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Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney review

As different as shouty chalk and very polite cheese

Are you a boop-boop-boop or a beep-beep-beeper? You can tell a lot about a man from the sound of his scrolling dialogue box. No two tones are more opposed than Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright's. Layton's softer blip is the sound of a gentleman regaling you with a polite yarn over a cup of tea. Ace Attorney's, on the other hand, is the shrill, mechanical clack of a virtual stenographer frantically trying to keep up with the madness unfolding before him. So what happens when beep meets boop?

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Capcom and Level-5 are in no rush to offer an answer. The first big surprise of PLVPW:AA is how long the PL and the PW:AA spend on their respective sides of that 'versus'. Like nervous teens at a school disco they eye each other up, waiting for the sugary hit of narrative-flavoured Panda Pops to push them into one another's arms. So, for three hours or so, you play a chunk of a Layton game and a chunk of an Ace Attorney game. Neither deviates massively from its established formula. Him in the hat solves light, spatial puzzles and pokes at sofas until coins fall out; him with the hair shouts, sweats and flukes his way through to a not-guilty verdict.

If the building blocks are familiar, there's an unusual architect piling them up. With Ace Attorney creator, Shu Takumi, on scenario duty, he's free to push Layton into Wright's darker territory. Hershel's chocolate box London is replaced with a crueller landscape - a chocolate box in which all the good ones have been eaten, leaving only the strawberry horrors. Lightning looms, cars crash and a desperate soul knocks on our door. She speaks of witches and holds a book that allegedly charts future events; this clash of rational gent against the supernatural provides an enticing hook to the story.

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Meanwhile, over in the courtroom, the hook is as simple as seeing Wright written by the man who created him. As great as the Takumi-free Dual Destinies was, no writer 'gets' these characters like their maker. In a timeline-befuddling move, Wright is again working with Maya Fey, letting Takumi serve up the brilliant back-and-forth we found lacking in last year's 3DS treat. For fans it's like the two never went away, while newcomers get to meet two of gaming's most endearing klutzes afresh. Basic gist: he gets flustered, she asks dumb questions, they somehow stumble on the answer and then everyone shouts. Hey, it worked for 60 hours on DS and still works now.

The magic, of course, happens when Takumi brings everyone together. Literal magic, in this case: a spell sees both parties - Layton and Luke, Wright and Maya - pulled into the medieval city of Labyrinthia. It's a world cleverly designed to defy each hero. What good is Layton's logic in a city where magic is accepted and openly practised? And how can Wright sniff out contradictions in testimony when the impossible is made possible through that magic? Again, we're used to Ace Attorney exploring deeper topics - usually the intricacies of the defender/prosecutor dynamic - but it's neat to see the prof facing a crisis more existential than 'where did the thing go?'.

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It also gives our cast a reason to buddy up. The heroes ignore the title of their own game and decide two heads are better than one. Especially when both heads have such awesome hair/hats. From their barmy, flour-coated first meeting to Layton's failed attempts to explain the beauty of puzzle solving to a perplexed Phoenix and Maya, the partnership is comic gold. And story twists see the gang teaming up in fun combinations, whether it's watching priggish Layton dealing with abrasive Maya, or seeing the sidekicks team up for a long-awaited spell in the limelight.

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  1. martynm Friday 28th Mar 2014 at 12:30

    The game feels really strange at first. What I have played so far is fun. you can sort of feel like the two series are slowly being infected by the other mechanics. For example. The 'sign my helmet line' in the prologue feels very Attorney and the hint coins to point you in the right direction ( not to mention finding out the !'s can be converted to Picarats. Makes you really have to think like the other game at times.

    Also, Mayas way to discovering whether you can hit someone over the back of the head while facing them is very funny

  2. Commandervideo Friday 28th Mar 2014 at 20:13

    First time playing a phoenix wright game, and going by the prologue I suck at the phoenix wright sections.

  3. mister R Saturday 29th Mar 2014 at 05:25

    oh man i really need to get caught up on both these serieses don't i xD

  4. linkenski Saturday 29th Mar 2014 at 13:31

    Playing the game (Finally!!! after waiting for 4 years!) and I just love every second of it so far (7 hours in)

    It's really weird to consider that Takumi writes Layton's dialogue in this game. It is noticable since he keeps saying "That is the duty of every gentleman" rather than his usual down to earth attitude of "That's what a gentleman does". It kinda feels like how Apollo and Phoenix were handled in Dual Destinies since they weren't written by Takumi, and the new writer Takeshi Yamazaki felt like he had to 'tack on' the "Believe in your client" thing or "I'm fine" and just repeat it a bit too often.

    Still, Shu Takumi has such a great sense of humor and in return that makes Layton shine even more. It's not like him and Luke are out of character or anything major, it's just that it IS noticable that they're written by a different guy this time, but it's more of a win-lose thing rather than win-win or lose-lose :-P

  5. lewprydav Saturday 29th Mar 2014 at 14:30

    I wish I could get this game but I'm low on picarats :oops:

  6. fisher2007 Saturday 29th Mar 2014 at 23:36

    I'm getting this next week.

  7. martynm Sunday 30th Mar 2014 at 09:51

    I'm getting this next week.

    You'll like it.

  8. KateONM Monday 31st Mar 2014 at 10:43

    Am I an idiot, or do some of the Layton puzzles not make sense?!

    I think with some of the more recent games the wording has got a lot more complicated, and I appreciate that some of the puzzle concepts are difficult to explain, but on occasion I've found myself using all the hint coins because I don't understand what I'm meant to do.

    Also, sometimes the 'pointing out evidence' in Wright's sections is silly. So, I can point to her hand to signify she was/wasn't holding something, but it has to be the right hand? Bah. It's always been silly in the PW:AA games because the game expects you to realise certain things fairly slowly, but when you're way ahead of the plot, it can be a bit frustrating to wait for everyone else to catch up.

    http://awkwardzombie.com/index.php?page=0&comic=123013 This is what I mean!

    That said, I think this game is so, SO awesome. Even the smallest details have me squeeing with delight. The 3D in the cutscenes - oooh! The combination of Layton/Wright text beeps and boops - wow! The art style - yes! Nintendo and Capcom have a hell of a lot to live up to.

    I mean, to rival a game of this calibre and this level of fan service, they're going to have to combine Zelda and Mario. And that would just be a train wreck, surely?

  9. martynm Monday 31st Mar 2014 at 12:07

    I think with some of the more recent games the wording has got a lot more complicated, and I appreciate that some of the puzzle concepts are difficult to explain, but on occasion I've found myself using all the hint coins because I don't understand what I'm meant to do

    I haven't had too much trouble with the puzzles. I've heard they are easier than in usual Layton games and I'll admit I've stumbled across the answer (for example, who killed the King? I chose the knight because, you know, his sword was out. She probably did it) I've only used 6 coins so far but, it's still early days.

    Also, sometimes the 'pointing out evidence' in Wright's sections is silly. So, I can point to her hand to signify she was/wasn't holding something, but it has to be the right hand? Bah. It's always been silly in the PW:AA games because the game expects you to realise certain things fairly slowly, but when you're way ahead of the plot, it can be a bit frustrating to wait for everyone else to catch up.

    That's always been the case but the thing is it does feel like it's like that in this game a little more as I'm thinking of 2 or 3 things that'd make good evidence but ones only relevant til later in the case. i use up a bit of credibility that way. That said, the cross examination pieces are clever with the 'Hang on!' parts.

    That said, I think this game is so, SO awesome. Even the smallest details have me squeeing with delight. The 3D in the cutscenes - oooh! The combination of Layton/Wright text beeps and boops - wow! The art style - yes! Nintendo and Capcom have a hell of a lot to live up to.

    Level-5 cruelly overlooked in the development... :P

  10. KateONM Monday 31st Mar 2014 at 12:56

    Level-5 cruelly overlooked in the development... :P

    Oh, duh. Oops. I guess it's because I'm still on the court section!

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