Objectively speaking, the original Luigi’s Mansion on Nintendo Game Cube was perhaps more shallow then I will ever care to admit. I, unlike many, have loved the game from day one and defend it with all my pride. To this day it is my second favourite Halloween game, next to Castlevania. A lot of folks back in 2001 liked to call it a tech demo and dismiss it, but in truth, it has enough personality and charm to go toe to toe with some of the Big N’s most creative franchises. Simply put, I love Luigi’s Mansion. So colour me excited when a sequel was finally announced for the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS makes a lot of sense as Luigi’s new home, considering the original game was designed to play in stereoscopic 3D long before the technology was mainstream enough.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 (or, Dark Moon as it is called here Stateside) attempts to correct many of the issues gamers took with the first game. Namely, its short length and lack of direction. That first one is fixed in spades, as this new game is very long by comparison. Expect to spend hours and hours traversing not one, but five haunted mansions (each with their own unique theme) solving puzzles, catching ghosts, and collecting lots and lots of money. These puzzles in fact, are where Dark Moon shines. These are quite clever bouts that, by all means, should exist in something like a Zelda game. They are really that good. Rarely is a puzzle reused, either; every moment of Dark Moon is fresh and exciting, not to mention full of that classic Nintendo-brand charm.
Plants come to life, spider webs sway, floorboards creak, and almost every piece of the environment is in some way or another interactable. Though you won’t find ghosts based on old inhabitants of the mansions as in the first game, you will find a host of spectres with more than enough personality to make up for it. Ghosts are sometimes as afraid of Luigi as he is of them, which makes for some hilarious encounters. As I briefly mentioned before, this is a game that shows off that special Halloween-esque horror. Every jump ends with a laugh, which calls for a very good time.
Unfortunately, I have a lot of issues with the game that bring down the experience. That Halloween feel I mentioned before? It has it, but it’s dulled down by several things. First and foremost, Professor E. Gadd is ALWAYS talking to you. He will call you at least every ten minutes on Luigi’s modified DS (Dual Scream) to check in or provide feedback. Even when you aren’t chatting it away with the good professor, you’ll notice he’s watching you through cameras placed all over the house(s).
In the original, there was at least a slight sense of isolation, and certainly much, much less hand-holding. In fact, this ties into another major issue, which is the game’s mission structure. Back in the day, you were basically dropped into this big haunted house and told to find Mario. Now, you’re being given specific missions every fifteen minutes or so. This means being called back to E. Gadd’s lab way too often and being assigned new tasks. The idea behind this is to lend better to the playstyles of on-the-go players. This is on the 3Ds, after all. Unfortunately, I think the experience suffers because of it.
Finally, the last thing I take issue with…..This is something that I spent a lot of time very confused with. On the one hand, this is a gorgeous game, and one of the best-looking on the platform. But on the other hand…well, I didn’t know how to put this at first, but it doesn’t look as good as the orignal. Can a game be beautiful and ugly? Well, after much deliberation, the issue lies with the inconsistency. Yes, all five mansions are completely full of things to look at in every room. Be it vases, rugs, mounted plaques, suits of armor, plants, etc. But, while some of these things are beautifully mapped and textured, like in the first game, other objects are completely devoid of texture at all! Seeing a very ornate Persian rug, some finely textured paintings, next to a wholly cartoon-looking bit of woodwork with no map effect or texture applied to it at all is very jarring. I haven’t seen too many others complaining about this, but I can’t get over it.
Also, there is a new multiplayer mode that should remind many players of Ghost Busters. Up to four players can gather over the internet to traverse the ‘ScareScraper’, an infinitely tall mansion. Working together, players try to suck up ghosts and go as high up the tower as they can before the inevitable defeat. It’s surprisingly fun and arcade-y, and serves as a pretty decent reminder that an American studio did much of the work on the game.
All in all, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon attempts to fix the issues found in the first go-round, but ends up creating some new problems all on its own. Though, I think this game is definitely worth playing for its insanely clever puzzles, charming personality, and hilarious scenes with Luigi, it can’t quite carve out a spot in this critic’s heart, and it just doesn’t jive the way the original does. One final note though, is that the single analog stick does not hinder the controls in any way whatsoever. The game has been redesigned so that pulling the vacuum back in forth but not up and down works just as well.