Nintendo has a long history of producing some of the very finest games available. Virtually every derivative of Mario has been nothing short of excellent throughout the plumber’s long and illustrious career. When Nintendo decided to create the original Luigi’s Mansion for the Gamecube, many people waited eagerly for the finished product, aware of Nintendo’s quality track record. Luigi’s Mansion released in 2001 to critical praise. Unlike his action loving brother Mario, Luigi’s adventure involved a spooky sojourn into a haunted mansion full of ghosts. It was a slow moving adventure game that rewarded careful exploration and the scrutinous eye. It was also a cult classic, and many people still enjoy the original Luigi’s Mansion to this day.
Fast forward to the present, when Nintendo announced news of a sequel to the lanky green plumber’s original adventure. This time, the game was being developed by Next Level Games, who has been earning a reputation as a respected developer for Nintendo platforms. Some of their previous works include Super Mario Strikers and Punch Out!! - both well received titles. The new project was titled Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and the release platform this time was the 3DS.
You may be wondering if the charm and fun of the original Luigi’s Mansion stayed intact in Dark Moon. You will be happy to know that not only is the same level of care and attention to detail present, but the game actually greatly improves in other areas. Dark Moon is simply an absolute treat of a game. From the outset, Luigi is whisked to a nightmarish land by the kooky Professor E. Gadd. The mad (but adorable) scientist uses the pixelator to bring Luigi to him, in order to call upon his services once again. His otherworldly assistant has shattered the Dark Moon, and the pieces have been scattered around the valley. In turn, the loss of the moon has whipped the local ghost population into a frenzy. Luckily, Luigi is on the scene with his trusty Poltergust 5000 in order to suck up ghosts and hunt down the pieces.
Dark Moon is a visual feast for the eyes. In your quest, you will travel across five varied levels, each with various sublevels. There will be countless objects to interact with in each room. Often times, searching objects will yield some sort of treasure, usually in the form of coins or money. Rarely, you will come across a hidden gem, a hidden ghost, or a rare Boo ghost to hunt. This is a game that rewards the careful eye, and in order to complete it you will need to submerge yourself into the atmosphere of the game. The graphics are very well done, and serve to truly flesh out the spooky environs. You will find yourself wanting to explore every inch of the levels in order to find everything that is hidden. Animations are extremely well done. Luigi has a lot of unique animations, and the ghosts all have their own unique personalities. If one was to capture the essence of the game, it would be a G-rated haunted house at Disneyland. The world feels alive, and is often times humorous. While the dialogue is scarce, comedy is conveyed through the actions of ghosts, or the desperate cries, pleas, and whines that Luigi comically emotes.
The sound quality is excellent as well. You may notice a recurring audio track that plays throughout most of the game. The developers do a great job of transforming the theme in order to fit the situation at hand, however. Sound effects are plentiful and rewarding. Cackles can be heard from ghosts, Luigi whistles, virtually every object makes a sound, and there are a wide variety of environmental sound effects. This is definitely a game you will want to play with headphones on in order to receive the best aural experience possible. The 3D effects are modest, not the best I have seen, but certainly far from the worst. The game can be played just as well with the 3D turned on or off.
There is a lot of exploring to be done in Dark Moon, and if you are not a patient gamer, there are some frustrating moments to be had in the course of the journey. You will have a few tools at your disposal, including the gust and sucking power of the Poltergust 5000. The other addition is the “Dark-Light” contraption, which will reveal hidden objects in seemingly innocuous spaces. Besides simple exploration, there will be numerous puzzles to solve along the way, almost all of which will have you using your tools and the environment. During the course of my playthrough, I was stumped numerous times, at one point for nearly an hour. This game, while charming, is by no means an easy game. It WILL stump you, and when you find the solution to a tricky puzzle, make you feel like an idiot. Like I mentioned, a certain degree of patience is required in this game. The patience will pay off in a big way though.