When the original Luigi’s Mansion was launched on GameCube all those years ago, it looked as though Mario’s bumbling brother might just have found a series all of his own – unfortunately, none of us could have expected that it would almost twelve years before we’d see the follow up. Given Nintendo’s fondness for pushing popular titles and series’, the lack of a sequel on the Wii, and then from the Wii U’s launch lineup suggested that the title may have been forgotten about but, thankfully, that has proven not to be the case.
Despite its freshness and undoubted originality, the first title in the series was just too short for our liking. With only a single mansion to explore, it felt as if it was over before it had even begun. This time around, there are no such issues, and it really does seem as if the time between titles has been spent refining and finessing a concept that carried so much potential right out of the traps.
There are some obvious differences between Dark Moon and the original, most notably the fact that, since this is a 3DS title, the control scheme has had to be tweaked somewhat in order to make it as functional as possible with just a single analog stick. To Nintendo’s credit, they’ve done a masterful job of tweaking everything to work smoothly and without issue.
The 3DS’s solitary thumb stick is used to move Luigi around, with sucking and blowing with the Poltergust utilizing the L and R triggers respectively. Vertical adjustments to your aim are carried out through the X and A buttons. Initially, it’s a mechanic that feels a little more complicated and restrictive than it needs to, but once you’ve successfully taken on a few spooks it quickly becomes second nature. It would undoubtedly have been a more accurate experience with a second thumb stick, but given Nintendo’s curious decision to omit such a thing from the 3DS hardware, this is about as good an alternative as we could have expected.
Once you’ve figured out the basics, from utilizing the Poltergust to interact with the environment and capture ghosts, you’ve got a huge adventure in front of you – no, seriously, this is a MASSIVE game – and one that hits all the right marks more often than not. In typical Nintendo fashion, things are kept quite light-hearted on the narrative front, with both Luigi and Professor E. Gadd serving up some really quite amusing moments despite facing a rather nasty predicament.
Gadd, who you’ll remember from the first game, is a scientist who specializes in study of the paranormal. Throughout his years of experience he has come to learn that ghosts aren’t necessarily all that bad, particularly those found in one special part of the world. When a strange force destroys the Dark Moon that kept these ghosts in check, things start to go awry, and that’s where Luigi comes into play. Transported to Gadd’s hideout, he’s tasked with collecting the parts of the Dark Moon and getting to the bottom of the force that has torn it apart.
As you progress through the game’s multiple mansions, you’ll come up against increasingly difficult foes, each requiring some diverse tactics and clever implementation of the tools at hand. Far more puzzle based than its predecessor, there are times when Dark Moon frustrates, but they’re, thankfully, few and far between. Another slight niggle is the fact that checkpoints are often too far apart to make for a truly portable experience. There are times where you’ll need to spend a good 25-40 minutes figuring out a mission without having the ability to save as you go, which isn’t ideal for a handheld game.
These issues aside, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon ticks all the right boxes literally everywhere else. Players are rewarded for exploration and experimentation throughout the sprawling mansions, with special bonus missions, gems and assorted goodies up for grabs, all making for an incredibly deep and immersive experience.
The package is rounded out by a particularly clever multiplayer aspect, known where, with up to three friends, you’ll be able to explore a spooky multi-floored high rise to your hearts’ content, busting ghosts, searching for secrets or just hanging out with your buddies.
As a follow up to a game that has been begging for a sequel for so long, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is just about perfect. Sure there are some frustrating moments, and you might occasionally find yourself completely stuck due to missing a lever or something, but overall it’s everything we could have wished for and then some! Nintendo is claiming that 2013 is “The Year of Luigi”, and on this showing we’re not going to argue.