Platform: Nintendo 3DSDeveloper: Next Level GamesPublisher: NintendoCategory: Action-adventure
Boo! Did I scare you? Yeah, I’m guessing probably not. But if you were Luigi, you’d be jumping a mile high and clinging to a chandelier right about now. After 12 long and lonely years of standing in his brother’s shadow, Mario’s scaredy cat little brother Luigi finally gets another starring role in a follow-up to 2001’s Luigi’s Mansion, called Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the Nintendo 3DS. The announcement of a sequel to one of Nintendo’s most innovative and underrated games was a big surprise to say the least, but one that was fully embraced by Luigi fans everywhere. A lot has changed in the time since Luigi’s first spooky outing on the Nintendo GameCube, but Dark Moon still manages to feel like a true sequel to Luigi’s Mansion, and expands upon the original game in almost every way.
The story isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it still gets the job done, and provides the perfect backdrop for all the ghost hunting you’re going to be doing here in Dark Moon. Luigi is summoned one night by the enigmatic ghost expert Professor E. Gadd, whose perfectly round head looks like a stale old lollipop that probably doesn’t taste so good. You see, everything had been running smoothly on the ghost front for the past 12 years. But when the purple Dark Moon that keeps all ghosts at bay is shattered, everything starts to go haywire, and it’s up to Luigi to recover the missing shards and restore order to the Evershade Valley. Luigi uses a Nintendo DS (lovingly coined by Professor E. Gadd as the “Dual Scream”) to keep track of his tasks, follow a map of each mansion, and receive mission updates from his crusty old mentor back at home base. The overall narrative takes a little while to get moving, but once you get past the basic fetch quests that make up the first half of the game, things start to really pick up, and have Luigi trembling right down to his plumber’s boots.
Luigi has never looked better than here in his new home, in 3D. The presentation of Dark Moon absolutely shines on the 3DS hardware and the added depth of scope really brings each mansion to life, with fully dynamic rooms for you to explore. The dark color scheme provides the perfect atmosphere and after clearing a given room of any supernatural behavior, the game lights up the area to a calming and rewarding effect. The haunting soundtrack serves as a wonderful backdrop for all the spooky environments Luigi will creep through and sets the stage for the game’s many, wacky scares. This time, instead of just one giant mansion to explore, Dark Moon features five smaller mansions, each with a different theme: like greenhouse, snow and desert-based ghost hunting. The use of different mansions was a genius inclusion here in Dark Moon, as it makes the sequel feel truly massive in scope and contains so much variety that your vacuum cleaner will hardly be able to suck it all up!
Like in the first Luigi’s Mansion, players will need to use their highly-powered Poltergust 5000 (a glorified vacuum cleaner) to suck up any ghosts they find lurking in the shadows of the dining hall or bedroom. A new combat mechanic involves Luigi stunning each ghost with a powerful blast of light from his Strobulb attachment before he can start sucking them up with the vacuum. Once a ghost is attached, you need to move the circle pad in the opposite direction, to quickly reel him in. But don’t think it’s always gonna be that easy! Luigi will come across all sorts of poltergeists in his latest adventure and some of them are pretty smart too. For instance, some ghosts will wear protective sunglasses to shield their eyes from the Strobulb’s shine, or put buckets on their heads to keep the blinding light out. The ghosts themselves have some truly awesome character designs, and the wide spectrum of different colors they come in (from green, to blue, to yellow and red) gives each ghastly friend their own unique personality.
While Luigi will only get to use his Poltergust 5000 and flashlight for the duration of Dark Moon, a number of gradual upgrades to each tool keeps the gameplay fresh at every turn and directly changes and shapes the way you approach each mission in the game. For instance, before long Luigi will find a Dark-Light attachment for his flashlight, which lets you shine a rainbow-colored light on various areas in the mansion to unveil some invisible objects or pathways. There’s also a few environmental mechanics that are introduced as well, like an inflatable purple plant, that lets Luigi float through the air by utilizing the different settings on his vacuum cleaner to ascend or descend.
The great fun of Dark Moon is trying to use your Poltergust 5000 on every table, chair and loose piece of wallpaper you can think of, in case there are any hidden coins or gems to be found. You can interact with almost every object you come across in the game and there’s no better way to feeling really good about yourself than by finding a huge stash of coins in a place you think no one else will ever think of looking. Adding to your overall coin stash will slowly upgrade your tools even further, by letting you wrestle with a ghost for longer periods of time or extending the time you can use the Dark-Light for, in any given instance. Unlike the last few Mario games to hit the market, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon actually provides a much-needed challenge for hardcore gamers, with tons of seriously tricky collectables to find and optional bonus objectives to accomplish. Everything has been so well thought out in this game and the mansion designs and leveled balance between combat and environmental puzzles are absolutely flawless.
Personally, I enjoyed the new mission setup Dark Moon employs over the first Luigi’s Mansion, but I can also see why some players might find it a bit off putting. Instead of having free rein to explore each mansion at your leisure, each different location is split up into a series of missions, which let you progress through the buildings in small, segmented sections before being ripped away back to home base by an annoying Professor E. Gadd. The disjointed structure can take a little getting used to and you’ll inevitably find yourself backtracking through the same rooms in each subsequent mission. But every new attachment or upgrade you find will let Luigi explore each room in a completely different light and replay previous missions to earn a higher score and uncover other secrets. Each mission also features a hidden Boo to find and capture and finding them all will unlock a special bonus level for that respective mansion. At the end of each mansion, Luigi will encounter a thrilling boss fight. Without giving too much away, these are some of the best moments in Dark Moon, and really force you to use your Poltergust 5000 in fun and exciting new ways throughout the puzzle-oriented showdowns.
Another new and welcomed addition to the Luigi’s Mansion universe in Dark Moon is a cooperative multiplayer mode called ScareScraper, in which you and up to three friends can band together and see how many ghostridden floors of a bonus sixth mansion you can clear. The ScareScraper mode is actually a whole lot of fun and it gives a nice little something extra to keep the scares coming after you’ve completed the main, single player game. But in the end, Dark Moon is still inherently a Luigi’s Mansion game and even after all these years, it still feels like a perfectly natural progression from the first game, which is a truly amazing accomplishment in this day and age of gaming. From gorgeous graphics and a hauntingly atmospheric presentation, to insanely rewarding exploration based gameplay and ghosthunting battling, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon pulls up tastefully fun scares around every corner.
If you’re still on the fence about buying a Nintendo 3DS, there has never been a better reason to invest in Nintendo’s latest handheld system, as Dark Moon marks a return to Nintendo’s wildly imaginative days of old. The Big N has been promoting 2013 as the “Year of Luigi” and I couldn’t imagine the campaign kicking off in a more fitting way. Even if it takes another 12 years before we see a Luigi’s Mansion 3, Dark Moon has shown us that some things are very much worth the wait.
Boo! Still nothing?
Story – 8/10
Graphics – 10/10
Gameplay – 10/10
Music – 10/10
Multiplayer – 9/10
Replayability – 10/10