*Authors Note* Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon is an exclusive title for Nintendo’s 3DS. Mild Spoilers are contained within this review.
It’s been a long time since Luigi got his own stand-alone adventure. The last time we saw him was in 2001’s (Or 2002 for any of us outside of Japan/America) Gamecube launch title Luigi’s Mansion. The game was well received but perhaps due to the relative commercial failure of the Gamecube, Luigi was once again relegated to the side-kick roll in dozens of following Mario titles. Well now Luigi is back and has a chance to shine once again in the successor to Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.
Evershade Valley was living in peace, Professor E. Gadd lived in his laboratory with friendly ghosts where he studied them at length, everything was as it should be, until one night where the ‘Dark Moon’ that hung over the Valley was shattered into half a dozen pieces, and as a result the once friendly ghosts have now turned hostile and are wreaking havoc upon E. Gadd and the neighbouring mansions. Our unlikely hero Luigi is enjoying the relaxed, comfortable life until he gets dragged to Evershade Valley by E. Gadd, re-equipped with his trusty Poltergust 5000 vaccuum, and torch and must set out to the five mansions in the area, and collect the Dark Moon pieces, so it can be reassembled and peace can fall upon Evershade Valley once more. King Boo of course is the ring-leader of all these shenanigans and Luigi learns along his journey that as well as breaking up the Dark Moon pieces he has also captured Mario inside a painting, giving Luigi extra incentive to bring about the end of Boo’s dastardly scheme.
The fundamental mechanics of Dark Moon haven’t changed since the original title but due to the 3DS only having one analogue stick versus the Gamecube which had two, the mapping of some controls have changed. Rather than using the right analogue stick to aim Luigi’s torch like in the predecessor, you must now use the X and B buttons to aim either vertically up or down, with the small system this can become ergonomically uncomfortable after a while, and certainly the optional use of the circle pad pro would have been much appreciated just to make control less taxing, but considering the limitations that the system presents, control are well executed, and achieve what they set out to accomplish, albeit with some moments of discomfort. As in the previous game, Luigi is out to catch Ghosts with his Poltergust 5000 and in order to do so you must expose the Ghosts first, you do this by amplifying the power of your torch, forcing them out of hiding before sucking them up with the vacuum. Some ghosts will take a significant period to weaken before sucking up, while others will use objects to protect their heads, preventing you from shining the torchlight directly into their faces. There are also a range of obstacles constantly in Luigi’s path, and these damage dealing foes, or puzzles must be dealt with by, typically with the aid of the vacuums sucking or blowing features. Finally, there will also be objects (and Boos) that can only be revealed with the use of Luigi’s Darklight, so utilising this tool will be a must to uncover some of the games many secrets as well as to defeat the Boos. The game is very structured, with five mansions and within each mansion there being six missions to complete (inclusive of each mansions final boss), but within each mansion there are dozens of things to collect, from a range of gems, to the capturing of Boos and also cash which is used to upgrade your Darklight and Poltergust, making them more powerful and efficient for ghostbusting.
Despite a deliberately comical approach to the game, Dark Moon still has the ability to startle you every now and then, from the creepy mansion design, to ghosts that suddenly emerge from a chest of drawers that you are searching through, and the 3D effect can really emphasize the scare factor at times. Visually though, the game looks sensational and appears to be stretching the 3DS’s capabilities, but also clever, funny ghost design and a surprisingly diverse colour palette constantly keeps the eyes engaged. Despite already being a sensational game, it is however the audio and dialogue that stands out above everything else, from the taunts of nearby ghosts that keep you on your toes at all times, to the creaking of the mansion, and Luigi’s moans and groans of fear, the atmosphere is kept tense at all times, supported by a simple, yet highly effective soundtrack. The dialogue however is hilarious, and Luigi’s complaints, sighs and squeals just add to the laughs, it never means to take itself seriously, and that adds to charm even further.
The game also introduces a surprisingly engaging and enjoyable co-operative multiplayer mode called the “Scarescraper”, where each of four players control a different coloured Luigi and work to complete a specified objective within a certain time limit. There is little to no communication between teammates possible so it means that it can be a bit chaotic at the beginning but once the team recognises a routine occurring, then things operate quite smoothly. The players will have to either capture all the ghosts on the floor they’re on, race to find the exit to the level OR pursue a ghost dog and capture it (they can be a bit of a handful at times). By completing the objective for the floor, the team then moves up to the next level of the building. The Scarescraper can be played locally or via the online Nintendo Network.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon has released for the 3DS and as exceptional as it is, it could have benefited from being released on Nintendo’s new Wii U console, for the purposes of better control, and the fact that the console is struggling at the minute and could reap rewards from incredible games such as this. You will have a blast through the games approximately 12-15hour journey, laughing the whole way through, and one can only hope that it doesn’t take Nintendo this long to release another entry in this franchise.