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• Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

developed by Next Level Games, published by Nintendo
1 player with 1-4 player online mode / 2013.3.24

The Ghostbusters films have had several videogame adaptations over the years, but they’ve always been hit or miss. Nintendo finally showed how it should be done with the original Luigi’s Mansion, a launch title for its Gamecube system at the turn of the millenium. The less popular of the Mario Bros finally got to star in his very own adventure, and it felt completely different from the usual Mario games. In 2013 (the “Year of Luigi” no less), Nintendo scared up a sequel on the 3DS.

Who You Gonna Call?

This is not your typical Mario game. For a start, Luigi can’t jump so there’s no platforming. You creep around the haunted houses fairly slowly, solving puzzles more like a Zelda game. Catching ghosts requires deft use of the Poltergust vacuum, which can be aimed independently from Luigi’s movement direction. Once you grab a ghost with the vacuum, you have to drag it in the opposite direction for several seconds to wear it out, or it’ll get away. It really feels like you’re in a tug of war.

The starter ghosts are fairly easy prey, but later ones require specific strategies if you want to catch them. Some, for example, wear pots on their heads to blind them from your flashlight. There are quite a few new ghost ideas presented in this game (the mummies being my favorite by far), and while they’re animated with personality, they lack the individuality of the character ghosts from the first game, and a few of the regulars didn’t make a return.

The Poltergust vacuum is for more than sucking up ghosts

Mo’ Mansions, Mo’ Fun

The original Luigi’s Mansion is a relatively small game by comparison, set inside the haunted halls of just one mansion. Dark Moon stars several gloomy mansions, each with its own distinct look and layout, and they’re filled to the brim with secrets and gags to discover. Special attention to detail has been lavished on the interiors, which are lit more realistically than the Gamecube game, like little dioramas when viewed in 3D.

Just about every single room contains several props that Luigi can interact with using his vacuum. You can spend hours investigating a mansion, finding and busting all the ghosts, solving puzzles, and collecting the hidden gems. Whereas the original game can be comfortably completed in about 8 hours, you’ll easily spend around triple that with Dark Moon.

Each mansion has its own personality and style

New Abilities & Game Modes

Also new in this game is a special light that can reveal invisible objects, and other fun new abilities unlocked by collecting treasure. The only negative is that you will probably unlock these abilities quickly, leaving little incentive for collecting more cash. One of my favorite new additions are the frightened Toads that must be rescued from the ghosts tormenting them, which gives Luigi’s paranormal activities some charming personality. Each mansion is divided into several missions, leading up to a boss fight, which at times were more challenging and involved than I expected.

When you’re done with the main story, there’s a new multiplayer mode where up to four Luigis tackle randomly-generated mansions. These are competitive treasure hunts, but you’ll also have to cooperate at times by saving other players from traps or ghosts. It’s not the most addictive multiplayer, but I did mess around with it for a few hours online. It’s probably best enjoyed in local mode with friends, if you can.

Final Thoughts

Developed by Next Level Games in Canada, Dark Moon feels just like a first-party Nintendo title. That’s a compliment to the developers, who clearly gave their all for this game, and it’s a very rare accomplishment. I twice encountered an annoying glitch where the frame-rate caused Boos to bounce out of the room, forcing me to exit and re-enter to catch them from scratch, but that’s a relatively small blemish on an otherwise highly polished game.

Dark Moon fleshes out the original concept in key ways, and is visually one of the best looking 3DS games ever made. Playing in 3D really does improve the experience, as it feels like looking into a dollhouse. If you’ve got a 3DS don’t miss this one. I’m holding out hope that Nintendo and Next Level Games has a third Luigi’s Mansion game in the works for the 3DS or the Switch.

Playing in 3D really makes these rooms pop

PROs:

+ Fun ghost-busting theme & mechanics
+ Wonderfully realized & varied settings
+ Lots of secrets to uncover
+ Animation with personality
+ Significantly expands on original premise

CONs:

– Minor dips in frame rate in some scenes can cause collision issues
– E. Gad’s calls forcefully interrupt play
– Money is useless once fully upgraded, few upgrades
– Some gemstones only appear in certain missions (easily missed)
– Ghosts lack the individuality of uniques in original

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