Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
Developer: Next Level Games
ESRB Rating: RP
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: Holiday 2012
“M—Maaaarioooo!” Poor Luigi warbled his brother’s name over and over while searching for him in Luigi’s Mansion, released in 2001 for the GameCube. Finally, over a decade later, the lanky plumber/amateur ghost hunter is back at it in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS. Luigi’s probably not happy about having to return to his paranormal studies, but we should be. Having gone hands-on with Dark Moon, I can verify that it’s a fun and charming game, and a welcome return to a franchise that’s worthy of more entries.
Back to the Mansion(s)
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon finds Luigi in the company of Professor E Gadd once again, and the eccentric scientist has a mission for the “youngster:” he wants Luigi to explore not one, but three haunted mansions (maybe more, though the demo offered three). Luigi reluctantly accepts, and he’s teleported into action. After retrieving his trusty Poltergust 5000 (the modified vacuum cleaner that sucked up the creepy crawlies in the original Luigi’s Mansion), Luigi gets to work.
In most respects, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon plays like its GameCube predecessor. Fans of the Super Mario games may notice that Luigi is a little under-equipped for this adventure: there are no real power-ups, no dinosaurs to ride on, and Luigi certainly can’t stomp on ghosts. Instead, Luigi only has his Poltergust, his flashlight, his wits, and his meagre store of courage.
Luigi must travel from room to room in each mansion, avoid traps, and suck up any marauding ghosts he meets with the Poltergust. Oftentimes, he needs to solve puzzles to progress (Dark Moon puts more emphasis on puzzle-solving than its predecessor), or must find keys that let him go deeper into whichever mansion he’s exploring. Luigi can interact with almost everything in his environment, and can suck up objects, money, gold bars, ghosts, curtains, sweaters, blankets, coats, and, of course, dust. It’s not clear how his vacuum bag never fills up. Chalk it up as one of life’s mysteries.
Wrangling ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon should be a familiar task for anyone who’s played the first game. First, Luigi must stun ghosts with his flashlight. Then he needs to use the Poltergust to vacuum them up to the last drop of plasma. Using the flashlight to stun ghosts is a little different this time around, however: instead of pointing the light at the ghoulies, Luigi charges his flashlight and releases a strobe that stuns them. This makes it significantly easier to freeze ghosts, as looking up or town otherwise requires you to use the 3DS’s gyro sensor. Once the ghosts are frozen, Luigi can try and contain them with the Poltergust. If he succeeds, that’s one less rogue ghost in the mansion.
Of all the Nintendo 3DS demos I’ve played recently, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the one I enjoyed most. I was a bit surprised to discover how much I enjoyed myself, though maybe not too surprised, as the original Luigi’s Mansion for GameCube sucked me in, too (heh heh. Vacuum cleaner humor).
It could simply be that like its predecessor, Dark Moon offers a compelling change of scenery for Mario fans. It’s interesting to team up with Mario’s under-appreciated brother and crawl through a game at a slower, more thoughtful pace than the Mario series’ standard. The game’s humor and atmosphere are both fleshed out well, too: it’s a funny game, but also a little creepy, not unlike the Ghostbusters movies that Luigi’s Mansion is so obviously inspired by.
Either way, if you enjoyed the original Luigi’s Mansion, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is almost certain to make the hairs on your arms go all prickly—in a good way.