This competent and entertaining crossover adventure puzzle game is actually more of a collaborative experience, instead of the rivalry game implied in the title (Layton & Phoenix is more accurate). Professor Hershel Layton and his young protégé Luke Triton team up with Phoenix Wright and his legal assistant Maya Fey; Phoenix and Maya inject some nice humor into the game.
Developed by Level-5 and Capcom and published by Nintendo, Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is set in London, England and offers players a great adventure puzzle gameplay and court trial gameplay, which is often longer and occasionally a bit too lengthy; no spoilers here so read on.
Professor Layton’s subtitle could easily be “Master Mystery solver” or “Pro Puzzle Solver”. The subtitle of the game could easily be “The Mystery of Labyrinthia” – the mysterious setting in this series crossover installment. The two gameplay styles are adventure and trial, which follow the Layton and Wright series respectively. The medium to low difficulty satisfies fans and helps younger, less experienced players get in the act.
This Nintendo 3DS exclusive single-player game puts both main protagonists out of their comfort zones a bit. Players won’t be pushed far out of their comfort zones in the puzzle difficulty or courtroom strategy since they remain largely at a medium to low-level of difficulty. The character dialogue/hints and hint coins ensure players don’t have a hard time making progress – perfect for younger players.
The helpful hint coins are found in the adventure puzzle environments, but players can thankfully use hint coins in both the adventure/mystery solving sequences and the court trials.
Players also earn the game’s Picarat currency in both adventure/mystery solving and court trials. The amount depends on the player success rate. In the adventure/mystery solving that means get the right answer the first time for a maximum amount. In the court trials that means not getting any strikes (five total) for a maximum amount. Picarats can be spent to unlock bonus content.
As always, the character animations, reactions, and results help give players a satisfying feeling after successful outcomes. The 3D graphics create sharp contrasts and divide areas expertly and intentionally. The subtle character expressions/movements and camera pans showcase these appealing effects. The environments are very well done and have a nice mix of textured realism and cartoonish appeal.
Players can save their progress any time in the game (hit start button). Each lead gets their respective prologue and the voice acting and animated cut scenes continually enhance the plot. The new supporting cast of characters including Espella Cantabella, High Inquisitor Lady Darklaw, Great Witch Bezella, and the Story Teller who apparently can turn his writings into reality. Espella gets the most character time, but is largely used to progress the action, especially the involvement of the main characters. Not every supporting character hits the mark though, so it will be interesting to see if any of them make a return appearance.
Witches, relics, knights, bakeries, various “magic”, and supernatural occurrences present intrigue and interest well while injecting humor and some surprises into the plot.
Overall, the great adventure puzzle gameplay and court trial gameplay stay separate with some delightful combinations like Professor Layton jumping into the courtroom to help Phoenix Wright. The court trial differs with the added element of the Grand Grimoire – an important reference that contains various magic spells.
In the adventure/mystery solving sequences, the magnifying glass icon interaction wisely utilizes color to assist players. A brown/orange-colored magnifying glass interior means players can investigate more while a blue color cues players into areas where they can zoom in or another view is available. Orange and a sparkle means a hint coin.Yellow arrows mean entries where players can move into other areas.
The puzzles are well planned and designed. Only a stamp puzzle with irritating mechanics falls a bit short. Players must touch to stamp and swipe to move while in a bakery setting. Both action are difficult and it doesn’t matter if players use a stylus or touch with their finger.
In the court trails sequences, cross-examinations and pressing witnesses is the key action as players compare witness testimony and presented evidence. Patience, observation skills, listening, and multitasking are key skills for success here. Players start with five strikes (use the hint coins) then they’re out while witnesses provide many humorous moments by their behavior, which is often increasingly volatile as they sweat it out on the stand.
Composers Tomohito Nishiura and newcomer Yasumasa Kitagawa were supported by Yumiko Hashizume and Norihito Sumitomo in the creation of the strong musical score performed by the Layton Grand Caravan Orchestra that includes arrangements from both game series.
The robust and varied downloadable content provides yet another storyline and more gameplay for players. It’s a nice bonus that nicely boosts the already decent replay value of this highly recommended game.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler