The game is structured into five different levels, each composed of numerous sublevels. There is a great sense of buildup contained in the level progression, in which each proceeding level you will unlock a little more of the level at large. This process continues until the last sublevel, which features an exciting boss. The sublevels also feature a star-ranking system, which can be earned by collecting treasure, progressing in a timely manner, and by finding the hidden Boo in that particular sublevel. It is a challenging, addicting, and very replayable experience.
The other half of the game is spent in combat. Combat can be a bit tricky at first because of the way the controls are positioned on the 3DS. Basically, the general idea is to use your flashbulb to stun and materialize a ghost, who can then be sucked up with the Poltergust 5000. Once you start sucking the ghost up, you will need to “wrangle” them like a fish on a line, until the number above their head reached zero. At this point, you can fully suck up the ghost. Ghosts come in many different varieties, shapes, and all have their own patterns of attack. They also come in a variety of flavors. For instance, the common green ghost will sometimes wear pots and pan to bolster defence, or may even don sunglasses to reflect the flashlight. Like the game at large, the combat feels almost like a mini-puzzle in which strategies must be found to suck up ghosts. Some of the enemies are quite challenging, and if you should happen to die without holding onto a Golden Bone, you will have to restart a sublevel from the beginning. This can prove to be quite irksome, but really nails the point home that this game is by no means a cakewalk. Luckily, the sublevels are never so long as to deter you from giving them another go, usually ranging between 15 to 30 minutes.
At the end of the substage, E. Gadd will summon you back to the laboratory, at which point a few things will happen. First, you will be given a performance score based on how well you did during the mission. These missions can be replayed in order for you to best your previous ranking. Next, the ghosts you sucked up during the mission will be recorded for spectral mass and sent to the “vault.” The vault is a place where you can review the ghosts you have encountered and treasure you have found. FInally, the gold and money you collected will go into a fund that will reward Luigi with upgrades at various increments. While modest, it all creates a system in which replayability is most definitely rewarded. The main game itself will take you some time to complete, and collecting all of the gems and boos and besting your score will add double to that completion time. In addition, if you collect all of the boos in all of the sublevels of a single level, you will unlock a secret level. Replayability is strongly advised in Dark Moon.
One of the more interesting facets of Dark Moon is the included cooperative features. There are a few way to play cooperatively with your friends, or with random people online. The entire cooperative experience is titled the “Scarescraper.” It is essentially a randomized dungeon that can be played with a total of four people. Take note that you actually need to progress a bit into the single player portion of the game to unlock the Scarescraper, so there is no immediate co-op right out of the box. Scarescraper is an absolute blast to play. You can play with your friends both online and locally, or with randoms online. You can even play with only one copy of the game and multiple 3DS systems, thanks to download play.
The Scarescraper features a few different modes of play. They include “Hunter,” “Rush,” “Polterpup,” and “Surprise.” Hunter mode has you tracking down ghosts in order to scale the Scarescraper. Rush mode is a special mode in which time is of the essence, and there are extra obstacles that will leave you scrambling for the exit. Polterpup has Luigi’s using the Dark-Light device in order to track adorable little ghost dogs. Finally, Surprise mode essentially randomizes the previous three during the course of the game. There are enough co-op modes to ensure a lot of playtime in Dark Moon.
All of the cooperative modes involve multi-colored Luigi’s. You can communicate with rudimentary words using the d-pad during play. Floors are randomly generated, and feature environments that hide treasure, keys, and most importantly, ghosts. Clear a floor of ghosts and you can advance to the next level. Simple, right? Well, you will also be competing against the clock, and if you all die or run out of time, it’s back to the bottom of the Scarescraper for you. From the outset, you can choose how many floors you want your dungeon to contain (up to 25 floors), and whether the action is set to normal, hard, or expert. The levels can get quite difficult, and you will really have to use some teamwork in order to proceed. There is also a special boss battle every five floors. While the dungeon randomizer isn’t the most powerful in history (some rooms start to look identical), it is not noticeable enough to break the immersion. This is mostly due to the in game clock mechanic. After clearing a floor, you try to collect red coins scattered throughout the level in order to earn a bonus that goes to a lucky character on the next stage. There is enough healthy competition to make the game fun, but cooperative play is paramount to the experience. You will probably want to roll with a full group of Luigi’s. I tried playing the game with just my girlfriend and the levels proved to be too difficult later on. If you can find a dedicated group, the co-op is extremely rewarding and addicting.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon as an incredible surprise and joy to play. It takes everything that was great about the original, and builds upon it to cater to today’s gaming enthusiast on the go. While there are a few G-rated scares to be had, the game is appropriate for all ages and audiences. There is also enough challenge and replayability to keep the most hardcore gamers occupied with their time. It is a rewarding experience, and there are few games similar on the market today. It stands as an excellent adventure, and deserves a spot in any 3DS owner’s library. The co-op is fresh and interesting, taking parts of a roguelike and mixing them with the exploration and battle mechanics of the single player experience. With the nice variety of modes and randomized stages, co-op will be enjoyed for a long time to come. The developer made sure that virtually everyone could try out on the cooperative experience through the use of online co-op and download play. For this, Dark Moon should be doubly praised. Just do yourself a favor and play the game already.
The Co-Op Experience: Up to 4 players work together as multicolored Luigi's to explore the special "Scarescraper" tower. Three co-op modes are available to choose from: "Hunter", "Rush", and "Polterpup".
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.