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.
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.
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.
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.