Developer: Next Level Games / Publisher: Nintendo / Played On: 3DS / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Everyone
Everyone knows Mario’s skinnier brother Luigi has always been in the portlier plumber’s shadow. Luigi has rarely stolen the spotlight for himself, even when he’s playing tennis, driving go-karts, or in the background of most of Mario’s outings. The Gamecube launch title Luigi’s Mansion was the green brother’s first real solo game, but since then Luigi has gone back to playing second fiddle to Mario. That is about to end with the release of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS.
Like the original game, Dark Moon centers around the timid Luigi reluctantly helping Professor E. Gadd gather up renegade ghosts. The titular Dark Moon, which kept the apparitions in a friendly mood, mysteriously broke into six pieces, prompting the ghosts to cause a ruckus in Evershade Valley. Equipped with the Poltergust 5000, a modified vacuum capable of sucking up ghosts, Luigi is tasked with getting to the bottom of the Dark Moon’s strange deconstruction and capturing the wild ghosts along the way. It’s a simple premise that isn’t going to blow you away, but you’re probably not playing Luigi’s Mansion for the story.
Using the Poltergust 5000 is at the core of the gameplay. Luigi will encounter different colored ghosts as he ventures room to room, with each ghost having their own patterns. The common green ghosts tend to fly right towards you and the trickier pink ghosts try to scare you while you’re busy engaging a different ghost. Later levels feature ghosts that implore more advanced tactics but you eventually figure them out and won’t have much trouble. Boss battles take place on a much grander scale and are the highlights of the game’s action. The last two battles in particular stand out as epic fights that finish the game in the most satisfying way.
Not only do you use the Poltergust 5000 to capture ghosts, it is also used to interact with objects in a level and solve puzzles. You can roll up a rug to reveal a hidden passage, suck up coins on a high up ledge, and even put the device in reverse and blow air out to rotate a ceiling fan that manipulates a staircase in the room. I generally liked the puzzle solving but there were a few occasions where I was left in the dark on what exactly to do. With no in-game hints or characters to point you in the right direction you might be a little lost at times.
The game is broken up into five worlds, each containing five or six stages capped off with a boss battle. Each mission you undertake will have a set of objectives to complete, like finding the missing clock hands to unlock a gate to progress further in a level, and after you achieve your goal you are forced to return back to Professor E. Gadd’s lab. It is a bit jarring to finally advance forward in a zone only to be automatically returned to base. The task of returning to base should be optional, as sometimes you might not be done exploring a level when you’re obligated to leave. It takes a dozen or so hours to complete the game, but there are hidden Boo’s to find to unlock extra stages, the previously mentioned gems to collect, and a rating system that challenges you to beat a level efficiently and fast.
A multiplayer mode is included as well which allows you to jump online or play locally with up to three other players. The Scare Scraper has you playing cooperatively or competitively against other players as you try to reach the exit under a certain time limit or suck up as many ghosts as possible. The multiplayer isn’t anything fantastic but it is a nice diversion to the main game that can give you some added fun should you have friends to play with.
Visually Dark Moon is fantastic. The way Luigi moves and reacts to every creaking door, drafty window, and scary moment is entertaining and funny. When a ghost is near, Luigi’s usually jolly jog turns into a hunched over creep as he searches for the ghoul. Other nice touches like seeing Luigi’s breath when in the chilly outdoors give the game the sense of polish Nintendo is known for.
Dark Moon also has a light-hearted feel to it, despite its ghost theme. There are some genuinely funny scenarios with the mischievous ghosts pulling pranks on one another, so expect to chuckle a few times while playing. The soundtrack is fittingly moody with eerie tunes playing throughout the game. The Professor and Luigi talk through text dialogue but only speak gibberish instead of actual words; it’s a bit annoying hearing the Professor ramble in his weird guttural language. Despite this hiccup the overall presentation in Dark Moon is an impressive and one of the better-looking games on the 3DS.
The game hits a little snag with the controls. You control Luigi with the control stick, use the Poltergust 5000 with the L or R buttons, and to use the special flashlight that reveals hidden ghosts you have to press Y. While using the Poltergust or the flashlight you can press B or X to aim down or up respectively (alternatively, you can tilt the 3DS to aim). As you’re capturing a ghost it will naturally try to escape, so you have to pull or push the control stick in the opposite direction the ghost is moving. Considering that you oftentimes have to aim up at a ghost, use the flashlight to reveal and/or stun a ghost, hold R to suck the ghost in, and pull the control stick in the opposite direction to whittle the ghost down before you can successfully capture it, controls get complicated. Making it worse, as you’re using the flashlight or Poltergust you can’t spin Luigi around, so you have to line up perfectly in front of your target to come out successful. It’s frustrating to say the least and easily the worst aspect of the whole game.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a long overdue sequel that delivers on what players of the first game were wanting, namely more ghost busting action starring Luigi. The presentation is wonderful and the attention to detail creates a game that has a charm and feel all its own. The controls are a little confusing at times but if you can get over them you’ll discover a fun game. Nintendo has finally given Luigi his starring role back, and the lesser brother is giving Mario a run for his money. Sure, Bowser isn’t there and Peach hasn’t been kidnapped but someone has to take care of all these ghosts! And Luigi’s the man for the job.
+ Charming visuals with a wonderful sense of detail
+ Good amount of content and replayability
- Controls are complicated
8.5 / 10