Review: Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is spooky, lovable and exudes charm
With Nintendo claiming that 2013 is the year of Luigi, Mario's mustached brother had a lot to live up to with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon on the Nintendo 3DS. As the sequel to the loveable, but imperfect Luigi's Mansion on the GameCube, there have been expectations placed on Dark Moon. Fans of the original will be happy to know that Dark Moon does not disappoint. With great gameplay, comedy and visuals, everything in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon exudes charm. Not only is it an easy game to fall in love with, but it's one of the best games you can get on the 3DS.
The story takes place in Evershade Valley. When the Dark Moon, a magical artifact that keeps ghosts from being aggressive, is shattered, the mansion in Everyshade Valley turn to chaos. Professor E. Gadd, returning from numerous cameos and his starring role in the first Luigi's Mansion, enlists the help of Luigi to help recover the pieces of the Dark Moon. This time, instead of one mansion, Luigi's adventure takes place in five, with numerous ghosts to bust along the way.
The first thing you'll notice with Dark Moon is the visuals. The 3D effect is masterfully done and colors pop, making Dark Moon visually impressive. While the visuals are important to the atmosphere of Dark Moon, the real star of the show here is the audio. Not only are the sound effects amazing, but it's the details that will rock your socks off. You'll love the gibberish, Ewok-like language that Professor E. Gadd speaks with; you'll love the music, which adds a whimsical, yet sometimes spooky feeling to the game; and you'll absolutely love all of the things Luigi says – from his humming to the game's musical tracks, to his whimpers and exclamations. Seriously, the combination of the visuals and audio deserve to win an award. It's just so spooky and charming (in a Haunted Mansion-like way) that it's ridiculous.
Gone is the open-world format of the original. In its place is a mission-based format, which is better suited for a game on a handheld platform. You have a different goal each time you enter the mansion, usually with a new area of the mansion opening up to you. Missions range from hunting spiders and solving puzzles, to finding a piece of equipment and battling a boss. Even though it's not open-world, there's plenty of room for exploration, with a lot of secrets hidden. Blowing away rugs, using Dark Light on walls, and sucking up curtains reveal coins and more. Between battling ghouls, exploring at your leisure and puzzles, there's plenty of diversity in your tasks.
To aid Luigi on his quest, Professor E. Gadd equips him with the Poltergust 5000 – a vacuum that is quite handy at sucking up ghosts. You can do a lot with this powerful little sucker. By using the 3DS' gyroscope, you can aim the Poltergust 5000 up and down to suck up cobwebs, collect coins, blow rugs away or move fan blades. Against ghosts, the basic strategy is to catch them in your flashlight, which reveals them, and then suck them up with the Poltergust 5000.
The other piece of tech Luigi uses is the Dark Light; the Dark Light reveals certain types of enemies, as well as invisible pictures and doorways. Since you don't get the Dark Light from the get-go, it doesn't hurt to go back and play some of the beginning levels. Luigi also uses his own Nintendo DS to communicate with Professor E. Gadd. It serves as a walkie-talkie and map, both of which use the real estate on the bottom screen of your 3DS.
After reaching a certain point in the story, the multiplayer component to the game becomes available. Coined “The ScareScraper,” you can play multiplayer locally, with only play, or download, which allows a friend to get a condensed version of the game. The Scarescraper adds a tons of replay value, and it doesn't feel tacked on.
There are four game types in the ScareScraper. Hunter has you catch all the ghosts; Polterpup is like hide and seek with ghost dogs; Rush is a time challenge where you need to find the exit before time runs out; and Surprise randomizes one of those game types per floor. All of them allow four players to take on the ScareScraper together, but you could also play the ScareScraper entirely on your own. There are three difficulties, with the hardest one almost requiring a full party, but at least you have the option of going lone wolf.
There are random elements to each level, so you're never having the same experience twice. Why would you want to play the ScareScraper a lot? For the cash, baby! The cash you earn in multiplayer applies to your main game, which you use to upgrade your equipment. In addition to that, you can earn competitive awards – like MVP. There's no voice chat, so communicating is a little difficult, but there is the ability to ping an area on the map.
There's not a lot wrong about Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. The game runs, looks, and plays splendidly. I just wish it was a bit longer. If you really explore everywhere in every mission, each missions could take upward of 20 minutes. But once you get in a flow, they really fly. The gameplay gets some fast action going, and the puzzles and boss fights – while increasing in difficulty – never reach the point of frustration. With all these elements, the game lasts between 10 and 12 hours. So thank goodness there's multiplayer! Also, the controls can get be a little funky – specifically the gyroscope control scheme with the Poltergust 5000. By the time you reach the second mansion, you should be accustom to it, but you'll have a mishap every now and then.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon surpasses every aspect of the original game. With a great single-player mode, an even more impressive multiplayer mode, and the best atmosphere of any game I've played on the 3DS, Dark Moon takes ghost-hunting to a whole new level. Even though Luigi is like Louis Tully from Ghostbusters in mannerisms, he's like Peter Venkman in heart.
Who ya gonna call? Luigi!