Gaming Review: Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

The calm gentleman and the loud lawyer team up to deliver what I would call one of the best video game crossovers that could have been conjectured…and I was pleased to say that after playing it to the end, I was left with no objections. Professor Layton is a calm, elegant gentleman who has one of video games largest brains, and can solve any situation by turning it into a puzzle. On the other hand, Phoenix Wright bluffs and guesses his way through a court of law to prove his client Not Guilty. The two of them certainly don’t sound like they’d work well together, but the biggest surprise is just how well they DO work together.

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I think that half of the magic of this is down to the incredible story and writing that the game utilizes. Gone are the silly plot twists of the recent Layton games, as he hones back to his original trilogy of mind-boggling mysteries, and I’d like to say that this is thanks to having Shu Takumi on the task of creating the scenario. However, tragically, the storyline he delivers isn’t what will be considered to be amazing or epic, as a good storyline is apparently a pile of contrived nonsense involving serious zombies and depressing girls, with pseudo-realism and big guns helping the storyline along.  It’s really nice to have something this fresh and enjoyable, and that isn’t meant in a sarcastic tone or anything.

Phoenix Wright’s often made up of storylines like this, which are funny, amusing, yet packing a serious core underneath all of this, with a message to get across. You play this by poking around crime scenes and defending people in court, through a well thought out system of listening to witnesses and asking for more information or throwing evidence at them to get the results that you want. They tend to be more rooted in serious groundings, whilst Layton’s finest mystery has him investigating a time travelling machine which takes him to a London in the future. He investigates and solves puzzles by tapping people and objects with a touch screen, and doing lots of footwork to find all the hidden secrets. The puzzles are what you’d expect, to be honest. Some of them are very enjoyable ones, with the right amount of thinking and…Well, puzzling required getting to the answer, with the right combination of mathematics and wordplay.

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The gameplay this time takes some of the better ideas from the both. There’s an awful lot of reading, a fair amount of exploring and adventuring, then the rest of the game is filled in with logic puzzles and drama filled trials. The trials are wonderfully animated thanks to the cast of characters that the game utilizes, which also helps to bring the world of the game to life, with notable witnesses strumming on a banjo or squeezing a sheep on the stand, and the twist to this game is that you can have multiple witnesses at a time – the game does all the way up to ten of them at one point. This helps to make the trials the best parts of this game, as the drama and the slapstick comedy come to life here. New evidence and new testimonies bring everything on a rollercoaster journey backwards and forwards on a frequent basis until it comes to a startling stop, and this is all done through Wright and Layton using their famous pointing fingers to shout and pressure people.  Unfortunately, I often figured the cases out before the cast of characters did, as some of them had plot twists which were a little too obvious, or you just knew wouldn’t realistically happen, but the shining grace here was that the writing was perfect to sit through and experience.

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The mysteries of Labyrinthia were fascinating and interesting, and figuring out the tricks behind the magic was often some of the best moments in the game. With a flowing, dynamic story that works to please fans and appeal to newcomers, and stunning art and animation courtesy of Studio Bones, it’s even backed up by an outstanding musical score. The four loved main characters come together wonderfully, and whilst it may not be what I went into it expecting, I found that the quicker I lose my expectations the more I’ll enjoy the game, and I ended up doing just that. It has lost some of the challenge from both franchises in pulling them together, but that’s not really worth quibbling over, as many Wright fans would be put off by really difficult puzzles, and vice versa.

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Ultimately, the game is utterly charming from the word go, with a structure that pays perfect homage to both its core franchises. It’s got a funny, witty and clever story, with plenty of epic moments to go through. It’s a little too easy for me, personally, and it is possible to figure out certain aspects of the plot before you’re meant to, but that’s not a negative point when the delivery is so well done. It’s a wonderful example of storytelling in games, and I really hope that developers will try more things like this.

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