Wednesday 1 May 2013

Luigi's Mansion 2: Dark Moon Review (3DS)

Anyone who owned a Gamecube will have fond memories of the original Luigi’s Mansion. The humour and clever game design created a charming and unique game full of character. Now Luigi is back on the 3DS in what is one of most anticipated games on the console. Was it worth the wait? Venture forth, torch in hand to find out. 

The game starts with our cowardly hero being summoned by Professor E.Gadd. The Dark Moon which keeps the ghosts under control have been shattered and they are now terrorising a number of old mansions and buildings. Along with your trusty converted vacuum cleaner it’s up to you to save the day.

Though similar looking, Luigi’s Mansion 2 has undergone quite a drastic change in terms of mechanics and level design. This is indeed a proper sequel rather than a rehash of the last game. The first thing you notice is the change in the enemies you come up against. The original game was mostly about finding a unique ghost in its room, then working out the puzzle of how to get it to reveal its heart with the torch so it could be captured.

Mansion 2 pretty much does away with this style of play completely. Now the ghosts are more generic and not tied in with the puzzles you come up against. There are also more of them at any given time. The game often becomes a series of locked arenas -  as you walk in the door locks and the mischievous ghosts appear. Once all the ghosts in a room have been dealt with the doors will open and allow you to continue.

While the ghosts are no longer individual they still contain all the humour of before. You start out coming up against standard green ghosts with new types being introduced regularly as you progress. Some of these are strong or super smart, while other will fling goo or leap out and scare you – causing you to drop your capture beam. Even the basic green ghosts change, not in look but they get more intelligent as you go on. This starts off with them wearing sun glasses to avoid your torch glare. From then on they will try anything to avoid being captured such as using shovels to hide behind or wearing buckets on their head that can’t be vacuumed off. 

The capturing of ghosts has also changed. It is now much more about quick reactions and quickly flashing multiple ghosts with the torch at once. This then allows them to be sucked up. In the first game this was achieved like a mini fishing game while here it is about keeping in line with the ghost long enough and pulling in the opposite direction to fill a meter. Once full, pressing A will give a strong tug on the ghost and hopefully drag it into the vacuum. The changes work for the better and it turns the game into a much more action and score focused affair with bonus coins and gold bars given out for multiple captures at once.

Puzzles have changed as well. The game is now full of secrets and small puzzles which need to be navigated. Most puzzles are used to hide entrances and exits with the more complex ones hiding hidden gems and the elusive BOO’s that lurk around each stage. You are also given a dark light torch which is used to reveal things the ghosts have hidden. This creates a strange ‘spot the difference’ feeling as areas can have different things hidden depending on which mission you are doing. It works well and keeps you on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.

Yet another change is the new mission structure. Instead of one big mansion to explore there are now five areas, each of which is set out in a number of missions. Once a mission is complete you are brought back to E.Gadd's lab. This change in structure has both good and bad points. On the down side, it feels frustrating not to be allowed to fully explore a whole level at a time and even makes the idea somewhat redundant as objects can move around depending on the mission. It can also be frustrating not being allowed to save in a mission as though they are meant to be fairly short, if you get stuck on a puzzle you could be wandering around for a very long time.

There are positives to the approach though. When the mission structure works it feels perfect for mobile play as you are doing bite sized chunks of the game. The different mansions and buildings are also very unique and full of clever design choices and fun things to see.  It also allows the game to be replayed as a score attack game with any mission re-playable to find extra gold or ghosts to capture. Either way it certainly doesn’t ruin the game, but it can’t be ignored when it impacts negatively on the experience either.

Level design is excellent throughout with literally every room filled with something to tinker around with. You’ll be using the vacuum to roll rugs up, spin ceiling fans and drag objects which opens all sorts of secret passages and routes through the game. Another great touch is that almost every time you come to a window or spy hole you can peak through to what the ghost are up to on the other side. Sometimes this starts a small cut scene while others it just allows you to see what type of ghost is floating around causing trouble. They are always worth checking and genuinely funny.

Graphically, the game might not be quite as sharp as we were hoping but it looks good enough and every area is unique and overflowing with character. The title also offers another example of the 3D effect working incredibly well. This is one of the few 3DS games where you will want to play every second of it with the 3D turned on full. The sound is equally full of character with playful effects mixing with the spooky theme tune. You’ll soon notice Luigi nervously singing along as he walks around, which is a nice touch.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a difficult game to nail down. It has faults relating to the structure of the game and ability to save and when they strike it can be very frustrating. But the feeling of frustration is uncommon and in the next minute something fun will have distracted you from it. When the games allowed to flow it shows itself as an undeniable classic, and it does flow well for very long periods.  The game also seems to improve as it goes on and it’s here the true magic at work comes into play. There's also a multi-player challenge tower which allow for ghost busting pals to team up and try and take on a number of time and score attack style missions.

Overall, there are some very good and fun ideas that work very well here. It’s a great progression in many ways from the original and at times it’s a truly sublime experience.  It’s also different enough from the first game for fans to want to own and enjoy both. It’s not perfect, but when it works (Which it does most of the time), there are few other games that bring such a smile to your face and it’s hard to argue against that.


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