The original Luigi’s Mansion was a fan-favorite on the Gamecube, and the Nintendo faithful have been waiting well over a decade for a sequel. E3 2011 sparked those dying hopes back to life when it was announced that a new Luigi’s Mansion game was coming to the Nintendo 3DS. Nearly two years later, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon finally hit shelves with Nintendo promising the same fantastic ghost-catching fun in a new and improved handheld adventure. Is Dark Moon worth the long wait? Read on to catch our review!
Who You Gonna Call?
Dark Moon takes place some time after the original Luigi’s Mansion on Gamecube, and it shares its simplistic story style, but with a little added spice. Ghost expert Professor E. Gadd has taken to studying the spirits of Evershade Valley. A mystical celestial body known as the Dark Moon hovers above the valley, and its presence pacifies the otherwise mischievous ghosts. This allows the Professor to study the paranormal creatures in a safe environment, but the peaceful valley turns chaotic when King Boo arrives and shatters the Dark Moon into six pieces.
With trouble-making ghosts running amok, E. Gadd takes shelter in a secure bunker and calls on our favorite mustachioed ghost buster to come to his aid. Making use of a device called the Pixelator, E. Gadd snatches the unsuspecting Luigi from the comfort of his home and recruits him to find the missing pieces of the Dark Moon and return the valley to its quiet state.
Phantoms and Puzzles in your Pocket
Dark Moon features healthy doses of ghost catching, puzzle solving, and exploring – a blend that just feels natural – all in a pocket-sized experience that plays well on the go. Taking control of Luigi, players explore five different mansions on their quest to find the Dark Moon pieces. With the trusty Poltergust 5000 (a ghost-snatching vacuum cleaner that’s out of this world) and the Dark-Light Device (revealing even the most well-hidden of secrets), players capture hostile ghosts and solve clever puzzles, all while restoring Evershade Valley.
Unlike its open-world predecessor, Dark Moon is missions-based, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely linear or restrictive. Each mansion is divided into three to five missions that range from investigating paranormal readings to rescuing Toads. This mission-based style is comparable to Super Mario 64 in that the exact contents of each mansion will change depending on what mission you have selected. Certain items, enemies, and puzzles will only appear if you have selected their respective missions. For a missions-based structure there is a fair amount of exploration freedom, but specific areas are inaccessible if you are not currently on the mission in which they play a leading role.
Upon completing a mission, you receive a one to three star ranking, depending on how many ghosts you sucked up, how many treasures you collected, how much damage you took, and how long it took you to complete the mission. This offers some replay value, as players may want to go back and beat their high scores. Also adding to the replay value is the optional task of hunting down Boos. One Boo is hidden somewhere in each mission, and finding all the Boos in a mansion unlocks a secret mission. The final reason to keep playing after you’ve completed the game is collecting gems. Each mansion contains thirteen hidden gems, and players will have to search and explore thoroughly to find them all.
In terms of difficulty, Dark Moon finds the proverbial “sweet spot.” The puzzles and ghost-catching are challenging enough that veteran gamers won’t get bored, but younger players shouldn’t find themselves overwhelmed. The difficultly level is just right for an “all ages” kind of experience.
Overall, Dark Moon‘s gameplay is similar enough to its predecessor that veteran fans will feel right at home, but there’s still enough new content to make the experience fresh. The missions-based style leads to a bit of backtracking and repetition, but each mission changes things up enough to keep players from getting bored, and this style helps the Luigi’s Mansion formula translate well into an on-the-go handheld experience. Dark Moon offers around sixteen hours worth of gameplay on your first playthrough, with a respectable amount of replay value.
A Spooky-Good Atmosphere
Dark Moon isn’t the best-looking game on the 3DS, but it’s fairly well polished, and its graphics are comparable to those of its Gamecube predecessor. The stereoscopic 3D adds a nice sense of depth, but I found it a little harder to bring into focus than some other 3DS games, and with the 3D turned all the way up the game was a little too grainy for my tastes. I found keeping the 3D on low was enough to add some depth to the game without compromising the visual quality.
If you aren’t a fan of 3D games, you can rest easy knowing that Dark Moon doesn’t really lose anything by turning the 3D effects off. Unlike some games (Super Mario 3D Land, Paper Mario: Sticker Star), I never encountered any areas that were made easier with added 3D effects. If you’re a fan of stereoscopic 3D, you’ll probably enjoy its use in Dark Moon. If not, you aren’t going to miss out on anything.
Dark Moon, in typical Nintendo style, sounds great. The music fits very well with the game’s pseudo-spooky comedy, and Luigi’s various sound effects and reactions are sure to bring a smile to your face. Everything sounds crisp and clean, and even Luigi can’t resist humming along.
Scary Fun With Friends
Aside from the single player campaign, Dark Moon also offers an entertaining multiplayer mode called SacreScraper. ScareScraper is one of the more well-done handheld multiplayer experiences, offering Local Play, Download Play (allowing 3DS owners who don’t have a copy of Dark Moon to join in on the fun) and Online Play. The wide variety of options allows for people in all different situations to give ScareScraper a shot.
SacreScraper consists of three different modes: Hunter, Rush, and Polterpup. In Hunter Mode, players compete against the clock to catch all the ghosts on each floor. Rush Mode challenges the players to search high and low to find the hidden exit before time expires. Polterpup Mode challenges you to a game of hide and seek with some mischievous ghost dogs. Each of these modes is available in several different difficulty settings and with an adjustable number of floors.
The time limits combine with a ranking system (similar to the one in the single player campaign), leading to a nice blend of teamwork and competitive fun. SacreScraper’s Online Play works very well, but the multiplayer is even better suited for a Local Play atmosphere. Getting a group of friends together in the same room to work a team (or compete against each other) is where ScareScraper will truly shine.