2013: The Year of Luigi. It is finally time for gaming’s most famous second fiddle to step into the spotlight. It all starts here, with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. The long anticipated 3DS title is finally on store shelves and kicks off the green-clothed brother’s year.
The bad news first: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon relies heavily on the ground work laid by its predecessor. You won’t find much new in Dark Moon in both gameplay and story aspects. Luigi is still toting his Poltergust, which controls largely the same. He is still clearing out mansions room by room to open up even more rooms. As he clears out the mansions the plot unravels itself, ending in the exact same fashion as the first game. This is all nothing to worry about though, because all the similar systems are much improved and the game distracts you with so much charm that you care very little for any of the downsides that may appear.
Professor E. Gadd has called on Luigi to traverse various mansions throughout a valley (five in all) to collect pieces of the recently shattered Dark Moon. This tiny crescent shaped jewel makes the ghosts within the valley docile, but when it is broken apart, they turn mischievous and dangerous.
To progress through the story, Luigi takes on missions that will make him take different paths throughout each mansion. These missions fall into a similar pattern of going to a key room, clearing out the ghosts, finding an important item, rinse and repeat until the overall objective is completed. While the mission structure may feel repetitive, the variety in the mansions keep everything feeling fresh and new.
Wrangling the ghosts into Luigi’s Poltergust feels smooth. By eliminating the need to look up and down to stun ghosts, the singular circle pad is sufficient in pulling the ghosts in. Charging up the bulb in the flashlight helps stun multiple ghosts, which will in turn result in more money dropped. The ghosts are broken down into very distinct groups, each separated by color and size. The green ghosts are the most common, which will float around the room trying to take you head on. Red ghosts are brutish and will take away more health when they hit. Blue ghosts hide in furniture and throw projectiles your way, forcing you to search for them and try to draw them out. There are more variations that appear, but meeting them and finding out how they work is some of the charm.
In the first Luigi’s Mansion the only ghosts that get a personality are the mini boss and boss ghosts, but in Dark Moon all of the ghosts have a fun side to them that you will see through short cutscenes. Whether they are playing baseball or knocking lamps over, the ghosts are always up to no good. Sadly, the boss ghosts are the most generic and forgettable of all of the ghost types, which led me to want to just get the boss fights over with so I could move on to the next mansion and experience more of the charm of the game. The Boos also make a return with their pun names in tow. Scouring each room in each mission for the Boos gets tedious, and the reward is not enough to justify the difficulty in finding them.
The puzzles in Dark Moon break up the repetitive nature of the room clearing combat. With the dark light attachment to the Poltergust, Luigi can reveal objects invisible to the naked eye. Doors and furniture are just some of the things that can be brought back to the mansions through exposure to the dark light. For me, the more interesting puzzles were the ones that involved more environmental perception. Turning clocks to match the times displayed in past rooms or bringing back furniture that has been turned invisible in one mission that was visible in another are just a few examples of the way that Dark Moon gets you to pay attention to all of your surroundings.
The multiplayer in Dark Moon is the big addition to the Luigi’s Mansion series, and is executed exceptionally well. Teamwork is the name of the game across all three modes. Hunter mode is where the most fun can be had, up to four Luigi’s are tasked with clearing each room on a floor to the Scare Scraper. Rush mode is a time trial, forcing you to find the exit as quickly as possible, or take the risk of clearing rooms to gain more time. Polterpup rounds out the trio of modes, adapting a mission from the story into a multiplayer hide and seek, where all of the players are searching for NPC ghost dogs. Communication is key, and I would recommend playing with people that you can actually talk to, but the d-pad gives basic command lines that suffice.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the most charming game I have played in a long time, possibly since the original. With funny writing and physical humor, I had a smile on my face almost the whole time I was playing. The Year of Luigi is off to a strong start,and even if the other games in his line-up don’t turn out as good, gaming’s most iconic second fiddle has a first rate game tucked under his hat with Dark Moon.