A spooky delight.
Over a decade ago, Nintendo launched Luigi’s Mansion, a short but uniquely entertaining experience that left many fans wanting for more. Now, in 2013, after three years of development and countless delays, young studio Next-Level Games has brought Luigi back to the limelight with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. But does this ambitious 3DS title succeed in capturing the essence of the original Luigi’s Mansion?
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon follows the adventures of our favorite green Italian as he tries to uncover the mysteries of the titular Dark Moon after it shatters across the plains of Evershade Valley. Equipped with his handy flashlight, a vacuum cleaner, and a modified Nintendo DS, poor Luigi is forced by Professor E. Gadd to search for the pieces of the Dark Moon all while capturing the many ghosts residing in each mansion.
The core gameplay mechanics of Dark Moon are much similar to that of its predecessor. Collecting ghosts involves stunning them with a flashlight and sucking them up with a vacuum cleaner until they run out of health. Because the 3DS lacks a second stick, Luigi can only use the vacuum in the direction he is facing, which can oftentimes make maneuvering around multiple ghosts a bit of a pain.
Another important gameplay mechanic in Dark Moon is the new “dark light.” The dark light is used to find hidden objects throughout the game’s multiple mansions which hide bonus items and cash. Cash can be used to upgrade your vacuum or dark light make them more powerful or more efficient. The dark light can also be used to locate hidden Boos, which serve no purpose but to provide just another thing to do during your quest.
Dark Moon is divided up into multiple mansions, with each mansion having a certain number of missions. Each mission will have a different goal, and the amount of variety is much appreciated considering one of the major problems with the first game was that its repetition made playing the game a bit wary. There is one con to this type of mission structure though; the freedom to explore each mansion at your own leisure (as seen in the first game) is now gone. While I do appreciate the new mission structure a lot (especially as a portable title), it would have been nice to include some sort of free-roam mode so I can just go in, do whatever I want, collect some treasure, and leave.
Much of the charm in Dark Moon comes from the Luigi as a character. Martinet’s voice work for the game’s easily-frightened protagonist is an absolute joy to listen to. Every tiny thing that happens in each mansion causes Luigi to react frenziedly, whether it be a shout of surprise or a cry of terror. Leave the game untouched for a few moments and Luigi will start humming the game’s theme song to comfort himself. These small touches make the player feel strangely connected to Luigi as a character. I mean, who’d want to be warped into a haunted mansion cleaning up a mess someone else made?
Other aspects of Dark Moon’s presentation are equally as impressive. Everything in Dark Moon is interactive, meaning you can touch, shake, or move pretty much every single object in the game. This interactivity brings the world of Dark Moon to life, giving each environment a sort of tangibility that you rarely find in other games. Dark Moon also houses some impressive visuals, amongst the best on the 3DS in fact. Bright colors and cartoony animation seal the deal, as does the game’s catchy soundtrack.
One thing that surprised me about this game though was the amount of bugs and glitches I found throughout my adventure. I encountered many collision errors, floating tiles, and invisible walls in my playthrough of Dark Moon. At one point, I went straight through a door and almost broke the game. This is only surprising because it’s a Nintendo game, and Nintendo is usually pretty good at this quality-control stuff. But I guess I should have expected a few trips here and there from a young studio as Next-Level Games.
Single-player campaign aside, there are also multiplayer options for those who want to go ghost-busting with a couple of friends. There are different ways to play, including “Hunter,” “Rush,: and “Polterpup” modes, though they all follow the basic principle of collecting all of the ghosts as quickly as possible. Dark Moon’s multiplayer is both local (download and single card) and online, giving players some flexibility for online options.
In total, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon took me about 11 hours to beat, with a few matches of multiplayer played and about half the treasures found. Those who want to collect everything the game has to offer may find game times upward of 20 hours, while others who just want to rush through the game may breeze through in under seven. The multiplayer modes definitely add a lot of value to the package, so there is not much concern over game length here.
Overall, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a fantastic experience and a must-have for every 3DS owner. The game’s charm and personality absolutely won me over and the amount of content in the game is quite astonishing. Some gameplay and technical hiccups may hold the game back from being amazing, but it shouldn’t hold you back from purchasing it. Trust me, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is well worth your money.