Light-hearted adventure that is not afraid to dare where it needs to.
I have good memories form the original Luigi's Mansion, one of those "hidden gems" from the GameCube days, since the GameCube itself is a hidden gems, it seems. It was a simple game that did many things right at the time. The follow-up, Dark Moon, is basically a simple game that does even more things right.
The light story behind everything offers just the right amount of details to make up for its humorous outcome, nothing is overdone, nothing taken extremely serious. Nintendo is not the best out there when it comes to story so it's a relief that they didn't try what they can't deliver well.
Professor Elvin Gadd from the first game is back, he now lives in harmony with the ghosts and went on to become one of the leading experts in the field of paranormal science and ghosts. He lives in Evershade Valley after finding out that, somehow, the ghosts in this location are friendly and actually quite keen on helping humans. His research was going well until someday the ghosts started to become unwieldy and violent.
Being the scientist that he is he soon discovered that the reason the ghosts weren't wild savage beats attacking everyone on sight was because of the strange moon called Dark Moon that existed in Evershade. Not surprisingly, the same day the ghosts started to wreak havoc around the lab was the same day the Dark Moon disappeared from the skies. Professor Elvin then realizes he need help from the one and only Luigi, the best and only ghost hunter he knows.
Luigi, upon being pixelated and transported through his own TV set, awakes in the lab of his old friend only to hear the briefing of what had happened. Luigi's doesn't seem too hell-bent to help set things right with all the ghosts wandering around but ultimately he agrees to do so. The Dark Moon has been shattered and it pieces scattered around, it's up to you to find them all.
The best thing about this story is how humor plays a central role in all this. Professor Elvin is save and sound in a banker he had built beforehand which no ghost could ever gain entry while Luigi had to go through the horrors of the adjacent houses and locations. Luigi soon find the Poltergust 5000, an improved version of the previous Poltergust 3000, the vacuum cleaner used to capture ghosts.
The deal is pretty much the same, shed light onto the ghost to stun him for a brief moment and use the vacuum to suck him. Each ghost has a different set of attacks and health points which must be emptied to be able to completely capture them. Some of them will use everyday objects found within the house to shield themselves from the light, like pans or sunglasses. You should first disarm them before using the Poltergust.
In the GameCube days we had to use the C-stick to pull the ghosts away from the direction they were running to, only then you'd be able to decrease their health. In this one the lack of C-stick doesn't even make a difference, you simply point to the inverted direction using the analog-stick, same one used for movement. If you think about it, it's not different at all since you'll probably be going the opposite direction anyway.
Many other gameplay mechanics were added like the flash from your flashlight. Before you just had to point the lantern to your foe to stun him, now you charge the flashlight and unleash a beam of light. The more you charge the wider and stronger the beam will be, good for capturing stronger foes and more than one ghost at a time. There's also the dark-light lantern which lets Luigi see the invisible, be it ghosts, Boos, doors or furniture. Being invisible means that a special type of ghost has possessed said object and only by sucking them in it becomes visible again.
As it was, the R trigger sucks while the L trigger blows air. You sometimes have the opportunity to suck a balloon and stick it at the end of the vacuum's tube. Blowing air out fills the balloon allowing Luigi to float around while sucking air deflates the balloon, making him lose altitude. Even without the C-stick to point the vacuum it's still possible to at least point it up or down using the X and B buttons.
It also features the Power Surge, a special bar that starts filling out when capturing a ghost. When it fills up you can use the power to "super suck" health from the ghost, it starts with a level 1 Power Surge that deals 10 HP but upgrades can unlock better equipment that deals more damage. Power Surging a ghost hands out loot depending on the level used and how many ghosts were captured at one time.
The missions are as diverse as they can get, ranging from cleaning the house from spider webs to rescuing the professor's assistants and getting them to safety. There are more than one location to explore so this time you won't be stuck in a single mansion, which is great.
Completionists had fun collecting money in the previous game, and this time they'll have just as much. Every mission has records of how well the played has done in terms of time, number of ghosts captured, health lost and money collected. The money is not only for bragging rights or to get a 3-stars rating on missions, it's also used to buy upgrades for the Pultergust 5000.
Another big plus here are the boss battles, each of them has a distinct and memorable touch. All of them require specific stuff to be done in order to succeed. Some of them even a little complex. After a while you should get the hang of it, but it's not so obvious as in other Nintendo games, especially in those of Luigi's brother, Mario.
The multiplayer is pretty good, it's one of the best multiplayer modes no one plays. There's a few conceptual problems with it. For instance, it allows up to 25 floors of ghosts in ascending difficulty. People who want to complete the entries for both the main game and the ScareScraper ghosts might find it difficult to form a team that goes all the way up there. It should be allowed to join an on-going match after drops to make it more playable. If you have other 3 people willing to take up the challenge it turns out great.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is as light-hearted as it can be, and with that it does most things it plans on doing absolutely right. It's not groundbreaking in any way, the art style is reminiscent from the first game and even the sound effects, many are reused for an added nostalgia effect. The adventure is lengthy -- around 20 hours or so -- and should please most people. It's nice that at least Luigi found a niche style for himself.