The lesser known of the two Italian brothers takes the spotlight as the green-overalled one steps out of the (rather large) shadow of his red-overalled sibling to adventure solo in Luigi's Mansion 2 (also known Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon). In this latest 3DS experience, Luigi will make his way through several ghost infested locales, solving puzzles and battling spirits with little more than a vacuum cleaner and a flashlight.
In Luigi's Mansion 2, paranormal researcher, Professor E. Gadd, calls upon Mario's taller and more handsome counterpart to assist when the normally peaceful ghosts of Evershade Valley go hostile and turn against him, the cause of this rapid change of behaviour being the destruction of the 'Dark Moon' by a hostile Boo. Without the pacifying rays of the Dark Moon to keep them in check, the ghosts have overrun the Professor's mansion and forced him out of his research lab. With the aid of Luigi, the Professor seeks to recover the broken shards of the Dark Moon to reassert its calming influence on the local supernatural population.
The presentation of the game is immediately noteworthy, the excellent cartoony graphics and brilliant sound effects manage to convey a sense of fun and wonder, with an undertone of spookiness throughout. Luigi's mannerisms and clumsy, cowardly nature make this a treat in terms of visual comedy and slapstick silliness. Worthy of special mention is the 3D, which works excellently in the title, particularly during the ghost encounters. The fact that your enemies are transparent really makes the foreground and background contrast stand out from each other in a way rarely experienced by what is rapidly becoming an unappreciated feature of the handheld.
The name of the game is actually somewhat misleading, as there are actually five different mansions to explore throughout the course of Luigi's Mansion 2, each broken into five separate main stages with a boss battle at the end. Gameplay consists of a combination of exploration, puzzle solving and ghost-busting.
To aid Luigi in his poltergeist pulverising, Professor E. Gadd outfits him with his latest high-tech gadgetry including the Strobulb, the Poltergust 5000 and the Dark-Light. These three items are gradually introduced over the first couple of missions, which form a brief tutorial that perfectly hits the balance between teaching you the basics without outstaying its welcome.
The puzzle and exploration elements of Luigi's Mansion 2 are at the heart of the gameplay, and the majority of player time will be spent exploring the grounds of the five well designed mansions, each of which has a different theme; ranging from the traditional 'haunted house' to a secret mine. Scattered throughout each mansion will be secret doors, hidden keys and path-blocking obstacles that will hinder your process and force you to put the old grey matter to use.
All of Luigi's gadgets come into play here. The vacuum cleaner-esque Poltergust 5000 can be set to suck or blow, enabling Luigi to interact with the environment in many ways, such as sucking up loose wallpaper to reveal hidden passages, blowing out light sources and manipulating/carrying objects. Some of the uses of the Poltergust are ingenious and it proves a versatile tool in any situation.
The Strobulb functions as a flashlight that can be over-charged to send out a burst of blinding light. Whilst this is most useful during combat sections, it also comes into play during puzzles and can be used to trigger the light-sensitive controls for certain doors, safes and gadgets encountered during the course of the adventure.
Finally, the Dark-Light turns the flashlight into a hidden object detector, revealing objects and pathways that the ghostly mansion residents have hidden using their powers of illusion. There is rarely the need for trial-and-error shining with this device, as eagle-eyed players can identify where these hidden objects are located from analysing the map (to see the logical place for a door), looking for telltale clues in the environment (an empty picture frame may hide a secret) and from spotting differences in an area that they have previously passed through.
The puzzles find that perfect balance, in that they are difficult enough to slow you down and force you to think, explore and examine; but they never delay you long enough to cause frustration. They also never cross the line from difficult to illogical, and once you spot the solution you inevitably realise that the answer was staring you in the face the whole time.
It's not just puzzles and obstacles that will obstruct you throughout your time with Luigi's Mansion 2, as the ghosties themselves aren't afraid to get in Luigi's way in a more direct manner. The Poltergust 5000 is Luigi's primary method of spirit slaying, and by capturing ghosts in the powerful suction force of the machine he is able to imprison them and really clean house. It's not as simple as point and shoot though, the ghosts are not susceptible to the direct approach and careful tactics are required.
The Strobulb is the primary means to exposing a ghost's weakness and most basic ghosts can be stunned by a direct flash in the face, which is necessary before they can be captured by the Poltergust 5000. Even then, they aren't immediately caught as they drag Luigi around the room, forcing him to dodge the attacks of their colleagues while he attempts to drain their stamina in order to capture them.
Other ghost types are invisible by nature and so will attack Luigi with impunity until he can reveal their presence with the Dark-Light before he can break out the Poltergust. Some require use of both the Strobulb and the Dark-Light before they become weakened enough to be caught.
Even this explanation of the mechanics downplays the complexity of your ghostly enemies, as there are dozens of different types, each with their own unique behaviours, attack patterns and strategies. Some will be direct in their attack, some will hide and must be flushed out, some will have protective weapons and equipment that must be worked around and some will have special moves to use against you - there really is a high degree of depth to be found within the combat sections.
The bosses and sub-bosses in particular are challenging and unique, each requiring a distinct strategy that borders on puzzle-solving itself. While these sections are probably the most difficult points in the game, and are the only points where you are at real risk of repeated failure, they remain enjoyable enough that the prospect of multiple attempts is not something that is likely to cause frustration.
The difficulty curve on the whole is well handled and the game continuously introduces new concepts and new ghosts to keep the action moving and the puzzles interesting. It prevents things from becoming stale by giving players new challenges throughout, but rarely - with the exception of the aforementioned bosses - threatens to overwhelm the player.
While replayability is not often a feature of games that rely heavily on exploration and puzzle solving, the game is crammed with additional factors that make each level beg to be played multiple times.
Treasure is spread throughout each level in the form of currency, which can be used to upgrade the capabilities of Luigi's equipment. There are also a number of hidden gems to collect and a hidden Boo to encounter on each level who can be found with the Dark-Light. The gems unlock bonus trophies and capturing all the Boos in a mansion will unlock a bonus level for play.
At the end of each stage your performance is rated based on treasure collected, damage taken and speed of completion and you are awarded a one, two or three-star rank, giving competitive players a reason to replay a level to beat their previous high scores. In all, there is enough here to keep completionists busy for a long time.
There are few criticisms that can be levelled at Luigi's Mansion 2, but unfortunately there are some areas which should be addressed.
There is no option to save during a level and it's not uncommon for certain stages to take 30 minutes or more if you get stuck on a couple of the puzzles. This means if you do run out of health, your battery runs out or your boss catches you playing and makes you turn it off, then you'll have to go back to the beginning of the level when you next come back. While being armed with the puzzle solutions so far will mean it won't take you too long to get back to where you were, it is still an unnecessary frustration that could have been alleviated with a free-save system or some reasonable checkpointing.
There are also a few sections where gyroscope controls are used, which isn't exactly convenient when on a shaky bus, or elbow to elbow with others on a train. The analog stick can be used in these sections, but is slow and unresponsive and often offset by even the slightest of involuntary arm movements. Thankfully though, these sections are few and far between.
Last and very much least is the cooperative multiplayer offering: Thrill Tower (also known as ScareScraper). In this mode up to four players work together to either capture ghosts, find an exit or catch Polterpups (ghost dogs) in randomly generated mansions. Without the tight level structure and enjoyable puzzles that hold together the single player mansions, there is little to be found here beyond a momentary distraction.
Despite a few relatively minor gripes, Luigi's Mansion 2 is a fantastic puzzler and ghost-catcher-rer that successfully combines brain-scratching and action into one well-presented package and practically guarantees hours of fun and entertainment. Without a doubt, this is one of the strongest titles on the 3DS to date.
- Smart puzzles
- Great level design
- Funny and well presented
- Varied enemies
- Poor save system
- Weak multiplayer