Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is the long awaited 3DS sequel to Nintendo’s cult classic Gamecube title, Luigi’s Mansion. Over a decade after its predecessor, Next Level Games (of Mario Strikers Charged fame) aimed to make Luigi a more expressive and likeable character through brilliant design and animation. Unfortunately, it’s just shy of being a perfect package.
Luigi’s Mansion did not have a very complex story and its follow-up is no exception to this rule. Luigi is once again tossed into paranormal shenanigans when Professor E. Gadd‘s friendly ghosts suddenly go crazy and start running amok, creating all sorts of havoc. The cause is due to the lack of a Dark Moon, which has been split into pieces across several different mansions in the area. So of course while E. Gadd sits lazily where it’s safe, Luigi is forced to jump into the fray with a new Poltergust vacuum and a trusty flashlight in order to put down the paranormal mischief and bring order back to E. Gadd’s research environment. It’s a charming little story with enough twists and turns to ‘wow’ younger audiences as well as entertain older ones. The character animations are nothing short of adorable, not unlike a CGI cartoon.
Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon’s gameplay is a remastering and reimagining of the first game’s ghost catching gameplay, made less repetitive and far more intuitive. Ghost catching is much simpler and much more fun than it was previously. Like in the first game, Luigi’s ghost capturing mechanics are based on stunning a ghost, then sucking them into the Poltergust with some exploration and fetch questing in between. A problem in the previous game is that ghosts would occasionally glitch and disappear after being hit with the flashlight. This problem is completely nonexistent in the followup as the flashlight will only ever stun ghosts when you ‘flash’ them with the A button. The flashlight can now be charged to unleash a huge flash that can stun more ghosts within a greater distance, making the act of starting a ghost capture somewhat skill based. The ghost will remain stunned for a few seconds and you can use the Poltergust without fail. There is also a brand new mechanic where after pulling on a ghost’s tail for long enough, you can “zap” them with the A button and reduce their health even further, bringing their counter closer to zero and increasing the financial reward when captured.
Luigi now has a “run” button, which can be used when strafing with the flashlight and the Poltergust’s vacuum mechanic, which largely comes in handy. To those concerned about the lack of a second stick, Next Level Games has effectively found a way to keep the controls smooth with a single nub. Luigi will turn a little toward the direction he is moving, making strafing much less of a chore than one would expect and rendering the dual stick control in the first game practically obsolete. Remember grabbing objects with the Poltergust in the first game and how finicky it was to shoot them? There is now an automatic targeting system, so you will never miss. Assuming you’re not inexperienced of course.
The minimap on the bottom screen is pretty effective for navigation, providing insight on rooms, floors, locked doors and other things you will discover. Among capturing ghosts and completing missions, you can also seek out invisible objects, Boos, money, gems and other such goodies to increase your final score. Levels can be replayed at one’s leisure, adding to the game’s immense replay value.
Speaking of which, to my surprise, Next Level Games provided an oddly good multiplayer component in the game. You and three other multicolored Luigis will work in a cooperative, and equally competitive, Ghostbuster-style to capture ghosts in Hunter mode, find an exit in Rush or seek out mischievous Polterpups. You can compete in a variety of modes and difficulties for first place and therefore, more reward which goes towards your overall money count in the single player mode and bring you closer to your next upgrade. The developers were kind enough to add some voice commands as well as an “Over here!” command for when you tap a room on the minimap to add some communication between players. Sadly, it’s insufficient and playing locally or using Skype when playing online is highly recommended. Online playability is surprisingly fantastic and I have experienced very few drops when playing with friends, even when using a poor online connection.
Sadly, here is where we have the only real flaw I see with this game, the glitches. There are game breaking ones, primarily in the multiplayer mode. My friends and I have experienced glitches of several different types that were sometimes funny, but often times frustrating. For example, we found a glitch that actually made a ghost get stuck in one of our Poltergust nozzles and rendered him unable to enter/exit doors. This was during a Rush mode where all four players are required to be in a specific room. We tried everything to help him get unstuck, but to no avail. This is only one of such glitches that will prevent you from ending the game properly. This is an issue that Nintendo would do well to update, akin to the online update they provided to Mario Kart 7’s unfair Maka Wuhu shortcut. Overall though, the experience is very fun and adds a ton of replay value, but requires some polish.
The graphics in Luigi look pretty similar to the graphics in Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Tennis Open, minus the bloom lighting. It’s actually pretty similar stylistically to the predecessor at times. The atmospheres are dark, but the game is overall more colorful than the first game, making for a more interesting visual experience. The ghosts are colorful and charming, if simplistic. The cutscenes are also appropriately cinematic and the animations are very cute. It’s no graphical marvel, but Dark Moon’s graphics are hardly anything to ignore.
With funny little sound bites and a cute and charming soundtrack, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is quite fun to listen to. Not only are moody, ambience-like background tracks used, but now there is a situational score that moves with Luigi as he gets scared in cutscenes. The music will swell as a ghost sneaks up on him and burst when Luigi jumps up in fright. A minor nitpick is that the mission complete track is not nearly as interesting as the one used in the first game, however the ringtone used when E. Gadd calls you is one of the catchiest tunes I’ve ever heard in a Nintendo game.
Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10
Luigi’s Mansion is not a perfect game by any means. There is some polish needed here for sure, mainly with the multiplayer, but don’t let that deter you. Play this game. Borrow it, rent it, get your hands on it if you have a 3DS. This is a brilliant game only hampered by minor issues that, while not ignorable, do not harm the overall appeal of this game. It’s a great game for Mario fans and a must own for anyone with a 3DS. And for Luigi’s Mansion fans, this is the proper sequel we’ve waited over 11 years for.
+ Fun and addictive gameplay
+ Adorable character animation
+ Well made online/local multiplayer
+ Solid soundtrack
+ Lots of replay value
– Game breaking glitches in multiplayer
– While the graphics are great, they aren’t as strong as its predecessor on Gamecube.
Copy of the game was purchased by the staff member for review purposes.