Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS not only demonstrates Luigi’s courage: It also illustrates that he’s a hero of many talents. He can hunt, he can chase, he can solve puzzles, he can wrangle ghosts of all shapes and sizes, and he can fix pipes (naturally). Most importantly, he sticks to the task at hand. He powers through the funny moments, the spooky moments, and even the rare moments when things get a bit tedious.
Developer: Next Level Games
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
GOOD: Lots to do. Interesting mix of genres. Game has tons of personality.
BAD: Lacks checkpoints. Puzzles and battles occasionally get frustrating and/or confusing. No quick save option.
NECESSARY READING COMPREHENSION: High. Game’s story is relatively detailed, and all of Luigi’s instructions are delivered via text. No voice-overs.
THE BASICS: “Hello…?”
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is an action/adventure game that’s laced with a great deal of puzzle-solving. Luigi must wrangle ghosts with his trusty Poltergust vacuum like he did in the first game, but he also needs to use his noggin to find his way around each of the game’s five haunted mansions.
GAMEPLAY: “I’m Afraid of All Ghosts.”
Additionally, the Poltergust is vital for solving puzzles. With it, Luigi can suck up piles of dirt and garbage to reveal hidden objects, pull at curtains, ropes, vines, and loose bits of wallpaper, and carry objects with him—including buckets, projectiles, and hysterical Toads who’ve gotten themselves mixed up in all this haunted mansion business. Luigi can also collect money and treasure that lets him upgrade the Poltergust so that it becomes more effective against his quarry.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is interesting in that it’s fun to play on a physical level as well as an intellectual level. There’s a primitive satisfaction in sucking up a stack of dollar bills, yanking at dangling ropes, and fighting to rein in a big ghost that darts around the kitchen and sends you crashing into stacks of pots and pans. The Poltergust is a comical device, but you’ll find yourself growing attached to it nonetheless.
You may find yourself growing attached to the mansions that you explore, too, as each one contains a unique theme that plays into its puzzles. You need to figure out how get rid of man-eating plants in an overgrown tree-shaped mansion, for example, while the abandoned clockwork mansion/factory has plenty of time-based puzzles.
Though most of the puzzles are clever and easy enough to solve if you apply some intuition, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon suffers from some moments when you’ll just throw up your hands and wonder what the game wants from you. The first major boss you encounter is quite difficult, and defeating her requires you to perform a series of tasks that are hard to guess at without some help.
In fact, all the enemies you encounter are capable of putting a major hurt on Luigi regardless of the fact they’re incorporeal. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a challenging game, and that’s fine, but its save system leaves something to be desired. The auto-save function only kicks in after Luigi successfully completes a mission, and there’s no quick save option. Most missions are quite brief, but some are longer and climax with a skirmish against a mini-boss. If Luigi dies before the mission’s over, he’s booted back to the mission’s start. That means solving puzzles he’s already solved, and beating up enemies he’s already dealt with.
Granted, once you know the solution for a puzzle, it takes no time at all to input the answer a second time. Still, checkpoints would have been a very nice addition to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.. Luckily, there are ways to avoid getting a Game Over in the first place. Upgrading the Poltergust is relatively inexpensive and a big help against nasty boss ghosts. Luigi can also find golden dog bones that will summon the adorable “Polterpup” to wake him up when he faints.
Moreover, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon lets you backtrack and replay missions that you’ve already finished. If you’re stuck on a puzzle or a boss, take a break and replay a previous level. Each mansion is stuffed with secrets and collectables, so there’s always something fun to do even when you think you’re fed up with the game.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: “Yeow!”
Likewise, the soft-voiced Luigi has little to say for himself, but his startled cries and flailing limbs convey his emotions perfectly. Even the small touches, like the way he tenses up when he enters a room that’s stuffed with hidden ghosts, is fun to behold. He’s even allowed a few small flashes of confidence and smugness—though his ego is almost always deflated by a surprise ghost appearance.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon isn’t a survival horror game by any means, but the level designers put a lot of detail and care into each mansion’s environment and atmosphere. As a result, you’ll witness some genuinely creepy moments as you play through. Flashes of lightning reveal otherwise invisible dangers, ghosts pop up where you least expect them, and the subdued music assures you that something is always around the corner. Oh, and as it so happens, even spiders designed by Nintendo are capable of giving you a galloping case of arachnophobia.