I never had the chance to play the original Luigi’s Mansion on the GameCube, mostly because I never actually owned a GameCube. But it remains really popular to this day (even if you’ve never played it, chances are you’ve heard of it) and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is easily my family’s game in the Nintendo Land collection. Fans were excited when a long-awaited sequel was announced for the Nintendo 3DS, and that sequel is now here in the spectral form of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. The result is a fun and charming game, but one that comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome like the ghosts that haunt its locales.
Dr. E. Gadd (and yes, the game has its fair share of puns, enough to make me say “boo”) needs Luigi’s help once again as the ghosts have gone berserk. Seems King Boo is up to no good again, destroying the Dark Moon that keeps the ghosts from acting like mischievous poltergeists. It’s up to a rather reluctant and scaredy-cat Luigi to find the pieces so Dr. E. Gadd can put them back together and bring the ghosts back to normal while also finding who’s really behind all this.
Dark Moon is equal parts action-adventure and puzzle game. Players will spend time exploring the various haunted locations while battling ghosts with his trusty Poltergust 5000. But you’ll also have to solve various room puzzles to advance, usually by finding some hidden object exposed with the new dark light flashlight.
This game is really long on charm. Luigi’s near-constant state of fear is endearing and the ghosts’ antics are fun to watch. Plus there’s a playful ghost dog that my five-year-old son just adored (of course, now he wants a puppy of his own). Oh, and there are Toads in the game as well. Gamers of any age will appreciate how charming the game is, and even with all the ghosts and ghouls, it rarely gets too scary. So unless your kids get scared really easily (like my five-year-old), there isn’t too much to worry about for content, as you would expect from a Nintendo title.
What they might have trouble with though, is the puzzles. They aren’t particularly hard, but they will typically involve some careful analysis and exploration. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something that will raise the appropriate age for the game. My nine-year-old can play it, but my five-year-old, who really wants to play, is getting a bit stymied by the puzzle aspects. For example, many doors are locked and require a key. The key is usually not far away, maybe one or two rooms, but if you haven’t been checking every corner of every room up to that point, you may have to backtrack a bit.
The game really does reward meticulous exploration from this standpoint. There are lots of secrets around, as you would expect. The curious among us will find more money (and thus upgrade their Poltergust 5000 and Dark Light faster), bonus areas and levels, and perhaps most importantly, gold dog bones that give you an extra life in the level should you run out of hit points. This last one is very important as there are no checkpoints, and death means starting the level all over again from the beginning. Since levels take 20-40 minutes to complete (a pretty good fit for a portable game actually), that could be a serious setback.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a good deal of fun to play. The gameplay is solid and it looks really good, with the 3D not only adding from a visual standpoint, but also enhancing gameplay by giving you help on room depth when you’re trying to chase down a ghost. And for as good as the game looks, it sounds even better. Like with any good scary movie, the music helps with the overall feel and adds to the tension.
Of course, Dark Moon is not without its flaws. Control can sometimes be a pain, especially when you can’t turn very well when your flashlight is on. If you get the “turn-light” move wrong even by a little bit, you’ll find yourself stuck pointing in the wrong direction and open to attack. Plus, as good as the 3D is in helping with depth, you will sometimes still struggle with proper positioning. Fortunately these don’t happen too often.
The thing I’m more worried about is that the game starts to grind after a while. There are only five main areas to explore, each with a number of levels that basically see you go through many of the same parts of the area, with each subsequent level opening up different levels by removing an obstacle from a door, say. It can get repetitive having to visit the same locales, doing puzzles, and fighting ghosts. It only really starts to feel fresh again when you open a new area or have a boss battle. What starts as a fun romp risks turning into a major grind, depending on how much the player appreciates repetition. Some level variety certainly would have alleviated some of this concern by cutting back or eliminating the backtracking.
Luckily the story is enough to keep you wanting to trudge along. The main story is a good length, and would have been fine on its own. But Nintendo also added a neat multiplayer mode called ScareScraper that can be played with either locally or online, and even features Download Play, meaning you can get away with playing off on cartridge if that’s all you have, which we always appreciate. ScareScraper basically sees you trying to advance as many floors as possible by completing objectives along with your teammates. Or you can play solo as well. It’s a fun mode that adds even further value to the game.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a spooktacular good time that almost any aged gamer will be able to appreciate. It can get a little repetitive visiting the same areas level after level, but those who like to explore down to the last detail will find a rewarding experience. It’s challenging without being cheap, and oozes charm like ectoplasm. Dark Moon keeps the legacy of Luigi’s Mansion going strong and adds nicely to what is suddenly becoming a strong Nintendo 3DS lineup.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
If you would like to purchase Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, please use the Amazon links below and support GamerPops.
ESRB Rating Summary
Rating Category: E for Everyone
Content Descriptors: Crude Humor, Mild Cartoon Violence
Rating Summary: This is an adventure game in which Luigi searches for “Dark Moon” pieces around several haunted locales. Players use a vacuum to suck up objects, manipulate scenery, and capture ghosts. Players can fire seeds at plant creatures, set off ‘cartoony’ explosions, and shoot spiked balls at enemies; characters whoop or squeal in a whimsical manner when they take damage. One sequence depicts a large monster that emits flatulent sounds and balls of slime at Luigi.