I was never the biggest fan of the original Luigi’s Mansion on the Gamecube – although it was one of the first titles I owned for the console, I never finished it, and was never really drawn into its gameplay. Perhaps it was the pace of the game; maybe it was the puzzle-solving using the Poltergust 5000 vacuum.
Whatever the case, I ended up being pretty apathetic about Dark Moon when it was announced, leading all the way up to its release. I decided to give the 3DS sequel a chance – before long, I realized that I was very happy with the decision.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a pretty stellar example of a 3DS game that utilizes the hardware to its known limits, providing both a single- and multiplayer experience that is unique, engaging and worth coming back to time and time again. Rather than drowning players in even more Mario-based nostalgia, Dark Moon sets out to make a name for Luigi, and does so very well – this one is full of charm, bursting with style, and endearing to fans of the unlikely protagonist.
When it comes to detail, no game on the 3DS outshines Dark Moon. Each of the five locations you visit in the game – Gloomy Manor, Haunted Towers, Old Clockworks, and so on – are loaded with variety, including a lot of different objects, trinkets, machinery, decorations, and so on. Exploring the game down to the very last corner is rewarding, so taking in all the sights is highly encouraged. Not since the very best Rare games on the Nintendo 64 (Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, etc.) have I seen so much unique style, personality and attention to detail within the stages of an adventure/platforming game. It really pays off – Dark Moon is a real treat to play and explore.
Luigi’s Mansion was originally very open-ended on the Gamecube, but the single-player quest in Dark Moon is designed perfectly for quick sessions. What makes the progression of the game so perfect is that each mission can be quickly played through or slowly explored, with a different sense of reward earned for both styles of play. Finding large amounts of coins and gold, all of the hidden gems and Boos, and all of the ghosts in each mission is a real treat for diligent players, but extends the length of the quest quite a bit – so the single-player portion can potentially take as long as you want it to. Going back and re-playing missions to earn better ranks (finish quicker, take less damage, find more gold or collectibles, etc.) is fun to do, and stretches out the replay value to a great degree. Quickly breezing through the missions is also possible, but you really miss out on a lot of the best stuff hidden in the nooks and crannies of the game.
The puzzles found in certain areas and rooms of the game are very interesting, often based on set pieces in the environment. They can be very tricky, forcing you to think of different ways to use the Poltergust 5000 to interact with things. The same applies for combat when facing the different ghosts in the game; sometimes they use objects to protect themselves or attack Luigi, so you have to think of ways to disarm them or set them up to be blinded with your flashlight before you can try to suck them up with the vacuum. This can be really challenging, especially when different kinds of ghosts (armed with various tools and objects in the room) are sweeping around Luigi from all sides. Sometimes I felt stuck, occasionally for quite some time before I realized the solution to the puzzle in particular areas. Dark Moon also features the Dark Light accessory, allowing Luigi to find hidden objects and even ghosts with the special rainbow-colored beams of light. In fact, this item is crucial to finding the elusive Boos hidden in each mission of the game, and revealing the locations of other kinds of ghosts, such as the purple ones that sneak up behind Luigi to scare him.
The visuals and 3D effects in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon are exceptional; again, this is partially due to the very high level of detail. Luigi’s various animations are also fantastic, as he reacts to almost everything in the environment – jumping in shock when ghosts appear, trembling and panicking as mice scurry across the floor and bats flutter through open windows. The music is also a highlight, and gets stuck in your head, perfect for humming along with Luigi as you explore each mission. I liked Luigi’s DS ringtone so much, in fact, that I ended up downloading it and using it on my own cell phone.
In addition to its single-player quest, Dark Moon boasts an incredibly entertaining multiplayer component known as the ScareScraper. This mode can be enjoyed both online and locally, and even allows for the 3DS Download Play – meaning you only need one cartridge to get together with friends and enjoy a nice ghost hunt. There are various game modes in the ScareScraper – but the goal is always focused on exploring each floor of the tower, finding and capturing all the different ghosts as quickly as possible. It is largely cooperative, but players are also encouraged to find as much treasure and capture as many ghosts as possible – and the best players are displayed at the conclusion of each floor.
To be honest, the only multiplayer games I enjoyed quite as much as Dark Moon on the 3DS are also some of the very best on the handheld – Kid Icarus: Uprising, Resident Evil: Revelations, Mario Kart 7 – but I ended up getting into the ScareScraper more than any of the multiplayer modes on those other games, and therefore I feel like this was one of the best parts of this very great game.
Conclusion/Recommendation ~ Buy It.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is, without a doubt, one of the very best games on the Nintendo 3DS. Next Level Games crafted a single-player adventure that is full of charm, encourages the player to explore and use his/her brain to solve tricky puzzles, and find all the collectibles hidden throughout each mission. The multiplayer is also a hit, with various modes to keep you coming back for more – the cherry on top is that it can be enjoyed online, locally, and via Download Play.
If you have any doubts about Dark Moon, take it from a former skeptic – the game doesn’t disappoint, and provides plenty of content to make it worthy of the purchase price. Fans of Luigi’s Mansion may find the segmented mission structure to be much different from the original game’s open-ended style, but it makes for a better handheld game overall. I recently put the game at #2 on my Top 10 Nintendo 3DS Games list – that should say enough about it, beyond the final score at the end of this review.