Review: Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Puzzles and contradictions are abound in Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney! The two protagonists are magically transported to the medieval town of Labyrinthia, where they must not only solve the mystery of the witches plaguing the area, but also how the characters got there in the first place. The player performs this task by completing both the brainteaser puzzles that have become a staple of the Professor Layton series and the trial portions of the Phoenix Wright games.

*Tips hat* M'lady

Layton is about to Oddjob someone.

The actual gameplay of this title is a good mash of puzzles and trials, with both characters from each series participating in each. Some chapters of the game will have Phoenix and Maya Fey, Phoenix’s assistant, participating in puzzles, while others will have Layton and Luke Triton, Layton’s assistant, bringing up contradictions in the court room. For fans of either series it is a bit of a joy to see Wright complete a puzzle and Layton yell out Wright’s famous “Objection!” line. While the court room elements are on par for the Phoenix Wright series, the brainteaser puzzles seem to be a bit watered down versus what one is used to in the Professor Layton series. The puzzles appear to be mainly story-driven and the side quest hidden puzzles are few and far between. Also, save for a few tougher puzzles, they seem to be much easier than what this author is used to in the previous games in that series. However, this is most likely a necessary sacrifice the developers had to make to get the court room elements into the game.

Ehhh, sit on it, ya turkey!

This guy is essentially the Fonzie of this game.

Much like the previous games in each series, Labyrinthia is full of unique, funny characters. The player will run into bards, witches, and an absent-minded judge, a staple of the Phoenix Wright games. There is even a cameo at the very end of the game by a fan favorite character of the Ace Attorney games. This author’s favorite was a beer-guzzling drunk who seemed to always be around to witness a crime, but always ends up being the worst witness to cross-examine on the witness stand. A runner-up being a soldier in the city who really, really enjoys being stepped on by a female soldier in his garrison. A majority of the characters have smirk-worthy puns in their names, usually referring to the character’s occupation. However, these characters seem to be rare while the player is exploring the city, unlike other games in the Layton series which would have some areas packed with characters to interact with. It is a bit obvious that the developers of the game focused more on the court room chapters than the exploration/puzzle chapters.

I wish he would Mackle-LESS!

I think this is how Macklemore writes his songs.

While the puzzles may not be what fans of the previous Layton games are used to, the court room cross-examinations are right on par for the Ace Attorney games. The witches court of Labyrinthia is set up just like the courts of the Wright games: Phoenix presents contradictions in a witness’ testimony using either the evidence at his disposal or the witness’ testimony itself. All while a Prosecutor, or an Inquisitor in this case, attempts to dispute these contradictions and find flaws in Wright’s theories. The most interesting addition to this game is the ability to cross-examine multiple witnesses at once, as this is not exactly the most fair or unbiased court room Wright has seen. This forces the player to pay a bit more attention the testimony, as while one witness is speaking another might hear a keyword that triggers a memory and Wright can pause the testimony to hear what the second witness has to say. As there is no indication to this other than an audible noise made by the second witness, the player must listen for these triggers so as to not miss out on possible new evidence. One of the more interesting cases has Wright cross-examining ten witnesses at once.

As this game was obviously made as fan service for those into the Layton and Ace Attorney games, a new player to either series may not get as much enjoyment out of the title. There is not much explanation to the back story of any characters other than that Wright is a defense attorney with a psychic as his assistant and Layton really loves puzzles and has a weird relationship with Luke. Although the puzzles are somewhat watered down from previous Layton games, the two game types are merged together nicely. The “vs” part of the title does not make much sense for a majority of the game, as Wright and Layton usually work together to solve the mysteries of Labyrinthia. Even without much back story to any of the returning characters and the watered down puzzles, this game is a great choice for puzzle or adventure game fans and especially for those who enjoy both genres.

9 comments on “Review: Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney”

  1. @Lusi: Some guy. Why duncha google ’em?

    @Mr. Bup: I heard some other opinions on this game, which marries two series I never cared for, and they said that it seemed like the devs didn’t know how to get these two characters together so they put them in a world foreign to both, to their disappointment. That seems a bit of a shame, if true.

  2. @Mel I can see that. I’m a huge Phoenix Wright fan and I enjoy the Layton games, so that most likely helped in me enjoying this title.

  3. @Mel – I have plenty of complaints about this game, but that is definitely not one of them.

  4. @Ethos: Please list all of your complaints, arranged alphabetically by subject.

  5. Mechanics:
    H – Half-assed. Near the end of the game they try to combine the gameplay types and it’s actually pretty successful, but it happens so few times. Why did they bother?
    P – Puzzles. Easy as shit. Not designed by Akira Tago and it shows.
    S – Stuck in one gameplay mode without the option to jump between.
    T – Too obvious. I got most of my wrong answers in Phoenix Wright because I assumed the piece of information I was supposed to reveal was too obvious and I made a more complicated prediction. It never really got harder either.

    Sound:
    L – Luke. What the fuck was up with his voice?
    M – Music. Decent, but didn’t follow the story. Not enough musical themes tied to story themes.

    Story:
    C – Character. This ties into the next one, but so many characters are introduced and played out for their plot point purpose, but it ends up being entirely one-dimensional. Speaking of one-dimensional. Maya.
    T – Thematic cohesion. There are so many great themes and symbols at play in the game and it introduces them all with such promise, but then never follows through, hoping that a info dump at the end is enough. A mystery is intriguing for more reasons than seeing where all the technical pieces fit into place. Creating a traumatic event in a character’s history and then tying it all up in a happy ending isn’t the same as true exploration of theme. Having characters give dramatic speeches with emotion isn’t the same as real emotion. Professor Layton has had varied success (Unwound Future = excellent, Azran Legacy = pretty good, Last Spector = terrible), and this ended up being like Last Spector even though it started off like it could be more like Unwound Future.

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