Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the 3DS sequel to the GameCube game Luigi’s Mansion. Since this was the first one I played I’m going to probably be explaining things that are common sense to fans of the first. I apologize for not knowing what’s new and what’s old. The main plot of the game is that the ghosts have stolen pieces of the dark moon and hidden them, using the power to open a portal to another dimension where they can bring in more ghosts. This is a problem because it’s creating a dimensional imbalance that could collapse your dimension. So Professor E. Gadd has once again recruited Luigi, armed with a new and improved version of the ghost-sucking vacuum the Poltergust 5000, to help capture the ghosts so they can reassemble the dark moon and restore balance.
You play as Luigi and primarily use your vacuum to interact with many objects in the game as well as fight and capture ghosts. You use the shoulder buttons to either suck or blow. You can aim up and down either by moving the 3DS up and down, or by hitting X and B. A is used for interacting with many objects as well as opening chests and doors. You will also get a few other attachments that will give you some more powers and help you fight and solve puzzles. This game is split into missions. You select mansions to go to and pick a mission to play. They will unlock in a linear fashion as you progress. Generally missions will consist of exploring the mansion, finding key items, and defeating certain ghosts until you’re done. At this point you are usually automatically transported back. Each mansion also has a boss and a bonus map to unlock. You unlock the bonus map by capturing hidden boos in each mission. The bonus mission is a randomized mission version of the mansion. You can also try to collect all of the different gems hidden throughout the mansions. If you collect all of them in a mansion, you will be rewarded with a statue. You can also find gold in various ways throughout the mansions which can be used to unlock more upgrades to your gear. You will be ranked at the end of your mission based on the gold you get, how much damage you take, and how fast you are. Typically you will only have access to certain parts of a mansion based on your current mission, and you generally will only have full access by the end of the missions. There’s also an online mode which has tougher versions of the variety of ghosts to fight along with other players in a cooperative yet competitive type of play. The goal is to do as well as possible and get further up the mansion as you try and outscore your team.
I really like a lot about Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. It’s cool how you can interact with so many things in the mansions and generally you’ll get gold for doing so. You want the gold to get upgrades, and once you have all the upgrades you still want to solve the little puzzles to find the hidden boos and the gems so it really makes you want to explore every last inch of the mansions. Also the mansions are very atmospheric, with great use of visuals, shadows, physics, sound effects, and music. I especially am impressed with the sound design. Not only does every item have decent physics in reaction to your vacuum, but there are also sound effects for everything. The sound of your footsteps on different floors, items being blown around, items dropping on the ground, ghosts doing their ghostly business… everything sounds so crisp. The visuals are very colorful while still being dark and spooky. The combat usually consists of an interesting back and forth tug of war with the ghosts that gets trickier with more enemies and smaller spaces. The bosses are pretty fun to fight as well, requiring a different fighting style to beat. The upgrade system is nice because it gives you some advantages if you’re having a hard time, and you can grind up gold on previous missions if need be as your gold is cumulative. I also just have a soft spot for Luigi. I guess it comes with being second player a lot and… well… come on, it’s the ‘Uig Man! He has lots of fun little facial expressions and short phrases. And he’s interesting because he’s taking down all these scary creatures even though he’s deathly afraid of them. I especially liked end of the game for the amount of challenge and action it offered. And the multiplayer could be pretty fun with friends.
There are definitely some issues I have with the game, though. The controls can be tough to adjust to. Personally, I’d like an option to turn off the tilt controls as sometimes they would mess with my aiming, though sometimes they did help me make more minor adjustments to my aim. The mission system makes sense so you can pick up and put down the handheld game on the go, but I would’ve preferred being able to explore the entire mansion in a flowing manner. When you have to go in and out between missions you will be able to get to a few new areas, but most of the older areas can still be explored with less surprises unless you miss things or are hunting for the hidden boos. The boos are somewhat fun to find, but the reward of the bonus missions isn’t great unless you’re looking to play random ghost rushes in each mansion. Good for replay but not much for progression. The emeralds are more satisfying to find in my opinion as they require more exploration and puzzle solving to find, but they are even less rewarding to find because you only unlock statues to look at for completing sets. Getting gold becomes useless rather early on in the game if you’re really going for it because you will run out of upgrades to unlock. At this point the gold is only worth collecting for your score and rank, which only matter for completionists and bragging rights online. The online mode is a nice distraction, but it feels pretty repetitive and mindless pretty quickly. Unless you’re playing with friends, you might as well just do the random bonus missions in main game mansions instead. There is some decent variety in the ghosts you fight, along with stronger versions of them, but it seems like you’ll often be fighting large groups of the same ghost type or maybe only a couple at a time. This, along with the separated missions and diminishing returns from all your gameplay, makes the game a bit on the repetitive side, especially after you’ve seen all the neat little ins and outs of the environments. Also… the game really isn’t scary. It’s probably not meant to be either, but if you’re looking to be scared then look elsewhere. I also don’t like how you’re capturing all these ghosts that are just minding their own business haunting abandoned mansions in a valley with no other inhabitants. If it weren’t for the dimensional imbalance issue it’d feel worse, but it still feels like you’re messing with innocent ghosts. There’s also a story bit hinted at about halfway through the game that the player will figure out fairly quickly, yet the characters in the game will not recognize it until much later, which makes most of the game still mean towards these ghosts from a story standpoint.
There are some really cool things in the game, but the design makes it quite a tedious experience that will likely wear on you. Try to play it in bursts. If you’re into trying to top your high score and find everything then it should be fun. Also, I’m sure fans of the first game will enjoy a new installment. Just keep in mind that once you finish it, you likely won’t be picking it up again for a long time. I wouldn’t recommend it for full price but it’s worth 15 bucks or maybe 20 if you’re a fan of the idea or the series. And certainly it’s worth trying out for Luigi fans. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a fun 3DS experience that’s definitely worth experiencing at least once.