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Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon Review

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

Image © Nintendo
“Courage” isn’t defined by a lack of fear. Rather, we demonstrate true courage when we forge on ahead with a task even when our knees are knocking and our mouths have gone sour with terror. That’s why Mario’s little brother, Luigi, is the bravest video game character in existence. He has a talent for carrying on despite his never-ending paranoia.

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

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Action/Adventure/Puzzle

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…?”

The events of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon take place after the original Luigi’s Mansion, which hit the GameCube in 2001. Luigi is snoozing in front of his television when suddenly he receives a hail from the eccentric Professor E Gadd. Gadd informs Luigi that the benign ghosts he’s been studying in Evershade Valley have all become hostile. The problem seems to stem from the destruction of the Dark Moon gem that typically keeps the ghosts docile. E Gadd asks Luigi to retrieve the pieces of the shattered Dark Moon (though he doesn’t “ask” so much as he instructs), and Luigi reluctantly agrees.

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.”

Luigi’s Poltergust vacuum is on-hand once again to suck up the ghoulies, but this time the vacuum also acts as a ghost-busting Swiss army knife. E Gadd has engineered several accessories for the device, all of which prove vital to Luigi’s efforts. There’s a strobe light that he can charge to stun ghosts before sucking them up, and there’s also a dark light that lets him track down treasures, reveal invisible doors and objects, and root out particularly tricky 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!”

The visuals for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon aren’t as crisp as its predecessors’, but Luigi’s travels through the different mansions are unfailingly funny and charming, not to mention a little creepy. The game’s menagerie of ghosts is varied and expressive, and their stunts are sure to make you smile from time to time.

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.

CONCLUSION: Suck it Up

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon has a few creaky floors and chipped windows, but overall, it’s a highly addictive game experience that combines the best that the action, adventure, and puzzle genres have to offer. On top of that, it looks great, it sounds great, and has tons of personality. Pass up Mario’s invites and spend a bit of time with his brother for a change. You won’t regret it, not even when the ghosts come out to play.
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