|Is Luigi's second horror story better than the first, or is it just a retread of a slightly above average game.|
I have to admit, despite the lukewarm reception to Luigi's Mansion back in 2001, I thoroughly enjoyed Luigi's first non-educational (non-horrible) starring role, maybe its because it was one of the first games I played for the GameCube, or maybe it's my natural preference for Luigi over Mario if the choice is given, either way, I really liked the original game back in the day and longed for a sequel that would correct the original's glaring flaws. Fortunately this year I got my wish on the 3DS with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.
Taking place sometime after the events of the original game, Professor E Gadd has set up a new laboratory in the gloomy hills of Evershade Valley. There, he comes across a mysterious artifact known as the Dark Moon, which apparently has the power to pacify the many ghosts living in the valley into being friendly towards outsiders. However a familiar evil returns and shatters the Dark Moon causing the ghosts to go berserk, and E Gadd to have to flee to the safety of a fortified bunker. Stuck with no other option, E Gadd decides to forcibly recruit the best ghostbuster this side of the Mushroom Kingdom...Luigi! After whisking Luigi away to his bunker, E Gadd briefs him on the situation and sends the hapless plumber into Evershade Valley equipped with the Poltergust 5000 vacuum to find the broken pieces of the Dark Moon, and possibly save the world from the legions of angry spirits.
The plot is nice, simple, and safe. It's exactly what you'd expect from a Mario themed game and does a nice job of setting the tone and stakes of the game to provide motivation for the player to progress through the game's story.
Dark Moon has a great sense of atmosphere, and while it isn't in any way "scary", it does have five nicely creepy and well detailed locations for Luigi to explore, as opposed to the one giant mansion from the original game. The music is nicely done as well with many different tracks (as opposed to the one central theme of the previous game) setting the tone and motifs of each location and situation quite nicely, and while it can be argued that the music isn't "as memorable" as the previous game, I'd like to think that's because none of the tracks are drilled into the player's head on a constant loop throughout the ENTIRE game.
For the most part, Dark Moon uses the same core gameplay from the original game, in that gameplay is divided into two segments; exploration and ghost-capturing. One major change in the game's progression is that instead of being divided into four different chapters, Dark Moon is divided up into six missions for each of the game's five mansions, meaning that rooms will often not remain cleared and may even be different when visited in another segment. Gladly, more emphasis is placed on puzzle solving this time as opposed to just finding keys and clearing out ghosts; in addition to the way forward, there are also several secret passages and compartments filled with treasures, collectibles, and other rewards for thorough lookers that will have completionists chomping at the bits to discover. However, some players may be disappointed to see several of the same copy-and-paste missions scattered throughout the locations as opposed to a different set of objectives for each manor; these missions include "Rescue the lost Toad", "Chase down the Ghost Dog", and "Find the McGuffin Needed to Progress", and while these recurring missions utilize different well thought puzzles, it can be irritating to have to chase down the stupid dog, or escort Toad to the exit for the umpteenth time.
Navigation is also a bit easier this time around thanks to the presence of an intractable map on the bottom screen of the 3DS as opposed to switching to a different screen whenever the player gets lost and needs to check the map, the camera however still remains in a fixed position, though it doesn't often get in the way or prove to be a nuisance. If I have to harp on a 3DS technology incorporating moment though, it is definitely on the balancing mini-game used to cross tight-ropes and narrow planks, it never feels quite right, and often you will fall unfairly, fortunately the consequence is only a slight loss of health.
However, one complaint from the original game still comes into play here, and that is the limited amount of upgrades and tools. As opposed to the elemental medals that granted Luigi the ability to spew fire, ice, and water blasts from the Poltergust, we now have the Strobulb, which lets Luigi charge and release an intense burst of light from his flashlight, and the Dark Light, which reveals hidden objects and doors. Both items are received very early in the game, and never receive any upgrades beyond extended use, which make the puzzles a bit more predictable than they should be (though most are still very clever) and limits the fun factor a little bit since there aren't any new abilities to look forward to as the game progresses.
Ghost capturing has been changed up a bit since the last outing, as opposed to just shining the flashlight on ghosts to make them vulnerable, Luigi must now charge up the Strobulb and release it on the ghosts before vacuuming them up by holding the R button and moving in the opposite direction the ghost is moving and pressing the A button when the power meter fills up. The ghosts are way craftier in this game than in the previous and will find ways to block the light such as equipping sunglasses, or other weapons and armor, which forces the player to have to find a creative way to disarm them and suck em up. But if one thing about the game wasn't improved too much, it is the boss battles. While I found the first boss to be deceptively tough, and require a bit of observational skill to overcome, the other bosses are pretty easily defeated by just hitting their, "hurt me here" area's and then vacuuming away at the exposed Possessor ghost that emerges.
While it has a few flaws, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is a great sequel that surpasses the original game on almost every level. Even if you didn't like the first game, I strongly recommend you give the series a second chance with this great game.
- Five different well-designed locations that encourage exploration.
- Lots of collectibles and hidden items for the completionists.
- Solid controls .
- Nicely challenging puzzles.
- Good variation of enemies that require different strategies.
- Lacking arsenal of ghost hunting gadgets.
- Most boss battles are fairly weak.
- Recurring missions in almost every location.
- Balancing mini-game is irritating!
P.S I have not partaken in game's multiplayer mode. I may add that into the review at a later date if I do so.