for the English dub being the most “authentic” way to experience the game, what with the whole thing being set in England and all. And indeed, Rosie Jones does a stellar job of portraying Katrielle throughout the game, providing just the right combination of English genteelness and sass, making Kat a great protagonist and a memorable character in her own right.
Katrielle can also be seen in the companion anime series Layton Mystery Detective Agency: Kat’s Mystery-Solving Files, in which we learn a bit more about her background and where she came from. We also see some more facets of her personality — including a somewhat hot-tempered streak that we don’t see a lot of in the game, and which inevitably terrifies poor lovestruck Ernest any time it happens.
Level-5’s modus operandi tends to be to create properties that can be explored across a variety of different media, and indeed the strong personality and distinctive design of Katrielle and the characters that surround her make her ideal for transmedia productions. As yet, we haven’t heard if Katrielle will be making a grand return in subsequent games, but Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy only came out on Switch in November of 2019 — so at the time of writing it’s perhaps a bit early to conjecture as to whether or not she has a bright future ahead of her!
I hope she does, though. She’s an immensely appealing character and, while some may miss the plummy tones of the Professor reassuring you that “every puzzle has an answer”, Katrielle’s self-confidence is infectious and makes you want to see all her cases through to their respective conclusions… if only so she can finally get the sweet treats she seems to constantly be craving!
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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