Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

There's nothing quite like that rush as you finally solve a problem or come up with a brilliant idea. The phenomenon even has its own word - eureka.

So whoever came up with the brilliant match-up of Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright must have been pretty pleased with himself.

At first it doesn't seem the most obvious of combinations: one is a professor with a love of puzzles, and the other is a criminal defence lawyer.

Take a closer look, though, and things begin to make more sense. Both rely on clever thinking and quick wits to save the day, and both lead characters are accompanied by plucky young sidekicks.

Most importantly of all, they share a love of dramatic finger-pointing. What better reason for a crossover?

The combination conundrum

These pointing powerhouses are brought together after crossing paths with a mysterious girl in London. Events soon move to Labyrinth city, a town where every event is foretold in tales written by a man known only as the Storyteller, and the concept of witch trials is taken all too literally.

The 'vs' of the title proves to be misleading: there are questions to be answered and innocence to be proven, creating the ideal conditions for a team-up.

Fortunately, the gameplay from both series co-exists as happily as the characters themselves. The game is divided into chapters, keeping the puzzles and trials separate, but characters flow freely between the two. Everyone gets a turn solving riddles or helping out in the courtroom.

The tried-and-tested Layton formula is all too familiar, with you moving from screen to screen looking for likely hiding spots for hint coins and talking to a cast of quirky characters.

The problems you encounter can frequently, and quite conveniently, be summed up into puzzles. These take a variety of forms, but they uniformly offer the perfect level of challenge. You'll feel clever without ever becoming completely stumped.

Order in the court

The basic structure of the Ace Attorney trials remains the same as ever - you probe witnesses' statements before revealing evidence to prove any contradictions. However, with the new setting the trials are invigorated with some fresh takes on old ideas.

Fingerprints and blood stains are out, magic books and spells are in, and an entirely new mechanic is introduced: you have to cross-examine growing numbers of witnesses simultaneously, watching to see how they react to one another. Hint coins carry over from puzzle chapters and can be used at any time to provide a nudge in the right direction.

The cases are as wild as ever, swinging gaily between seriousness and absurdity. Demanding testimony from a cat is among the soberer events. As the music kicks in after turning things around you'll struggle not to get caught up in the moment. Few games can match the thrill of finally cornering a suspect.

Picture-book perfect

Both halves of the game share the same polished presentation throughout. Gorgeously animated cut-scenes and voice acting kick in during key moments, bringing the world and its characters to life.

Unfolding in picturesque scenes full of detail, Labyrinth City is a storybook come to life. This fairytale world reveals a darker side during the trials. Torchlit courts hold an air of menace as hooded figures watch, looming in the shadows.

The answers to the town's many mysteries don't come easily, meaning there are more than 30 hours of gameplay to get through. Individual trials can take hours, and there's no shortage of talking between puzzles, so be prepared to settle down to get the most from the experience.

Thankfully, for such a text-heavy game, the writing is strong throughout. There are twists and cliffhangers aplenty, so you'll want to keep on playing just to see what happens. There's a surprising degree of maturity to the plot - witch trials may provide the perfect excuse for having a lawyer in a fantasy setting, but there's something grim in the fact that convicted defendants are burned alive.

As a crossover it's perfect. Like pieces of a puzzle, everything fits together perfectly, highlighting the best points of each series. Approachable enough for newcomers and packed full of knowing nods to delight fans, it's the ideal game to let out the secret genius in us all.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

With its winning mix of puzzles and courtroom craziness, it doesn't take a genius to see that picking this game up is a no-brainer
Steven Hamilton
Steven Hamilton
Steven once made a major life decision based on the fact that he really likes games. Years later, not only does he get to play games all day but he can also speak Japanese. Banzai!