With Mario stepping to the side for what Nintendo is calling “The year of Luigi”, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is — in theory — the perfect opening for everyone’s favorite green-wearing underdog. With its predecessor being such a beloved cult classic, could a portable rendition with a significant amount of both gameplay and progression changes do anything for fans of the GameCube launch title?
Unlike in the original game which primarily took place in one large mansion with four large floors, Dark Moon has Luigi hunting for ghosts in a total of seven significantly smaller mansions. With puzzles, boss fights, and vacuuming galore, the actual formula of the game hasn’t changed drastically from the original (save some newly-added repetition — but that’s for another paragraph), but still, there’s something missing. The satisfaction of clearing out the entirety of the massive mansion in the original game. While some satisfaction does come from clearing out the comparatively tiny mansions in Dark Moon, the feeling is cheapened over time, as it only takes around two hours to clear a full mansion.
Another difference is that the mansions in Dark Moon are broken into levels. Much like any of the recent 3D Mario games, each level gives the player one specific task to complete. While this is ideally the best way to approach level-design for a game that is built to play on the go. However, in this case it would have been much more satisfying to stay in the mansion and be given tasks via codec rather than being slowed down by a mission select screen.
Don’t worry, it isn’t all bad news. Graphically the game is much prettier than it’s predecessor, and the basic formula is still quite a lot of fun. Vacuuming ghouls feels better than it did in the game’s predecessor, and during the first mansion, the game is a whole lot of fun. Unfortunately, this fun evaporates with the discover that the first mansion’s mission list is almost identical to every other mansion’s mission list.
Chasing ghostly dogs, escorting Toads, these two tasks are what really bog down the Luigi’s Mansion experience. Each of these things are fun the first time, but doing them time and time again is infuriating. Did you just finish a level where you got an important item? Ghost dog is sure to steal it. And after that? “Time to rescue the Toads, Luigi!”. It really makes going through the game feel like a chore. Again, on the go playing it as one would a mobile game like Angry Birds, people might not have any problem with these segments. But playing it as one would a console game (in large sittings), it’s honestly not very fun at all. While the dog chasing and Toad escorting aren’t much of anything worth looking forward to, Luigi & Co. are as charming as ever. The humor in the game is spot-on and is constantly riffing over itself. The music is also some of the best in Nintendo’s library.
As you can likely tell from reading this review, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is quite the mixed bag. While its mechanics are fun on their own, nothing built around them is terribly appealing. While it is competent, it stands miles below its predecessor and leaves me for a yearning for a more satisfying experience in the shoe’s of the green-strewn scaredy cat.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I was unable to connect to any online matches during my time with the game. It must have something to do with my network, as I have seen other people play it with no problems at all. If I am able to get it working I will update the review with my thoughts on the multiplayer component.