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Growing up with a brother who was kind of a control freak meant that no matter what game we played, I was always player two. I complained for a while, but in the end I developed an attachment to the sidekick characters in most games, and none more so than the tall green chap with the L on his cap.
So it makes sense that the original Luigi’s Mansion meant a lot to me. Luigi was finally in the spotlight! – even if it was a dim, dank spotlight. And he had his own mansion! – albeit a gloomy ghost-infested one. Most importantly, he had his own game, and it was a fun, clever and original one.
The sequel has been far too long in the making, but it’s been well worth the wait.
Luigi’s Mansion 2, subtitled “Dark Moon” in the US, has our green-suited, yellow-bellied plumber summoned once again to Professor E. Gadd’s lab of questionable science and terrible puns. The professor had pacified the area’s ghosts, but when an artefact called the Dark Moon is damaged, they rebel, trash the lab, and cause havoc throughout the now-numerous mansions in the valley.
The professor sends Luigi into the buildings one by one, armed with his Poltergust 5000 backpack for vacuuming up ghosts, and a new Dark-Light torch that reveals hidden objects.
The game plays pretty much the same as the original: players explore creepy corridors and dusty rooms, using the Poltergust to clear out the ghosts that have taken up residence.
Previously, catching creatures in your flashlight beam was enough to stop them. Now, there’s a special strobe light attachment that lets you stun ghosts with a tap of the A button. It might seem an unnecessary distinction, but it gives players a more direct, deliberate attack.
Once an enemy is stunned, holding the right bumper button will initiate... well, “combat” I guess, in the same sense you might call fighting a fish on a rod “combat”. Fishing is the closest analogy: your prey will drag you around the room trying to shake you off, as you pull in the opposite direction to wrangle them into your vacuum. It’s the most fun a game has made cleaning look since Super Mario Sunshine.
Without the one-of-a-kind portrait ghosts that starred in the original Luigi’s Mansion, the more common enemies are given centre stage. They vary a bit more in behaviour and strength. Some like to hide in furniture, others will wield household items as weapons. Some might be wearing sunglasses or be otherwise protected against your strobe light. And of course the Mario franchise’s iconic Boos play a part in all this, with one hidden in each level, as a kind of “if you feel like it” objective.
The new Dark-Light torch is a welcome addition. Shining it around a room will highlight previously invisible objects, which may hold valuable loot or be key to completing a level.
Yes, a level. Gone is the structure of the first game, in which the mansion was an open world of sorts, with locked doors and rooms that can’t be solved at first. Your main objective was to find a linear path through this non-linear environment, and it made the whole mansion feel like a puzzle that slowly comes together as you find keys and information, like the first few Resident Evil games.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 breaks up the environment into separate levels with clearly-defined goals. There’s a focus on more immediate puzzles now, which mostly include finding hidden items and ways to access certain areas, usually with the Dark-Light torch or by creative use of the Poltergust. You’ll need to spin fans, roll back rugs, tear down wallpaper and posters, or suck up dust and cobwebs.
And like pretty much everything else nowadays, multiplayer has been thrown into the mix. Up to four players can team up to clear out ghosts from floor after floor, before facing a boss at the top of the tower. Cooperation is encouraged through some Left 4 Dead style mechanics: players may become incapacitated through traps or attacks, and their teammates will need to come to their rescue.
The best part is that Download Play allows the use of a single game card between up to four players locally, or you can play over WiFi with friends who also own the game.
The whole adventure looks great in the 3DS’ signature 3D. We watch the action from a fixed angle that removes the fourth wall, and makes the environment feel like a diorama. The added depth is effective enough to make you keep the 3D slider cranked all the way up, even during the few sections where the gyroscope is used.
More mischievous than malicious, the ghosts ooze personality, particularly through some rather slapstick cutscenes.
The sound is equally charming, particularly Luigi’s voice. You just want to give him a big hug when he nervously calls out in a dark room, or hums along with the music. And every time he answers the phone with a “Yello?” I can’t stop the big goofy grin from crossing my face.
Nintendo are known for pushing out the same kinds of games year after year, so it’s great to see some of their less common but no less loved franchises getting some attention. Luigi’s Mansion 2 contains all the fun, charm and originality of the first game, but adds enough to stand as its own thing. It’s a unique experience, and a must-have for any 3DS owner.
A gamer since the days of Lemmings and Wolfenstein, and a writer since Scamper the mouse in Grade Three, my two passions only met after a freak accident left them surgically inseparable. Follow @MikeIrvo.