Nintendo, it can be reasonably argued, has become a little stagnant and predictable with its first party games; hedging its bets on a handful of successful franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Pokémon and of course, a barrage of Mario games. In the past few years, we’ve seen so much of the moustachioed plumber that even I’ve grown tired of him.
While they’re all undeniably good games, Nintendo seems to have largely lost that spark, that certain Nintendo Magic. Perhaps though, they’ve just been saving it all for Luigi’s Mansion 2 (Dark Moon in the US), a game so fantastic it makes up for Nintendo’s past transgressions.
Yes, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a sequel (the name gives it away) – but it’s easily the most innovative and inventive game to come from the company in years. Picking up some time after the original Gamecube title, we take control of Mario’s Lanky, bumbling brother, once again thrust in to the role of unlikely hero.
The childlike Professor E Gadd, paranormal researcher once again has ghost trouble, and its up to Luigi and a spirit-sucking vacuum cleaner, The Poltergust 5000, to fix things. The Dark Moon, a crystal celestial body that keeps the ethereal beings in check has been destroyed by an evil entity, making recalcitrant the ghosts and ghouls of Evershade Valley.
Luigi’s the perfect fit for this spooky adventure; hapless, and cowardly, his unassuming personality brought to life by wonderful animation and intricate little details, like the way he hums along to the game’s haunting and catchy theme music. In fact, with a full range of emotion, he’s a better lead than his more famous brother’s ever been.
And as inventive as the first Luigi’s Mansion was, this sequel takes everything, and does it better. Unlike the more open-world, single mansion presented in the first game, we now have five separate, and largely unique locales to explore, each with its own visual stamp, given the same attention to detail as the green-hatted hero himself. From a de facto Victorian mansion, with cobwebbed corners and dilapidated suits of armour, a dust-covered clocktower and its cogs, to a garden overgrown with man-eating plants.
Through each of these areas, Luigi will be solving increasingly clever physics-based puzzles, searching for hidden items and busting ghosts. Surprisingly, Luigi’s armed with only two tools for this purpose; the aforementioned Poltergust, which is used not only for combat, but for most of the puzzle-solving – and a torch, which is necessary for stunning the foul phantoms before they can be pulled into the Poltergust’s powerful vortex. The game really comes in to its own though after the acquisition of the Dark Light, an attachment to the torch that enables Luigi to reveal illusions and other hidden objects.
Combat is more fun than it rightly ought to be; stunning ghosts with the torch before reeling them in, like a sort of otherwordly bit of bass fishing. It’s given a dash of variety thanks to a cast of ghosts, all of which will take different skills and tactics to overcome. Some have protective sunglasses that have to be sucked up before they can be assaulted with light, some swing weapons like swords or spades can only be hit after they’ve attacked you, leaving them vulnerable, and others have to be exposed by the dark light before they can be wrangled.
It’s the adventure though; the exploration and discovery and clever manipulation of the environment that elevates Luigi’s Mansion 2 to being a superlative experience. Luigi will spend time sucking in switches to open secret passages, blow on cranks to operate all manner of mechanical contraption, pull up carpets and tear away at bits of wallpaper to reveal a clandestine collection of coins. Though each level within each of the five areas are presented in manageable chunks, each setting as a whole takes on a larger scope, recalling the famous dungeons of The Legend of Zelda. and though it’s such a large game – it’ll take you at least 12 hours to complete – very little of it feels repetitive, save perhaps for sections involving the polterpup. The first time you chase a phantom dog through a mansion, tracking its path with the dark light, it’s delightful and charming – but by the third time it begins wearing a little thin.
Each mansion is, naturally, concluded with a big boss fight; most of which ascribe to the classic Nintendo tradition of “repeat an action three times” to overcome, but they’re well crafted, and quite frequently rather challenging. And while the game itself will take you a dozen hours to complete, finding all of the hidden collectibles with take you at least a dozen more.
As a single player game alone, Luigi’s Mansion 2 would be well worth your time and money, but its bolstered by a rather robust and more importantly, fun multiplayer – dubbed the Thrill Tower.
There’s options for local multiplayer, in which each player need a copy of the game, download play – allowing you to magic a “lite” version of the game to a friend who doesn’t own it and online play. It features three gametypes that are actually pretty simple, standard fare – but they’re so much fun, and offer so much replay value that it doesn’t matter.
There’s Hunter, which tasks you with simple catching all the ghosts; Rush, which as you searching for the exit before the timer runs down, and Polterpup – a game of ghostly hide-and-seek with cute, yet creepy canines – but each offers a ton of replay value, thanks to some randomly generated events that keep it the experience fresh every time you play. You can even play through it alone if you wish, testing your skills as you progress further and further up the tower, tackling terrors that really ought to be done with friends in tow.
It’s also one of the few 3DS games that I couldn’t imagine playing with the 3D off, as the extra depth really immerses you in Luigi’s Mansion’s world. It does take some getting used to though; the lack of a second analogue makes controlling Luigi a little troublesome until you get used to it, and the lack of Circle Pad Pro support is unforgivable.