I’m not afraid to say it. I was a massive fan of the Gamecube. While my mates bragged about their Xbox and Playstation 2, I found myself enamoured with small discs filled with infectious Nintendo charm.
And to that I hold, one of the finest games on the system was one that shipped at launch: Luigi’s Mansion. Suffice it to say, I’ve been waiting a very long time for a follow up.
Release: Out Now
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon does make occassional subtle winks toward Pink Floyd’s most famous album; the story is lot deeper and more detailed than the original Gamecube title, but it’s still full of the charm that made the original title so endearing. Thankfully, Nintendo haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel too drastically here, although there are some big differences between the two titles which I’ll get into shortly.
Luigi thought he was done with ghosts and could go back to fixing toilets and plugging leaks. He was wrong. Professor E. Gadd needs his help once again, pops up on his TV set during a quiet moment and sucks him into the Evershade Valley to save the day. The valley is being haunted by all sorts of poltergeists and abominations. Fortunately, the game is happy to reunite the green-overalled plumber with a Poltergust vacuum in an effort to reduce the see-through population once and for all.
Upon Luigi’s arrival, the Dark Moon which shines over the Valley explodes into six pieces, causing all ghosts in the area to become more hostile than ever before, and while Luigi was never a big fan of ghosts, even though he previously confronted the mighty King Boo and his minions, he must now face his greatest challenge yet.
The game handles almost identically to its Gamecube counterpart. Luigi uses a flashlight to stun ghosts, making them vulnerable to the vacuum and susceptible to sucking. He also gets boosts which make the light affect a larger area, making several ghosts vulnerable at once. There are several other power-ups I won’t detail here for spoilers, but each is appropriate and an excellent fit for the franchise.
One new feature I will talk about, however, is the Dual Scream which uses the bottom screen of the 3DS. This device allows E.Gadd to contact Luigi at any time, but also displays a mini map, objectives and notable points. Sadly, you can’t interact with the map in great detail (such as setting waypoints or adding notes as with Mirror of Fate) but the maps are never overly large so the player will never feel totally overwhelmed or unable to gather their bearings. Also levels are structured in a more bitesize, handheld friendly form and parts of the mansion will only unlock once certain areas have been neutralised.
There is a much stronger puzzle focus in Dark Moon compared to its predecessor and that’s a good thing. Players will need to be much more aware of their environment than in previous instalments and be unafraid to try new things, such as blowing out candles to darken a room or have Luigi suck up a carpet, rolling it up to reveal something underneath. E.Gadd will usually give players a gentle nudge if they’re really struggling, but going it alone, this will force the use of gray matter, especially when players are just starting out and getting used to how the game plays. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking Professor Layton levels of head-scratching, but there’s challenges to be had all the same.
Another new feature in Dark Moon is the multiplayer competitive co-op, called Scare-Scraper. Up to 4 Players can now join together to explore multiple floors of a mansion, both working together and against each other. There is a time-limit on each floor and players will have various set objectives to complete before they can progress to the next floor. Scare-Scraper never plays the same way as there are different layouts for each floor, as well as different enemy positionings and powerups. Players will either be required to capture all ghosts on a floor, race to find the exit, pursue and capture ghost dogs or be faced with a surprise objective which could be any of the previously mentioned. The game responds and works well over the Nintendo Network, but can also be played locally (which actually makes for the most fun). Talking strategies with players in the same room one minute, then competing against each other in the next, creates a unique multiplayer dynamic and one that actually works quite well for a game that has historically been a single-player only affair. The multiplayer mode is very likely to be expanded with additional content and modes down the line, and I can’t wait to see how Nintendo continue to evolve it. On the whole, it’s very refreshing and a welcome implementation.
Unfortunately, the use of the second analog stick in Dark Moon would have been a massive benefit to the game and it’s exclusion not only hamstrings the game’s control mechanism but also makes its handling a lot more convoluted than it could and should have been. The tilt functionality of the 3DS does help to off-set some of the frustrations when players reach view points, but it certainly doesn’t offer as much as a second analog would have. Trying to perform the simplest actions is more likely to cause a hand-cramp than if the game had made use of the add-on.
It’s not bad and works well, but it almost feels as if Nintendo tried to squeeze too much into a small space which doesn’t always make this particularly comfortable for long playthroughs unless you’re using an XL.
The good news, however, is that Luigi’s Mansion almost translates perfectly onto a handheld system and the game is a real pleasure to play.
The excellent translation also carries over to the graphics. Most notably, it makes great use of the handheld’s unique 3D effect. With many games, the effect is tacked on and feels a bit gimmicky, but with Luigi’s Mansion it genuinely belongs. I would now find it difficult to imagine the franchise without 3D as it adds so much to the atmosphere. The environment feels more alive and interactive than it did on the Gamecube and with a set of headphones in, the game can even offer up a few scares.
The game also has an incredible attention to detail for a handheld game. Small family portraits depicting previous residents, everything moves and rocks when touched by the Poltergust, even shadows that move conspicuously in the background, hoping the player won’t notice.
Listening to Luigi hum nervously to himself, singing tunes and jumping to sounds of thunder and lightning is ever present and remains one of the biggest highlights of the game. Coupled with the 3D, this all adds to the ambience that give this 3DS title real identity, character, style and substance.
Some slight control issues aside, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is an absolute must for any 3DS owner. It’s even a must for those who don’t own the system.
Dark Moon benefits so richly from 3D, but it also adds some clever new puzzles, tricksy ghosts. Most surprisingly, the multiplayer component works wonderfully.
With Nintendo already announcing some additional content for the months ahead, and more to come from Mario’s taller, all-in-green brother, it’s definitely fair to say that Year of Luigi is off to an exceptional start.