Your Ghost Is In Another Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Review
Luigi has always been the understudy of the Mario Bros. partnership. He’s the character that younger siblings have to play as, the one that no-one really wants to be, and oftentimes the butt of jokes in any Mario games that he is deemed worthy of appearing in. However, back in 2001, Nintendo decided it was time to allow Luigi to go out into the big wide world all by himself, in Luigi’s Mansion for the Gamecube. Now, over eleven years later, Luigi has the chance to go on another adventure, this time on the 3DS handheld, in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Featuring the same ghost-hunting action as the previous game, Luigi is tasked with entering a number of haunted locations to clear them out of ghosts, and restore Evershade Valley to its previous peaceful state.
Initially, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon seems as if it will play out as a child-friendly version of the early Resident Evil games, particularly as Luigi explores Gloomy Manor, the setting of the first chapter in the game. As players guide Luigi through various rooms in the manor, they will encounter locked doors, the keys to which are obtained by solving some fairly simple puzzles. So far, so Resi. Even the ‘combat’ with the ghosts initially seems familiar to any veterans of Racoon City, as you need to make sure there’s always enough space between you and your foes to ensure your attacks are successful and that Luigi doesn’t end up on the wrong end of a spectral beating. However, from the moment you look through one of the mansion’s windows and see a couple of ghosts playing catch, to the time when you get distracted by something outside of the 3DS and come back to find Luigi humming along to Dark Moon’s catchy soundtrack, you’ll realise that Luigi’s Mansion contains a great deal more charm that even a Jill Sandwich could evoke.
Even though Luigi has been given a second chance to take the lead role in his own game, don’t think for one second that this means that jokes at Luigi’s expense are off-limits. Luigi is clumsy, almost adorably so, and seeing him trip up a shallow flight of steps or fall awkwardly out of the Pixelator (a teleportation-type device) will often provoke a brief chuckle from even those younger siblings that despise Luigi as a symbol of their childhood oppression by older brothers or sisters. A good deal of fun is poked at Luigi by his guide through Evershade Valley, Professor E. Gadd, particularly due to the fact that Luigi is terrified of every slight creak or bang that he hears. Most of the interactions between Luigi and the Professor come in the form of text, although Luigi is often a silent partner in the proceedings. The only real output we get from the guy-in-green is in the form of soundbites, which are simple one-liners, but come dotted throughout the game with enough skill to give the player a good idea of what’s going through Luigi’s mind at that particular point in time.
The sound design throughout Dark Moon has obviously been managed with a deft touch, from the catchy soundtrack, which strikes a perfect balance between creepy and charming (and often has you humming along just as much as Luigi), to the impressive level of sound balancing. If you own a decent pair of headphones, I implore you to make good use of them with Dark Moon, as the ability to tell exactly where a ghost is in a room is priceless, especially when you get to the stage of the game when most of the ghosts you face will either be completely invisible (as opposed to their usual translucency) or hiding in objects.
There’s only one element of Luigi’s Mansion’s audio that comes off as a little irritating, and that’s not because of the sounds themselves, but more of the connotations surrounding them. Luigi carries a communicator around with him, which the Professor uses to keep in contact, and when you’re playing through a level for the first time, it can seem as though the communicator rings every twenty seconds. The ringtone itself is catchy, but each and every time it rang towards the end of the game all I could think of was how often it was delaying me from reaching my goal.
Although the visuals of Dark Moon don’t quite live up to the excellent audio on offer, they don’t embarrass themselves either. Luigi’s character model is particularly pleasing to the eye, and the Pixelator effects and Doctor Who-esque teleportation sequences are impressive, particularly when viewed in 3D. However, the environments can be a little blocky at times, although this doesn’t prevent players from seeing where they’re going or what they’re supposed to be doing. Ghosts are always distinguishable from one another, seeing as they are separated by colour, which helps players to pick the best tactic to deal with them. If you’re playing in 2D, it can often be difficult to tell the depth of a ghost in a room, making it difficult to stun them with Luigi’s flashlight, but with 3D turned on the problem disappears. It’s a bit of a nuisance for those prone to 3D-induced headaches, though.
Luigi deals with the many ghosts featured in Dark Moon with his trusty combination of Flashlight and Poltergust 5000. Almost every strain of ghost is dealt with in the same basic fashion, initially stunning them with the flashlight, and then sucking them into the Poltergust 5000 using a mixture of the Right Shoulder Button and the Analogue Stick. Capturing ghosts is actually a lot like videogame fishing, as the Analogue Stick needs to be held in the opposite direction to that which a ghost is fleeing in, with the ultimate objective of reeling them in. Depending on how long you hold the ghost in the Poltergust’s air-stream, using the A-button causes a significant drop in the ghost’s health points, placing them that much closer to capture. Different types of ghosts have varying levels of health points, and unfortunately a rather cheap tactic (which is story-related) causes the same types of ghosts to experience a significant increase in health, which lengthens the capture process to a large extent.
Although stunning and capturing ghosts is identical across the board, the way in which you force them into being stunned is slightly different depending on which type of ghost you’re dealing with. The first type you’ll encounter is the Greenie, which are – surprise, surprise – green. These are your basic ghosts, and though later encounters see them picking up weapons and shields, a basic stun-and-suck combo is often enough to capture them. Other examples of ghosts include the red Slammers that pack a mean punch and have a higher level of health, and the blue Hiders, which, as the name suggests, hide inside various pieces of furniture in a room and need to be found before they can be stunned. Later ghosts can be invisible or throw projectiles; this variation of strengths and weaknesses, and later mixture of different ghost types in a single battle ensure that clearing a room is often never as simple as it first appears.
Luigi’s path through Evershade Valley takes him into five different locations, ranging from mansions and towers to factories and mines. Each specific location takes up a single chapter, with each chapter usually broken down into five levels, with a boss fight level at the end of each chapter. The approach for these boss fights will be familiar to those who have played a Mario or Zelda game before, as each fight is broken down into three stages, and each boss can usually be overcome by a mixture of pattern recognition and skill. Each non-boss level will take players between ten and twenty-five minutes to beat initially, with the story of Dark Moon as a whole taking around eight or nine hours on a first playthrough. However, the plot makes up only a small part of Dark Moon, as there is plenty of optional content to discover, including Gems, Boos (the famous Mario series ghost), secret rooms and levels, and upgrades for Luigi’s equipment. Collecting all of these items could increase the playtime of Luigi’s Mansion to around 15 hours, which is a fairly respectable figure for a handheld game.
There were only a few issues with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon that were not enough to be game-breaking by themselves, but certainly enough to provoke a deal of frustration and irritation in players. Some of the puzzles within Dark Moon can be a little obscure, not quite reaching the levels of early 90s point-and-click adventures, but still enough to see Luigi wandering backwards and forwards through every room in a level, interacting with everything and anything to see if it unlocked any form of progress. There are also a number of instances of coins and money becoming stuck towards the ‘front’ of the screen, with Luigi’s vacuum unable to reach them, lost forever. Lastly, and perhaps the most frustrating issue, is in the checkpoint/continue design. Throughout each level, Luigi has the chance to uncover a Golden Bone, which causes a ghostly dog to come and revive Luigi upon an instance of his health reaching zero (read: Zelda’s fairies). However, if you haven’t found this bone, or if you’ve already used it, and Luigi’s health reaches zero again, that’s it, you return to the start of the level, having lost all your progress. It’s an unforgiving mechanic, and doesn’t quite match with the charm and whimsy of the rest of Luigi’s Mansion. It can also be incredibly frustrating when you’re only a room or two away from an especially long level’s exit.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is an incredibly charming experience from start to finish, and does more than enough to establish Luigi as a leading man in his own right. Packed full of content, both obvious and hidden, Dark Moon is a lengthy adventure through a series of haunted environments, but never feels as though it outstays its welcome. For those looking for a high-quality handheld adventure, which can be played in short-bursts or long, drawn-out sessions, Luigi’s Mansion comes strongly recommended, and you may just find yourself smirking at Luigi’s antics, rather than shrieking at the ghosts and ghouls.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon scores a 4.25 out of 5
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