Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS is one of Nintendo’s most ambitious games to date for the handheld, and one of the company’s best releases thus far. A follow-up over a decade in the making, not many fans of the GameCube classic thought Luigi’s role as ghost hunter extraordinaire would be revisited. With Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon fans will get a dose of familiarity if versed in the previous game, while also getting a game that has been significantly brought up to speed with modern trappings.
Dark Moon is a game mostly about puzzle solving and exploration, utilizing Luigi’s ever-growing toolset to fend off ghosts and complete tasks for Professor E.Gadd. Players will work their way through five unique mansions on a mission to find pieces of the Dark Moon. These moon fragments have been scattered across Evershade Valley, and the shattering of the moon have turned once docile ghosts into hostile foes for Luigi to deal with. While your overall goal is to find these moon fragments, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is anything but a simple fetch quest.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon strikes a delicate balance. It feels familiar for fans of the original, while planting its own flag
There’s a delicate balance struck in Dark Moon. It’s a game that calls back to many of the themes that made the original Luigi’s Mansion such a fan-favorite, but it very much sets out on its own to make a name for itself as well. Luigi sheepishly wanders back into his role of ghost hunter. And while he’s been there before and should know what he’s getting into, Dark Moon manages to capture both the comedic and scare elements of the original game. It puts everyone’s second-favorite plumber back into situations that we’re not used to seeing him in, and its chock-full of animations of Luigi that connect and endear the player to the experience; it’s a huge feat for a game on the small screens of the 3DS that rarely uses a line of spoken dialogue. That said, the story of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is entirely built on atmosphere. It’s delivered through beautiful interactive environments, the character’s body language, and of course, the copious amount of ghosts that litter these haunted mansions.
Players will navigate five completely different “haunted houses” in the single player side of things. While the first two are warm-ups for the home stretch, they each deliver a unique flavor of the game, introduce new and interesting puzzles, and offer a ton of opportunity for exploration and collectibles. The main progression hurdles are puzzles. The solution? You’ll need to scour your environments, often times needing to think outside the box to find pieces that you can interact with. Some are fairly straight forward, some require a bit of trial and error, but almost all of them feature an “Ah ha” element of some sort when solved. Each room of each mansion has numerous interactive elements to them, and some puzzles will span multiple rooms or levels. Some have drapes or curtains that can be sucked in by the Poltergust, others will feature hidden elements that can be only be seen when Luigi shines his Dark-Light Device on them, and some will require using a combination of Luigi’s different tools to bypass. The puzzle solving rarely gets old, and more impressive, is that there’s hardly any recycling of the same ideas throughout the game. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon can be surprising at how simplistically clever some of the puzzles are, especially if you go into it thinking it will be a push-over.
Snagging keys and opening doors through puzzle solving is only one part of the equation in Dark Moon. Navigating your way through a mansion, you’ll often times be stopped in your tracks by a ghost, or a group of them. The mechanics for capturing a ghost in Luigi’s Mansion are simple, while changing somewhat from the original. You’ll still need to shine your light on ghosts to trap them, but with Luigi’s new strobe light, you’ll need to put them in a vulnerable state before you suck them up. Once you do, they’ll try to get away and you must reel them in by pushing the analog stick in the opposite direction they are trying to flee. Simple enough when fighting one ghost with recognizable tactics, but things get much more advanced as the game wears on. You’ll encounter stronger enemies that aren’t vulnerable to your light, ones that take considerably more “ghost-wrangling”, and groups that consist of numerous types, all with specific methods needed to capture them. Just how varied the enemies are as the game progresses was one of the most surprising elements of the game to me. Seeing as in the early stages it felt like the mechanic could get old as the game moved forward, it was a relief to find both variety and challenge involved in the latter stages. As this challenge is ratcheted up, it’s pretty evident that this game could do well with a second analog stick. Using the 3DS’s face buttons to raise and lower the flashlight can get old, if only because most games feature two analog sticks these days. The single analog stick also puts you at a disadvantage against enemies as well. A mistimed flash towards a ghost can leave you exposed, and this happens a lot with enemies that move around. It’s by no means a deal breaker, nor a lacking feature that detracts fun from the game, but noticeable nonetheless.
These two gameplay mechanics are slapped together with a coat of visual and audio polish that make up an exceptional single player package. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is one the best looking and best playing games on the Nintendo 3DS. But it’s also got a lot of meta elements that make the single player side engaging on your first or subsequent playthrough. Dark Moon has scoring system that rewards players for the more that they do on a level. It inspires you to explore every crack and crevice looking for gold coins, luigi dollars, gems, gold bones, gold bricks, and hidden Boos. You’ll be rewarded with experience that goes towards leveling up your gear. Your more powerful equipment will be more helpful as you move forward, but there’s also a “catch-em-all” element as well. E.Gadd’s vault which Luigi empties the Poltergust into after each level, keeps a tally on which collectibles you’ve found, ghosts you’ve captured, in both the offline and online modes.
ScareScraper takes all of the mechanics from single player and dumps them into a cooperative online experience that works way better than you would expect.
Yep, there’s an online mode in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Sounds weird, right? It takes all of the mechanics from single player and dumps them into a cooperative online experience that works way better than you would expect. It’s called the “ScareScraper”; the cooperative mode features three different game types and allows for local, download, and online play via the Nintendo Network. The online modes worked with little noticeable latency, but since there aren’t many players online right now, its hard to tell if that will be the case once the game releases. Players can create their own ScareScraper lobbies that others can join, and can select from a variety of different settings. There are three specific modes that players can choose from, but they all pretty much follow the same gameplay mechanics as the single player. The major differentiator are the objectives in clearing each level of the tower to progress to the next. In Hunter mode, players work as a team of four (all different colors of the Luigi model) and use team work to clear out a floor before advancing to the next. Rush mode has players scrambling for the exit to each floor, under the gun of a timer; capturing ghosts and finding stopwatches add time to the countdown. The third is Polterpup Mode, where players use their Dark-Light Device to track ghostly dogs on each level by following their paw prints.
There’s very little noticeable performance difference between the single player and online world of Luigi’s Mansion. ScareScraper is perfect for bite-sized chunks of online gameplay, and this mode definitely plays more to the comedic side, especially when you get four players trying to cooperate with limited communication options. There’s definitely some fun to be had here once all the collectibles have been had in the single player, and possibly way before then. The only major complaints about the online modes is the inability to stay with a group after you’ve completed or failed a level. You’re always dumped back into the main ScareScraper lobby when finished, and it would have been nice to continue ghost hunting with a group that you had previous success with. The single player issues do permeate to the online side as far as controls go, but that’s expected as the gameplay is identical.
There’s very little on the Nintendo 3DS that compares to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. It’s unique in the type of gameplay that it offers, and it’s a surprising game on so many levels. The sheer amount of enemy types in single player, numerous collectibles, and attention to detail given to each and every environment, is a refreshing change of pace. While we’ve seen so many games that add components like multiplayer for filler content, or just seem content with slightly varied enemy models, every peice of Dark Moon feels meaningful and intended to enhance the experience, and there are a lot of those peices. It doesn’t hurt that Dark Moon is easily one of the best looking Nintendo 3DS games available, if not the best looking game on the handheld. Either way, it’s the new must-have for the device.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
- Available On: Nintendo 3DS
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: Next Level Games
- Genre: Action Adventure
- US Release Date: March 24th, 2013
- Reviewed On: Nintendo 3DS
- Quote: "Dark Moon is easily one of the best looking Nintendo 3DS games available, if not the best looking game on the handheld. It's the new must-have for the 3DS."