2001’s Gamecube launch title Luigi’s Mansion proved that Luigi was more than just a sidekick to his iconic plumber brother. But with the sequel ditching the home consoles for a portable adventure, did developer Next Level Games recapture the novelty of the original after a 12 year hiatus? Absolutely!
In Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, the kooky Professor E. Gadd is back and he’s coaxed Luigi once again into assisting him with wrangling up some mischievous ghosts. Armed with his trusty flashlight and the Poltergust 5000, Luigi must explore five sizable mansions to recover the fragments of the ghost-calming artifact the Dark Moon. While it isn’t exactly an “open-world” in any sense like its predecessor, the game’s extremely varied mansions manage to keep things interesting and successfully creates the illusion that they are bigger than they really are. Stepping into the blue overalls of an easily frightened Luigi, you will roam through charismatic areas lined with cobwebs and rooms illuminated by flashes of lighting as you eagerly uncover each mansion’s mysteries.
Although Dark Moon doesn’t fundamentally alter the core play values of its predecessor, it manages to introduce a few new features. This time around ghosts need to be stunned by briefly charging your flashlight to emit high-intensity light burst. Once stunned, you then fire up your modified vacuum cleaner and pull away from whatever direction the ghost happens to be fleeing in. Think of it as ghost fishing. As you progress you’ll regularly get introduced to new types of phantasms, some donning sunglasses making them immune to your flashlight, to others that fire off projectiles. Even though these ghost have a slightly different attack pattern, the process remains the same — stun, suck, repeat.
Outside of wrangling up ghosts, Dark Moon takes on a Metroidvania feel as you locate new items to unlock pathways and solve various puzzles. This leads to a lot of backtracking as you search for what might be different in a previously explored location, thus causing the game to feel a bit padded. Dark Moon’s incorporates a variety of puzzles that never get too complicated, but they’re designed well enough that you can overlook their simplicity.
Luigi’s trusty vacuum can be equipped with different attachments, and these aid in exploration. A Dark-Light device allows for you to uncover invisible objects, including ghosts, hidden doors and chests. The sucking capabilities of the Poltergust 5000 can also be used to interact with the environments; suck up rugs to uncover hidden switches, earn extra cash for upgrades, discover optional mini-bosses, or observe a hidden comedic moments. Collected coins can then be used to purchase upgrades for your equipment, but since the game is abundant with currency, it won’t be long before you max out everything. Special gems can also be collected as well as a hidden Boo ghost in each level.
The game is brimming with personality, from E. Gadd’s ringtone to hearing Luigi nervously hum along to the game’s background music, Dark Moon is one of the most charming titles I’ve played on the 3DS. Each of the levels has a distinct personality, and a whimsical art style that perfectly compliment the gameplay. Everything looks gorgeous, with the cartoony design acting as a great fit for the screen, while the lighting effects accentuate the spooky atmosphere. The 3D effect is also impressive; this is one of the few titles that is benefits from the 3D effect. Similarly, Dark Moon’s soundtrack and sound effects bring this title to life. The controls are responsive, this is especially important when you start battling multiple ghost at once, but the game’s lack of support for the Circle Pad Pro is rather disappointing. Still, the controls aren’t hampered without the second stick, as your vacuum generously locks on to your target at certain points.
Once you progress through the story, you’ll unlock The ScareScaper, the game’s fairly hearty multiplayer component. You and up to three friends team up as different color Luigis to tackle challenges either locally, online, or through the download play option. Depending on which of the four modes you choose, you will either stick together or split up to explore floors, hunt for ghosts, race to the exit, or play hide and seek with the adorable Polterpups. While I don’t necessarily care for the addition of multiplayer to a title like Dark Moon, it’s a welcome addition since it doesn’t feel half baked.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a great start to Nintendo’s self-proclaimed ‘Year of Luigi.’ Developers Next Level Games not only replicated what we’ve loved about its predecessor, but they managed to create a more fleshed-out version. Every haunted room seems to breathe with an inventive charm and delicate attention to detail that make this game one of the best reasons to own a 3DS.