The name may be familiar, but anyone entering the Mystery Room expecting a whimsical tale of tea drinking, light detective work, and several dozen brainteasers may be surprised by Level-5's latest.

For, while he is indeed the son of Hershel, Alfendi Layton has a darker side that's entirely fitting for the game he's in. This has much more in common with the pacy drama you'd associate with Phoenix Wright than the gentle Sunday afternoon mysteries the Professor likes to solve.

And, as with the Ace Attorney series, this game doesn't shy away from the grislier details of the murders you're asked to investigate.

You can call him Al

The Mystery Room of the title is shorthand for a crime scene simulator that produces a perfect digital replica Alfendi and his young assistant Lucy can explore without having to venture outside Scotland Yard.

Each case begins with you, as Lucy, getting five minutes to briefly investigate the scene of a murder before guessing the culprit from a short list of suspects. At that stage, you only have a hunch to go off, but it's satisfying when your guess tallies with Layton's, who'll give his own opinion, along with a percentage representing how confident he is in his deduction.

The game soon settles into a pattern. First, you manoeuvre around the crime scene from above with simple gestures, tapping areas of interest, and using a slider to zoom-in and pinpoint finer details, often discovering key evidence in the process.

Then you'll get to interview a suspect, in many cases returning to the crime scene afterwards when his testimony inevitably sheds new light on the mystery.

Hidden objection

There's a real zip to the back-and-forth rhythm of these arguments that's reminiscent of the courtroom battles in Ace Attorney, with your words represented as physical arrows, chipping away at a physical mask that eventually cracks to reveal the dark heart beneath their veneer of lies.

Throughout each case, Layton will ask questions along the way to test how closely you're paying attention - there's no punishment for getting it wrong - but, equally, you'll be delighted when you're right.

Presenting crucial evidence at the right time has a similar trial-and-error quality to Ace Attorney, and during the trickier cases there are plenty of items to consider, so it's easy to get stuck.

Critical thinking is the key to success

That said, the vast majority of answers are logical, despite the odd moment when two pieces of evidence both make sense, and there's no penalty for mistakes apart from having to sit through a couple of lines of dialogue once more while you get another chance to pick.

More annoying are the few occasions when you're ahead of the curve and waiting for the characters to catch up, not least when you're asked to present a blindingly obvious contradiction or link two statements that give the direct answer to the question rather than something more cryptic for you to figure out.

But while initially it seems to settle into an all-too-predictable pattern (the chief suspect instantly appears with a shell around its heart, so it's simply a case of proving its guilt), Mystery Room throws in a few narrative and structural curveballs.

The nutty professor

Meanwhile, we begin to learn more about the enigmatic Layton and his hidden past, and the reasons behind those strange, dark-hearted outbursts that often result in a closed case but which prove unnerving for his young partner.

The writing is exemplary, tying together a series of genuinely intriguing murder scenarios and populating each with memorable characters. This is another wonderful Level-5 localisation effort that features a number of British regional accents through the written word alone.

Mystery Room's linearity and rigid structure won't sit well with everyone, but this is a gripping detective yarn that Ace Attorney fans in particular could easily fall in love with.

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