Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright review (3DS)

I somehow knew that we hadn't seen the last of Professor Layton when Capcom announced that The Azran Legacy would be the last title to feature him as a protagonist – and it seems I was right, as less than five months later, he's back!

There have been some mad mash-up games in the past few years, with very mixed results. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare was brilliant, whereas Yakuza: Dead Souls was a snooze. Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds was so awesome I almost thought the joke was some kind of late April fool, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games was just a franchise too far. Angry Birds Star Wars was hilarious, whereas Aliens vs Predator was just unintentionally funny. I could go on.

Fortunately – as if there was ever any doubt – Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is BRILLIANT, and the game works by staying completely faithful to both the originals.

The game starts off when a mysterious girl called Espella arrives at Professor Layton's office, declaring she's being hunted by witches and comes from a strange place called Labyrinthia.

As a Londoner, Layton has never heard of this place; neither has Espella heard of any of the cities and countries we are familiar with. She's clutching a book she claims tells everything there is to know about this odd city – including its future. She begs the Professor to keep her safe from the witches, but before we can learn any more, Luke (who I often think is kept around just to mess things up) opens a window to let in a poorly pigeon and inadvertently allows the witches to recapture the girl.

After a suitable amount of puzzles, banter and Britishness, we switch to Ace Attorney mode, where famed defense attorney Phoenix Wright has landed in London and – undisturbed by any minor differences between the law in his home country and that in England, is tasked with being Espella's defense counsel in a trial where she is accused of theft and assault.

In this part, you must cross-examine suspects and present evidence at the correct moment, and can expect to see a whole host of comedy characters to grill on the witness stand.

Without giving any more of the story away, the game switches back and forth between these two different modes, spending what feels like just the right amount on each before moving on. The two styles fit together remarkably well, perhaps because they share the common element of humour. The only thing I did find was that there seemed to be a leap in the difficulty level from the Professor's puzzles to Phoenix Wright's cross-examinations.

I've played all the games in both series, and if I found that, I can imagine that someone who has only followed the Professor Layton games before would probably initially struggle to get through these sections. It would also have been nice to either be reminded to save regularly once you get in the court room or to be able to restart further in to the chapter, as I found that once I ran out of chances to question the first witness right on his very final statement, I was kicked right back to the beginning of the chapter.

If you're reading this before playing the game, don't make the same mistake – save often to avoid having to monotonously click through oodles of dialogue a second time. You're welcome.

But, honestly, that's the only real issue I had with this game. Everything else about it was exactly what you'd expect a mash up of the two games to be, and if you're a fan of both you're really in for a treat. If you're a fan of just one of them, this is a great chance to see if you'd enjoy the other games, too, and if you haven't played either of them before, well, maybe it's time to see what all the fuss is about in a handy two-in-one package.

Playing this game, I had the same feeling I get when I'm reading a great book – I wanted to take my time with it, as I knew that once it was finished I'd find myself wishing that it hadn't had to.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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