Published on March 21st, 2013 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Review
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]
Developer: Next Level Games
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Puzzle, Action, Adventure
Release Date: March 24, 2013
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
When the GameCube launched, everyone was expecting something ground-breaking along the lines of Super Mario 64 and its launch of the Nintendo 64 console. Instead, early adopters were treated to a quirky game called Luigi’s Mansion, a puzzle-solving ghost-collecting game, not a platformer. The game wasn’t very well received, but I never understood why.
Sure, it wasn’t the earth-shattering equivalent of Super Mario 64 for the GameCube, but it was solid, graphically pleasing and I enjoyed it very much so. Luigi finally got his own game, and for people to be disappointed in it was a bit silly, considering it clearly wasn’t going to be a Super Mario Bros. clone.
Many years have gone by, and after a surprising absence on the Wii (come on, Nintendo, the controller would have been awesome as the Poltergust!), Luigi has returned on the 3DS in his second solo outing, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.
For those unfamiliar, Professor Elvin Gadd or “E. Gadd,” first appeared in Luigi’s Mansion. The scientist lived close to the mansion where Luigi first started his search for then missing bro, Mario. Once again, Gadd is studying one of his favorite subjects: ghosts.
The doctor now finds homage in the Evershade Valley. When an object that hangs over the area, the Dark Moon, shatters, the ghosts suddenly become vicious. Gadd acquires the help of his friend Luigi to once again restore peace to the ghost-ridden area, and find the pieces of the shattered Dark Moon object.
Unlike the first game, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon takes place in five different areas instead of one giant mansion. The game is also now broken up into missions, which is suiting for the portable title.
So, what is Luigi’s best defense against these vicious ghosts? This time around he is armed with the Poltergust 5000, an upgraded version of his vacuum featured in the original. Instead of just shining the flashlight on a ghost, you must ‘Strobulb’ it. This flashes and stuns the ghosts making them available for capture. The flashlight also has Dark-Light feature. The tool is used to locate objects hidden by ghosts — such as furniture pieces — and provide clues for finding hidden doors and ghosts. Finally, Luigi is equipped with the Dual Scream. The device is essentially a Nintendo DS that Professor E. Gadd uses to instruct Luigi, but it also acts as a map. This is an upgrade from the Game Boy Horror used in Luigi’s Mansion.
The basic way to catch a ghost is to use the Strobulb, then suck them in the “R” trigger while wiggling the circle pad in the opposite direction of the ghost. Some ghosts use things to block their eyes from the Strobulb, so you must first suck away whatever is blocking their field of vision in order to stun them. Others put up more of a fight, and many times, you are surrounded by a group of them. Luckily, Luigi can now jump while battling ghosts to avoid other enemies and projectile attacks. Some ghosts are much more powerful than others, but when using your Poltergust it allows you to catch multiple ghosts at once, which is helpful. The whole “ghost catching” premise works very smoothly.
The game has a heavy focus on puzzles, which range from braindead to downright tough. The answer is usually simple, but sometimes figuring that out is easier said than done. It almost feels like the game was designed both with kids and adults in mind. Younger gamers will most likely look for the simple answer, as compared to adults who may over-complicate things. The Strobulb plays a role in these puzzles, too. Ghosts will hide things from the naked eye that will only be seen with this attachment. For instance, a Polterpup can only be found by using the Strobulb to find his paw prints, soon betraying its location. The tactic is cleverly added and a lot of fun to use.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is by far the best looking title on the 3DS. The lighting effects are spectacular, with shadows and objects illuminating in fantastic detail. Objects in the environments dance in the wind caused by the Poltergust 5000, and it’s a shame to say this, but the game itself is better looking than most Wii originals.
Still keeping with top quality first-party Nintendo designs, the characters here are also impressive. Luigi’s facial expressions are excellent, and the haunted atmospheres really feel alive (Ed: bad pun). It’s especially awesome when you are walking down a well-lit corridor, the lights go out and lightning hits illuminating the room — just beautiful. The musical score is another treat, with a soundtrack ranging from whimsical, to dark and brooding. The game is best experienced with headphones on, allowing you to hear all the ghouls cackling and the floors creaking. It might not be over-the-top “scary,” but the combined effects play well into the spooky atmosphere.
Aside from the main quest, the game also has reasons to keep coming back. Hidden in every mission is a Boo, the shy floating ghost creatures seen in Super Mario Bros. titles. If all of them are located a secret mission will open up for each level. The game also has local and online multiplayer, with three varying modes: Enter the “ScareScraper” where you can choose from either, Hunter, Rush, or Polterpup modes.
Hunter has you ridding ghosts in as quickly as possible with your teammates. In Rush mode, you must find the exit before time runs out, while searching objects and defeating ghosts extend your time. Finally, Polterpup has you using your Dark-Light device to track down a ghoulish mutt you must capture. The game was pretty lag-free in both local and online multiplayer, and although there was no voice chat ability, it was rather fun.
Money you acquire in the multi-player modes transfers to your main character, which allows for upgrades on your Poltergust (longer streams) and Strobulb (longer usage). The floors you play on seem to randomly generate, which keeps a fresh feeling. It might not be a selling point, but it is a nice addition.
While the game is extremely polished and fun, there are a few gripes that bring down the experience. First, there are some gyro-scope controls which range from viewing a room from a peep-hole (which is fine) to balancing across a beam (which is not fine). It’s too cumbersome, and just feels tacked on instead of actually serving a purpose. The frame-rate is mostly solid, but does take a dip when there are a lot of ghosts in the room. Finally, I think Nintendo should have added more horror elements and really try to scare you more. I remember one room was very creepy, which was like a toy room. It had a strange doll in the middle of the room that rotated her head based on your movements. There were also several jack-in-the-box figures that had a creepy face. It was very atmospheric and spooky, and I think it’s something Nintendo should try to expand upon in the future.
Minor quibbles aside, this is yet another great Nintendo 3DS game for 2013. The pacing is perfect for a portable title, it is absolutely gorgeous to look at and is a lot of fun to play. A lengthy main quest with online play is usually a recipe for success, and this game is no different. It’s a perfect pick up -and-play title with just the right features needed for a portable adventure. Between this game and Kid Icarus’ return, it’s nice to see the old or forgotten franchises reborn on the 3DS.
Grab your Poltergust, dim the lights, put some headphones on and enjoy Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.
+ Beautiful graphics
+ Challenging puzzles
+ Lengthy main campaign and online lay
– Slight frame rate issues
– Unnecessary gyroscope feature