It may have took twelve years, but Luigi’s Mansion did eventually receive a sequel. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon served as Luigi’s return to the spotlight, in the sequel to the game that removed the green-clad plumber from Mario’s shadow. This time Luigi tackled the 3DS, giving the handheld another highlight in its impressive library.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon follows the same fundamentals as its predecessor. Luigi traverses haunted mansions, and uses a vacuum cleaner to rid the houses of the many ghosts that inhabit them. Luigi’s flashlight now has a strobe ability, an mechanic performed by holding the action button down before releasing, with the resulting strobe light stunning ghosts. This ‘stun’ is required before Luigi can capture the game’s many spooks. The flashlight also includes a new “Darklight” device, which reveals hidden objects and exposes invisible foes.
The biggest difference between the original game and this sequel isn’t in any particular gameplay feature, but the structure of the game itself. The GameCube original had Luigi searching through his own mansion to rid it of ghosts while in search of a missing Mario. It was a short, explorative experience. In Dark Moon, a returning Professor E. Gadd sends Luigi to five different mansions, each of which are split into various missions.
The new structure of the game allows for a greater sense of variety in level design, with the different mansions having their own little motif (greenhouse, clock factory, and so forth), and each mission housing a variety of puzzles that require more robust thinking on the many uses of Luigi’s Poltergust 5000 vacuum. Some puzzles can get a little head-scratching, but that only means they provide a bigger sense of accomplishment when completed.
The new structure ensures that Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is considerably lengthier than its predecessor, but at the same time, it also creates one of the game’s drawbacks. The first Luigi’s Mansion had a great sense of exploration, you wanted to search every nook and cranny of the mansion in the original (and you could, if you so chose). But within Dark Moon’s missions is a set objective, with many of the rooms in any given mansion being sealed off, lest the current objective requires them. There are hidden treasures that require some thorough inspecting to find, but it’s a small little sidequest that can’t quite bring back the freedom of exploration the original game had. Despite popular belief to the contrary, a game having a more linear structure isn’t an innate problem, but the fact that Luigi is whisked out of a mansion every time you complete your current mission does create a longing for the original game’s pacing.
Fans of the GameCube original will also miss said game’s atmosphere. The portrait ghosts of Luigi’s Mansion were always on the cartoony side, yet they helped build a personality and presence to the original game that gave the titular mansion a strong sense of place. The portrait ghosts of old (or any other of the original game’s spectres, other than Boos) are nowhere to be found. While many of the enemies, sub-bosses, and big bosses of Dark Moon certainly do provide their own puzzles and challenges to overcome, they fail to capture that same sense of personality and atmosphere that the original game was abundant in.
With all this said, these are quibbles in an otherwise well-constructed title. Dark Moon takes many elements that made the original Luigi’s Mansion memorable, makes the quest lengthier, and creates a new layer of depth to the gameplay. To add a cherry on top, Dark Moon even includes a multiplayer option.
The “Scarescraper” serves as Dark Moon’s cooperative multiplayer mode, which can be played online and includes three different modes of play: Hunter mode sees each player (all of whom play as variously-colored Luigi’s) ascend further up the mansion by clearing each individual floor of all its ghosts. Rush mode gives the Luigi’s a limited amount of time to find each floor’s exit, with clocks strewn about – or rewarded for taking out ghosts – to give the team a little more time. Lastly, Polterpup has players scurrying about the mansion to find the titular ghostly dogs by using the Darklight.
Although the number of multiplayer modes are limited, the challenge and replayability they provide are among the game’s strongest assets. Long after you finish the story mode, you’ll be coming back to the Scarescraper to see just how far you can get.
Developed by Next Level games (Mario Strikers, Wii’s Punch-Out!!), Nintendo permitted this long-awaited sequel to very capable hands. The end result is both fun and nostalgic, with tight gameplay, solid structure and pacing, and a surprisingly engaging multiplayer option. It may not evoke the same experience as the GameCube original, but Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon remains a wonderful piece of game design nonetheless.
There may have been a twelve-year gap between the original Luigi’s Mansion and Dark Moon, but time hasn’t slowed Luigi down one bit when it comes to pure fun.