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Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon Review

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  • 3DS

Dark Moon makes for a charming and challenging follow-up to Luigi's last GameCube adventure.

Luigi has always been Mario's secondary, the brother of a beloved hero whose own cowardice is perhaps his most clearly defined trait. We know Luigi as the scaredy-pants Mario brother, a man who is as anxious as Mario is adventurous. He's a comic relief character who rarely gets to step out into the spotlight. Maybe it's because of that fact that I so often cherish those rarified moments when he does. It certainly would explain my adoration for Luigi's Mansion on the GameCube. What a weird and wonderfully silly game that was. Sure, it was painfully short, and barely had enough going on mechanically to qualify as more than a neat technical showpiece for Nintendo's then-new console, but it was also incredibly fun, not to mention adorably goofy. More to the point, it was the best example of the time that Luigi could very easily front his own game, if given the proper set-up and execution.

It's been 12 years since Luigi last hunted ghosts. I'm sure he wishes it had been 12 more. Poor little fella.

I don't know that it needed to take twelve years for someone to make good on Luigi's Mansion's initial promise, but we should just be glad that something finally has. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS, from Punch-Out!! developers Next Level Games, is a much more thoughtfully fleshed-out version of what the original game offered. It is a far more lengthy, content-rich adventure filled with pratfalls, panic, and more than enough clever puzzle solving to keep players engaged for hours. However, even better than any of that, Dark Moon is perhaps the best representation of Luigi as a character yet seen. Next Level clearly understands the tendencies of Mario's perpetually petrified twin, amplifying them to tragicomic levels of silliness.

Insomuch as any game in the Mario universe has a plot, Dark Moon does as well. You may or may not remember Professor E. Gadd from the GameCube game, but no matter. He's back again, roping a deeply reluctant Luigi into another bout of ghost adventuring for the purposes of paranormal science, as well as the reconstruction of a gem called the "dark moon," which has a sort of calming effect on the spectral entities than inhabit Gadd's strange little valley. Of course, a big ol' Boo comes along and cracks it, turning all of Gadd's helpful ghosts into politely anarchic poltergeists. Again, this is a Mario universe game, so nothing really "scary" happens, so much as the kind of comedic spookiness one might find in a typical Scooby Doo episode.

But that's fine, because Dark Moon does this particular brand of ghostly humor exceedingly well. Luigi is animated with tremendous expressiveness. He quakes and chatters and shivers with fear so often that you halfway expect him to have a coronary halfway through. More importantly, Dark Moon has a great sense of comic timing. It knows how to set the player up for a good pratfall, and delivers the goods in nearly every event. What's extra great is that the game doesn't constantly pull you out of the experience to tell its jokes. Most of them are told in-engine as Luigi interacts with different pieces of the environment. The cutscene work is all good too, but I was more impressed with how the game allowed its comedic bits to build-up largely through gameplay and exploration.

Through all this expressiveness and humorous narrative, Luigi becomes an incredibly endearing character. You feel bad for the guy, knowing all he wants is to not be wherever the heck he is at that very moment. By the same token, he's presented as just capable enough to not create any weird dissonance between his success and his constant terror.

Succeeding requires you to find all the missing pieces of the dark moon, though in-between those battles with major boss ghosts, you'll mostly be wandering around one of a few different haunted environments, looking for keys, gems, and other hidden objects scattered about by the antagonistic apparitions. Progression largely takes the form of light puzzle solving. Uncovering hidden doors, passages, and objects is your primary task, though occasionally, you'll have to bust some ghosts as well.

Catching ghosts isn't terribly difficult, but is nonetheless always satisfying.

Doing so is handled a bit differently than in the original game. Here, ghosts have to be stunned before you can grab them with your handy ghost-sucking vacuum cleaner. You do this with a flashlight that sends out a high-intensity light burst, which must be briefly charged before use. Once you have the ghost stunned, all you have to do is fire up the vacuum, and pull back as hard as you can against whatever direction the ghost happens to be fleeing in. While there is a fairly diverse array of spirits to battle against, the mechanics for battle largely remain the same throughout Dark Moon. Really, the only challenge is keeping away from other spirits' attacks as you battle against the ghost you're trying to wrangle.

Which isn't to say that isn't challenging. In fact, Dark Moon can be a tough little game. The combat isn't ever too hard, though when you're battling against a group of ghosts, you'll have to be nimble and careful to stay out of their various attack paths. The game's puzzles can be equally tough, especially in the later goings of the game, which sometimes rely a bit too heavily on opaque environmental challenges that, despite having relatively obvious solutions in the end, don't always present the clearest path to progress.

Really, if I have any major complaint about Dark Moon, it's that it actually runs a bit too long. That's sort of a ludicrous sounding complaint if you ever played the original game, which could be finished in just a couple of hours. However, while Dark Moon makes up for that game's dearth of content, not all of its content is all that worth playing through. Every one of the game's environments has at least one or two level sections that feel completely extraneous. Due to Dark Moon's somewhat more handheld-friendly structure, wherein you are pulled in and out of environments between levels by Professor Gadd for a quick game save, the game is forced to come up with reasons to keep pulling you in and out. While all of these scenarios are tied into the inherent mischievousness of the ghosts, eventually it gets old, especially when it starts recycling the same objectives in only moderately different environments. That the game's puzzles and gameplay mechanics are often good enough to push you past those more tedious bits with only minimal grumbling is a testament to how fun Dark Moon can be when it's at its best.

What was really impressive to me--and I'm as shocked as anyone by this--is how Dark Moon uses the 3D capabilities of the system to its benefit. Look, I think 3D in most 3DS games is about as necessary as the continued existence of Waluigi, but in Dark Moon, the 3D mixed with the game's diorama-style camera presentation gives every environment a sense of depth that makes exploration a great deal more fun. It's a sincerely terrific use of 3D in a time when anything 3D looks pretty much passé and annoying, so I'll understand if you're skeptical. If you do plan to play Dark Moon, just do me the one favor of at least trying the 3D for a few minutes. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Dark Moon presents itself with ample charm, from the top-notch visuals, to the spooky-cute soundtrack (which Luigi frequently hums to himself).

Another neat, if perhaps unnecessary addition is multiplayer. Up to four players can take on a multilevel tower filled with ghosts and either cooperative or competitive objectives, which range from simple ghost hunts, to frantic searches for floor exits while racing against the clock. All these modes are actually pretty fun, especially when played with people who have a decent sense of what the hell they're doing. And there's even more clever animation work to be found here, with funny little bits featuring differently-colored Luigis fanning each other with their hats after they "faint" (run out of health), or trying to knock jars off one another after a ghost plops one down on a player's head. While I don't necessarily feel any strong need to go back to the multiplayer after a few hours of messing with it, I expect some people will like it a lot.

Dark Moon takes what was basically a really good sketch of a game in the original Luigi's Mansion, and fleshes it out into a more robust, and arguably far more entertaining romp, all while retaining the distinctive flavor of that first game. It might overstay its welcome a bit, but I doubt anyone who loved the original Luigi's Mansion in spite of its paltry adventure length will complain too terribly much about having a lot of Luigi's Mansion to play. Especially when it's as well executed as Dark Moon is.

Alex Navarro on Google+
91 Comments
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Edited by vr00m

Now off to watch the quick look....

Edited by Chronox

Alex is reviewing it up lately :D

Getting my 3ds xl soon with the pack in Monster hunter, Luigi's Mansion will be the first game i purchase.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

If I had a 3DS, I would buy this game!

Moderator
Posted by Kinapuff

Might be time to dust off that 3DS after all..

Posted by SlashDance

I have no idea where my 3DS is... probably hanging out with my Vita in a forgotten corner somewhere.

Looks like it's time to find it, the quick look sold me on this.

Posted by EnduranceFun

Great review, Alex. Going to definitely pick this up.

Posted by Vitor

Well great, after seeing the GT video review of this and realising just hot incredible the game looks, I'm now tempted to buy a 3DS.

Posted by MegaMetaTurtle

Kinda want to buy this on the eShop.

Shame Nintendo feel the need to raise the price on there. To the RRP, admittedly. But that's still £10 to £15 more than the physical copy will be.

Posted by jeffrud

"Look, I think 3D in most 3DS games is about as necessary as
the continued existence of Waluigi ..."

YOU TAKE THAT BACK!

Edited by Triumvir

Excellent. I was waiting for reviews of this to start popping up before I picked it up. Then again, it's really not surprising that a game with Miyamoto at its head would be solid.

Edited by Toug

Well, time to finally think about getting a 3DS.

Edited by Tonch

Hey man, don't bag on Waluigi!

I'm glad this game seems to be doing well-- basically every impression of it that I've read is very positive. And if anyone is able to add some personality to a franchise, Next Level certainly makes the shortlist, especially after Punch-Out.

Posted by wumbo3000

Typo Alex!

"Which isn't to say that isn't challenging. In fact, Dark Moon is can be a tough little game."

Great review. If only I had a 3DS...

Posted by gelatinabomination

I still want a Waluigi game. Not sure what it would be, though. I'm thinking something with an insanity system, like Amnesia or Eternal Darkness.

Posted by teh_destroyer

Still upset about no WIIU release.

Posted by Fram

Man, the case to buy a 3DS continues to become more and more compelling. I haven't owned a dedicated handheld since the Game Gear, but I think I'm finally sold.

Posted by EnduranceFun

I still want a Waluigi game. Not sure what it would be, though. I'm thinking something with an insanity system, like Amnesia or Eternal Darkness.

Right here.

Posted by Lausebub

I was very positive prior to release anyway and your review just comfirmed my presumptions. I'll have to try multiplayer just to see the scenes you desribed.

One weird thing about Luigi's Mansion 2 (!) is the name. 2 in every territory except for Canada/US. How will they call the next (if there is one)? Do a Rambo and just call it Dark Moon 3 everywhere?

Posted by RE_Player1

Cancelled my pre-order a couple days ago. Glad it turned out good but for me it doesn't read or look like $40 worth of good. Nintendo games usually hold their full retail price for quite awhile so I won't be playing this anytime soon.

Posted by Trilogy

At least Alex had something worth playing in the past week. Sometimes I feel bad for him when they shove all the 1 star feces on him.

Posted by mcmax3000

I was seriously considering picking this up... Now I think I'm going to do it for sure.

Edited by csl316

Good review.

Edited by pompouspizza

@megametaturtle: I know how you feel, that's always bothered me, I would always rather by digital copies of games on the 3DS but they're too expensive.

Posted by RJPelonia

I have been on the fence about this title for the past week or so.

And you have sold me. Thanks, Alex. Great review.

Posted by AMyggen

Okay, I might finally have to buy a 3DS now. It has some awesome games, and I absolutely adored the original Luigi's Mansion on Gamecube. This looks like the most charming game out there.

Posted by cavemantom

Between this, Punchout and Captain America: Super Soldier, Next Level seem to be exceptionally skilled at making the most of preexisting IP.

Online
Edited by BobJustBob

Waluigi should replace Iwata.

Edited by LordAndrew

If you combine Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, you get a five-star game.

Edited by Metric_Outlaw

This is a huge relief. After the horrible Paper Mario Sticker Star I was losing faith in Nintendo giving props to its second tier franchises.

Edited by Reisz

@amyggen said:

Okay, I might finally have to buy a 3DS now. It has some awesome games, and I absolutely adored the original Luigi's Mansion on Gamecube. This looks like the most charming game out there.

I just picked one up last month for Fire Emblem. SInce then I have been thoroughly enjoying Pushmo and Crashmo as well, I would definitely recommend it. If you can spare the extra $20-$30 the XL is every bit as worth it as the guys mention in the quick look. I'm looking forward to picking this up myself, I have fond memories of the original as well.

Posted by Atwa

#EAR OF LUIGI

Posted by ArtisanBreads

Nice. Hoping there are a few more really good 3DS games, then I think I'm going to crack and go get one. Maybe a price drop?

Posted by Daveyo520

I am glad it is good, I just got a 3DS and loved the first game.

Edited by habibyjohnson

Was the first game really soo short? Having just played it again recently via Dolphin I would estimate it for at least 8 hours.

Posted by linus_south

@artisanbreads: On Sunday when this comes out target will have XL's for $170 and normals for $130 . If you get a XL and Luigi and register it with club Nintendo you get 1 of 5 games free Here's the promo http://club2.nintendo.com/3ds-xl-promo/ *I'd take Mario 3DS land but that's maybe just me.

Posted by Rincewind

Loved the review!

Edited by DSale

@artisanbreads: A refurbished 3DS is still $160USD. If you really want to get one, just chip in the extra 40$ and get the 3DSXL, its honestly the best version of the hardware. Bigger screen and waaaay more battery life.

TLDR ; Don't get tempted by a price drop on the 3DS, the XL is way better.

Posted by WolfmanJenkins

Alex reviewing a game that doesn't suck? What is this world coming to?

Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

I'm so happy this turned out to be good. Time to add another plumber filled game to my library.

Posted by LarryDavis

I have no idea where my 3DS is... probably hanging out with my Vita in a forgotten corner somewhere.

Looks like it's time to find it, the quick look sold me on this.

The difference is the 3DS has actually had worthwhile games released for it.

Edited by UlquioKani

2 reviews in 1 day. Getting Shit done! Thanks Alex. I don't have a 3DS so I guess I have to get Walking Dead right? That's how that works.

Posted by Alazoral

I think 3D in most 3DS games is about as necessary as the continued existence of Waluigi

So, vitally important in every way?

Posted by digitaldiatribe

Nice! Super pumped for this! This is the reason why I buy Nintendo games!

Posted by ripelivejam

If you combine Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, you get a five-star game.

that math totally checks out.

Edited by JordanaRama

Great review. I'm far too broke to get a 3DS but this definitely makes that tough.

Posted by ZeroV2

I love how a non-regular GB member posts about 90% of the reviews

Posted by vegetashonor

@kinapuff: My thoughts exactly. And a day and date purchase on the eshop don't hurt!!!

Posted by rameym

Found a boo boo. 8th paragraph, "Dark Moon is can be a tough little game."

Posted by CitizenJP

I'm impressed Alex finally got to review a good game for once lol.

Edited by Cloneslayer

For a split second I thought I was reading a review for a new Dark Cloud game and got really excited.

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