Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon Review
Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s most legendary developer, recently stated he’d like to give Mario another brother. That would, in some ways, be a travesty.
Because it’s only now, with Luigi’s Mansion 2, that the green-hatted sibling is getting the game that truly shows what the series’ other brother can achieve when thrust into the limelight – or rather, the shadows.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is not just the character’s finest hour, but one of the most original, inventive and exciting titles that you’ll play this year.
New Super Luigi
The game sees the trembling, fearful hero battling through multiple titular mansions to find pieces of the shattered dark moon for Professor E.Gadd and restore Evershade Valley to normality.
Set across multiple missions, boss fights and tasks, the game pits Luigi and his trusty Poltergust 5000 against all manner of ghosts and ghouls in a range of diverse environments.
Each mansion is split into five levels and a boss fight, focusing on puzzling and ghost-battles set inside each world, using a mixture of items in ever more ingenious ways.
An early mission sees Luigi having to locate gear cogs stolen by the ghosts and scattered across the mansion in order to unlock an area hiding a dark moon piece.
The action often feels more like a room escape puzzler than anything else: in order to find the way forward, you’ll try opening every cupboard, vacuuming every last rug and poster and shining your torch across each gloomy corner, desperately searching for the solution – often to find it’s been staring you in the face.
In fact, it’s the puzzles that really define Luigi’s Mansion 2 – not Layton-style head-scratchers, but environment-based stumbling blocks which will often demand you explore the entire mansion to find that one ‘eureka moment’ to make progress.
For example, one mission saw us stumped by a mass of thick cobwebs over a door.
After scrambling around for the solution, we realised we could use Luigi’s special rainbow-torch (the Dark-Light Device) to reveal a ball of yarn.
Then, we vacuumed the yarn until it stuck in the end of the appliance’s pipe, before lifting it up with X until it caught fire in a nearby flaming torch.
Luigi’s Mansion 2’s Puzzles
We carried the lit yarn to the cobweb and hey presto, it burned away. Simple, yet ingenious all at once. Classic Nintendo design.
It’s Luigi’s versatile arsenal that really helps make these puzzles so compelling.
Packing a vacuum and two types of torch, you’re never stuck for something to try.
The vacuum can both suck with R and blow out air with L.
One clever puzzle saw us having to suck in a balloon, then once it was over the hoover pipe, we blew out air with L until the balloon inflated. This carried a floating Luigi over a gap, with us blowing or sucking in air to change the balloon’s size and control his descent or ascent.
The basic torch is used both for stunning ghosts and for triggering certain light-sensitive switches. The light beam can also be held down to charge for a greater radius – needed to complete some puzzles which demand that several light switches are triggered at the same time.
The Dark-Light Device is a new addition, with undertones of the Lens Of Truth (similar to an item from the first Luigi’s Mansion).
It allows the torch to kick out a rainbow-coloured beam which is used to find hidden secrets. For example, you might need to shine it on a gap between two ledges to uncover a bridge, or on a blank wall to reveal a doorway.
One level in the second world had us chasing a ghost dog (the Polterpup) through the mansion, using the Dark-Light Device to show up the dog’s footsteps and follow its path from room to room.
Another trick up Luigi’s sleeve is the ability to use the X button to see what’s above you.
Much of the game is seen from a side-on perspective with a fixed camera. It’s a bit like a sitcom set – you can go from side to side and deeper into the background, but you’ll never really see the closest wall to the foreground.
But, hitting X will move the camera up into the rafters, often revealing secrets hidden in the ceiling or pull-cords hanging down you can trigger by vacuuming.
Holding X while using the torch also helps Luigi shine a light on corners of the room above him as well as on the same level – necessary for clearing many of the puzzles in the game.
You’ll often need to combine all of these options to clear any one level, mixed with exploration and ghost-busting. We won’t give away too much, but trust us when we say Nintendo has some very clever ideas up its sleeve here.
Each mansion changes on every play, with missions altering the environment in subtle ways or forcing you into a different area or a different floor.
The design recalls elements of Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario 64 in that it regularly takes an area you’ve explored and forces you to see it from a different light.
Ghost battles are a similar joy. Mixed in with exploration, a shakey-voiced Luigi will often creep into a room, peering round the door with trepidation, only to have several ghouls burst from all corners in shrieking delight.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Purple ethereal gates slam down on every escape path, forcing Luigi to do battle.
These fights are in three stages: Luigi will need to open cupboards and drawers to find ghosts’ hiding places, before stunning them with the torch.
Once momentarily stunned, a number appears above the ghost’s head. You’ll then need to hit R to vacuum them in, using A to hit them with a shock of electricity to push the number down to zero and trap them inside the hoover, Ghostbusters style.
It’s all framed in some of the most beautiful graphics the 3DS has produced, especially with the 3D cranked to the max.
Shadows are cast realistically across dark corridors. Lighting flickers from candles, lightning flashes burst through window-frames for split seconds and Luigi’s torch fills rooms with rays of yellow light that wraps itself around and casts itself across objects in a real way.
In terms of lighting and shadows, this outclasses some PS3 and 360 titles.
It’s also notable for its smaller flourishes. The way Luigi hums the game’s theme tune to himself, nervously plays with his hands when idle or calls out a stuttering ‘he….hello?’ when entering rooms.
Put simply, Nintendo has lovingly crafted a game full of real character – both Luigi’s trembling, cowardly yet loveable persona – and the detailed, varied, intriguing worlds he explores.
Toad’s inclusion is also a big plus. The first time you encounter Toad stuck in a painting is a stand-out moment, with a clipscene even more charming than anything that’s been in a Mario platformer recently.
Luigi’s Mansion 2: A Wild Toad Appeared
Just when you think you’ve seen everything Luigi’s Mansion has to offer, you’re suddenly taking care of Toad as an AI partner. It’s not just mindless babysitting, though – you’ll often have to suck Toad onto your vacuum and blow him into high-up windows or ledges, firing him like a projectile, in order to pass a puzzle.
There’s also a raft of collectibles – both money used to buy kit upgrades and gems scattered across every mansion, as well as hidden Boo ghosts in secret areas.
Combined with the online multiplayer, there’s plenty of reasons to return to the title after the 12 hour campaign is finished (if you even manage to finish it that quickly – mark our words, you will get stuck from time to time…).
Thankfully, Nintendo has also included an online mode. It’s something it doesn’t do enough in any of its games, and it’s a welcome addition.
The ‘terror tower’ sees you team up with up to three other players at a time to clear rooms of ghosts against a time limit.
Though you need to work together to progress, there’s also a competitive element because players who collect more will be able to upgrade their items more quickly.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 Online Mode
Get all the ghosts and the game continues to the next ‘floor’. Fail to suck up all the ghouls before the timer hits zero, and it’s game over, and you’re forced to attack from the bottom floor again. It’s a delightful mix of arcadey design and online fun, even if the lack of leaderboards or rank makes it slightly throwaway.
In fact, this is a top-notch handheld title that shows off exactly what 3DS can do.
The game’s side-on perspective actually helps hide the machine’s weaknesses – because the camera is fixed, you’ll never need to move it and you won’t miss the lack of a second analogue stick.
Admittedly, gyroscope sections work less well. As much as Nintendo continues to try to force gyro-based gameplay into 3DS titles, it just doesn’t work with the 3D turned on. Sometimes Luigi will have to cross thin beams, with you tilting the 3DS to keep him balanced.
But with the 3D on, this becomes a mess of flickering as you lose the sweet spot and can’t really see what’s going on. This is the only time we turned the 3D off.
Another section we didn’t enjoy was a boss battle at the end of world four. For some reason, this long battle with no checkpoints was based on luck as much as skill, and had us cursing loudly.
But these small gripes aside, the title simply works. While you might find yourself stuck and frustrated from time to time, it’ll only be until you hit on the solution, then hit yourself for not thinking of it sooner.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is an excellent puzzler wrapped in charming design, clever gameplay and gorgeous visuals through a lengthy campaign that (mostly) plays to 3DS’ strengths.
Looks like it’s time for Luigi to step out of Mario’s shadow and into a few of his own.