Genre: Action adventure
Release Date: 28/03/13
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Review (3DS)
One of the most unfairly maligned titles of the GameCube era (that isn’t Custom Robo) is back… AND THIS TIME, IT’S PERSONAL!
Or…actually, that’s not quite accurate. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the 3DS follow up to the GameCube launch title – Luigi’s Mansion, that seemed to only exist for people to get mad at the fact it wasn’t a Mario game (a problem that Super Mario Sunshine did little to alleviate). This out-of-left–field sequel pits you back in the hat, overalls, and vacuum backpack of the superior Super Mario Brother, Luigi, traipsing through multiple mansions (none of which are yours) to do what he does best: panic, talk to himself, and fight evil spirits!
The gameplay does a bit to distance itself from its console sibling, without completely losing sight of why the original ruled. You still poke around in the dark, surprising ghosts with a suspiciously powerful flashlight (now we know where Alan Wake gets his strategies from) and pulling them into your adorable Poltergust 5000 backpack, Egon Spengler style.
When you’re not busting heads (in a spiritual sense, of course), you spend your time solving simple-but-fun ‘find the doodad for this door’ puzzles. The slower paced puzzle sections of the game play more like a point-and-click adventure, or perhaps the first few Resident Evils. It’s a lot of poking around slowly, tapping X on every available surface to find the items needed to advance. In a vaguely Metroid touch, you will often find yourself able to access areas without the proper tools to advance through them, giving you a decent tour of each mansion without actually being able to accomplish anything. To help with your constant quests for keys and gears, you’re given a rainbow-emitting blacklight referred to as the Darklight Device. The Darklight Device (which is going to be the name of a female-led goth/industrial band any day now) can bring into existence items that the ghosts have rendered invisible. It almost functions like the ‘tears’ from Bioshock Infinite, with less philosophical ponderings. This aspect of the game will surely appeal to anyone into puzzles, adventure games, or maybe older survival horror titles, but anyone who isn’t will probably find it a little dull and repetitive.
The real fun comes when you have to take on the bogeymen and bogeywomen infesting the mansions. The Poltergust handles rather like a fishing game, with a lot of frantic pulling and button pressing to weaken the ghosts enough to pull them in for good. I’ll cut right to the chase and say it’s closer to feeling like Ghostbusters than the recent Ghostbusters game – not that Ghostbusters was bad, but it didn’t capture the frantic tug-of-war that it should have (and that Luigi’s Mansion totally does). Various ghosts have different methods of capture – some wear sunglasses to shield them from your flashlight, some require you to trick them out of hiding, and still others just take a while to put down. Because they’re fat. I said it. There’s the occasional boss ghost, as well. The bosses all have a very 16-bit ‘memorize their pattern and figure out their weakness’ vibe, which stands out nicely against today’s bullet sponge bosses, when games have bosses at all. And, despite the game’s hilariously insulting deluge of tutorials in the early stages, you’re basically on your own when it comes to the bosses. All you have is your vacuum, knowledge of how the physics work, and your wits (this is in spite of Luigi’s frightened protestations).
Presentation is where Luigi’s Mansion really shines. This game is, frankly, adorable. Professor E. Gadd still speaks in the broken Simlish he did in the previous game, Luigi will react to everything with a series of charming yelps and gasps (even humming along to the background music at times), and there’s a super cute ghost puppy that helps you out. Professor Gadd is the only one with any real dialogue, and it’s just as pun-filled and self-serving as always; constant allusions to Luigi’s real job as a plumber abound, and he never really provides a good reason as to why you’re fighting ghosts for him. The cutscenes all feel like a silent 30’s movie about a haunted house, the mansions themselves are beautiful and distinct, and the ghosts are well-designed and appropriately spectral. Maybe it’s just bias but the game seems to look a little better with the 3D turned off – the 3D effects are well done, but there’s an awful lot of jaggies around everything when the 3D is up.
My only real complaint about Luigi’s Mansion is that it seems a touch unsure of what it wants to be. The promise of wrangling ghosts and chuckling at Luigi’s misfortune will likely draw in a lot of players but those same players may not find themselves enamored with the constant puzzle solving and aimless wandering through the mansion. Even after the aforementioned flood of early-game tutorial messages, your goals are always well defined. It’s what you have to do to achieve those goals that is never immediately obvious. Anyone with a love of puzzles and/or clicking won’t notice but more action-oriented gamers may find themselves running around the mansions in frustration.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a worthy sequel to an underrated game that not many people played in the first place. The pacing may be iffy, and you might not be as charmed by the presentation as I was, but it’s one of Nintendo’s stronger first-party offerings in recent memory. Anyone who liked the original or has a good sense of humor and/or patience would do well to pick it up. And luckily, you never have to worry about crossing the streams!
- Each mansion presents unique challenges
- Wrangling ghosts is fun and addictive
- May be too reliant on puzzles for some
- Why is E. Gadd making me do this anyway?