Luigi’s Mansion 2 Got Right
- + Innovative gameplay
- + Looks amazing
- + Is actually challenging
- + GameCube fans will love it
Luigi’s Mansion 2 Got Wrong
- - A few awkward controls
- - A bit too much backtracking
- - Hard to buy: we struggled to find it in Aussie shops
That was a long twelve years.
Luigi’s Mansion was a defining moment in my childhood -- well, my gaming childhood, at least. It was the first game I saw on GameCube at a friend’s house as an 11-year-old whippersnapper and I was blown away by the gorgeous visuals, comfortable controller and blend of truly unique gameplay infused with classic Nintendo chic. At the time, I’d only recently acquired a Nintendo 64; it was that moment that fuelled my passion for gaming and a desire to be at the forefront as a connoisseur.
Just as I was starting to lose faith after the disastrously boring Wii U launch, my favourite publisher (with developer Next Level Games) has slapped me in the face with a timely reminder of what this proud studio can achieve when it isn’t releasing New Super Mario Bros. 17.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 (or Dark Moon in the US) isn’t quite as good as the GameCube original that holds such a special place in my heart, but it’s every bit as original and the most innovative Nintendo game since Super Mario Galaxy. Ghosts are easier to bag and less time is spent figuring out how to catch them, so your focus can be diverted to greater exploration.
Luigi is lavished with winsome flair coupled with the superb voice talents of Charles Martinet.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 combines the cobwebbed mansion ghost-hunting and terrified humming Luigi from the original with an influx of spooky puzzles, collectables and secrets to find. It doesn’t simply mimic a 12-year-old game, but instead adds to it as a bonafide sequel -- from the same publisher rehashing Donkey Kong Country Returns just three years later and heavily relying on the HD port of Wind Waker to salvage the Wii U.
With Mario nowhere to be seen, Luigi’s terrifying solo ordeal is split across five sprawling mansions, each with a unique characteristic, from overgrown garden, to murderous clock-tower, to a vintage haunted mansion. With a greater emphasis on puzzle solving, Next Level has ramped up the backtracking (each mansion comprises around six “missions”) and commendably rarely repeats a puzzle.
There-in lies Luigi’s Mansion 2’s greatest asset: it’s actually challenging. If you’re not careful, you’ll die -- and there’s no computer jumping in to help you out, it’s back to the start of the mission for incompetent ghost-hunters. The puzzles increase in difficulty as events unfold, and they too present a challenge we haven’t seen from Nintendo in recent times, particular in a handheld game aimed at such a wide market; it will resonate with kids, but it's been made for the GameCube faithful who know how to play a game and work their way through a testing Nintendo puzzle.
Worthy of high praise are some of the best animations you’ll see on 3DS. It’s one of the few game I’ve played comfortably in 3D, without a driving urge to switch off the crude novelty. Once again, Nintendo is the only one capable of capitalising on its technology. But even with the depth slider turned off, Luigi is lavished with winsome flair coupled with the superb voice talents of Charles Martinet. Luigi’s a man of few words, but his anxious mutterings and terror-stricken humming along to the background music instil the charm that only Nintendo can deliver.
As one of his few starring roles, Luigi adds a hearty presence as a much deserved leading man. He’s still a coward, but he’s a heroic coward determined to complete an adventure he never wanted to have. He’s the perfect foil for the overconfident ghosts and the classic underdog that you can’t help but admire.
Armed with the Poltergust 5000 vacuum-cleaner, Luigi’s main quest has him scouring the mansions sucking up ghosts. Ghosts are first stunned using a blinding flashlight and then sucked up by latching onto them and pulling in the opposite direction like reeling in a struggling fish. Bigger ghosts require more pulling power, and boss fights are integrated nicely with the spooky affair.
Luigi’s second attachment is the Dark Light -- basically one of those things used in every crime show to search for semen (and there’s always boatloads of the stuff). Except here it’s used to bring hidden objects like cabinets and doors into view. A handy trick is to look for the blank wall: there’s almost certainly something there. On the flip side, you could waste half your game time searching every nook and cranny looking for the collectables to largely find nothing.
Outside of ghost-hunting, the Poltergust 5000 can be used to sweep clean environments, suck up hidden treasure, spin fans and pull drapes. If you’re ever at a loss as to what to do next, there’s always something that needs to be sucked somewhere...
The only blight on controls is the 3DS’s lack of a second analogue stick. Looking up and down is imperative, but as there’s no Circle Pad Pro support, you’re forced to make do with awkward motion control (which also can’t be turned off) or use the better but still clumsy ‘X’ to look up and ‘B’ to look down. I’m at a loss as to why the Circle Pad option isn’t included as it would have perfected an otherwise faultless control scheme.
Multiplayer fixates on ghost-hunting rather than puzzle-solving. Ideally with four players using Download Play, you’re sent into a randomised mansion to play through five, 10 or 25 floors. “Hunter” mode has you sucking up as many ghosts as possible, while “Rush” pits you against the clock using your dark lights to work together and find an exit and “Polterpups” slows things down and has you chasing invisible dogs with your dark light. It’s a good spot of fun, but isn’t deep enough to remain in your multiplayer repertoire for long.
The mission based structure of Luigi’s Mansion 2 is like a backhanded compliment. It’s perfect for a handheld game as there are clear breaks in the action every 10 to 20 minutes. However, it feels forced and results in unnecessary backtracking which becomes a little tiresome if you take the reviewer’s approach to gaming and try to blast through the seven or so hours in one afternoon. As a handheld game, it makes sense. But the atmosphere is diminished somewhat by being extracted every 12 minutes to have a bumbling chat with the ridiculous E Gadd.
The Final Verdict
Luigi’s Mansion is a piece of Nintendo magic and one of the publisher’s most innovative since Super Mario Galaxy. It loses a little of the charm of the GameCube original, but that allows it to become its own game. With lavish visuals and a resonating soundtrack, it’s one of the most charismatic games you’ll play all year and an essential addition to any 3DS owner’s collection. Best of all, it’s actually challenging and geared towards fans of the GameCube classic. An absolute must play.