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Review: Luigi’s Mansion 2

lm1The original Luigi’s Mansion is probably up there with Super Smash Bros Melee as one of my favourite GameCube games of all time; while it certainly was an extremely short game, it provided players with some of the most original concepts found in a Mario Game – fighting an army of ghosts in a dark mansion with a vacuum cleaner, many of them the deceased residents of the house, all to save Mario from King Boo. It had interesting ghost designs, music which fit the mood down to a tee, and, for a Mario game, an original but pretty disturbing atmosphere – unless you can name any other Mario games where the first boss is literally a giant shrieking ghost baby.

It’s a real shame that not much else has been done with the concept since then. But now, after 10 years, a sequel is finally released, after many delays since its announcement; Next Level Games has brought us Luigi’s Mansion 2, or Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon in the US. It was the game I bought a 3DS for, and it didn’t disappoint.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 (3DS)
Developed by Next Level Games – Published by Nintendo

Luigi’s Mansion 2 returns us to the world of Professor E.Gadd and the more “paranormal” side of the Mushroom Kingdom – in Evershade Valley, where Gadd is doing studies on the ghosts, which are actually friendly – until King Boo shatters what is known as the “Dark Moon”, a floating rock which, once broken into pieces, causes the ghosts to become hostile. It’s up to Luigi once again to enter the valley and find the five pieces of the Dark Moon and defeat King Boo once again.

I have to first mention the brilliant writing. It seems that, for the most part, when a third party is given the chance to work on a Nintendo IP, they always come up with writing that’s above and beyond Nintendo’s output, and this is no exception. While the only character that really talks regularly is E.Gadd, he does provide some great banter. For example, they poke fun at how Luigi’s always living in Mario’s shadow, and how Luigi is a plumber – when was the last time a Nintendo game had an in game character reference Mario and Luigi’s job? And there’s a Boolean joke, a joke about the programming language names “Boolean”, and the joke is awesome.

lm2The writing in this game just goes to show that Nintendo giving other devs a chance to delve deep into their IPs and create some of Nintendo’s best writing in years is proving to be the best decision he company has made in a while.

The major difference this time around is that the game takes place in 5 “mansions” instead of just one, each with their own designs and new mechanics, such as one based around Jungles and flora, and another based around an old clockworks factory. Each Mansion has a distinct different look and feel to them, and you never feel as if you’re exploring the same mansion twice. While you may find some of the same mechanics, they always make sure to change the look and design, as to keep you guessing.

The game strays from the original gameplay formula by separating each Mansion’s escapades into missions, each with their own objectives. By doing this, they have solved the problem the original game had – longevity. Each mission, if you take your time, will probably take around fifteen minutes to half an hour – if you know what you’re doing, that is. First time players without walkthroughs may find themselves struggling a bit as to where to go, or what to do; however, whenever I had this issue, it was normally my fault ,as the solution was normally something I didn’t think to try or something I didn’t think could be vacuumed. However, even if you did know what to do, it’s not just the missions that will provide more gameplay; every stage has a hidden boo to collect to unlock an extra bonus mission, although these are never anything more than a timed ghost-hunt. There are also other things to collect, such as gems in each mansion, and cash, which instead of unlocking a better ending instead unlocks upgrades for the Poltergust 5000.

Many of the missions in the game are not exactly focused on simply hunting ghosts. Many of them have a more “Puzzle-like” feeling to them – for example, you may be required to find a way to collect an out-of-reach object or a trapped Toad, or you need to find a way to open a door to progress further into the Mansion. I’m not disappointed by this, however; while there may be some missions that are similar to ones found in previous mansions, such as saving a Toad from a painting and escorting them back to a transport device called a “pixelshifter”, the solutions are never the same- usually because the solution lies within the mansion’s own different mechanics or design. For example, while you may save a Toad in an icy chalet, the ice below may crack and you’ll have to find a way out of the mine to finally escort the Toad to safety. The amount of variety that can be found in the game’s missions is always a pleasure, missions which are pretty similar such as catching a Polterpup (which, by the way, is the best dog name in the world) will keep you guessing.

lm3One place I found the game didn’t really strive as much in is the ghosts you encounter. While there are multiple types, such as the green small ones, the red strong ones, and the blue hiding ones, by the third or fourth mansion you’ve essentially seen most of what the game has to offer in terms of non-boss enemy design; the “human” ghosts of the first game do not appear. While the original game did have the same few ghost types similar to this one, the main ghosts were the residents of the mansion; those were the ghosts that provided the ingenuity and originality in the paranormal combat. While the disappointment is there, i’d imagine that it would only affect big fans of the first game such as I, and even then I managed to get over the same enemy types. This is because the ghosts are smarter than the original – they pick up sunglasses and other objects such as helmets or shields so they can’t be stunned, wrap themselves in mummy outfits to give themselves extra power, and generally are much more of a nuisance than they were in the original game.

However, where the standard ghosts may lack in original design, the bosses revel in originality. There are two sides to the boss battles; the Possessor ghosts, and what they possess. While the ghosts themselves are the same, and are defeated via the same method, each ghost possesses a different object based on their surroundings, taking such bizarre forms as staircases and clock faces. Not to say that these fights are bad; each one has a unique weakness and strategy for defeating them. The fights are so original and visually interesting, that it very much makes up for the less than stellar normal enemy types.

The most original feature is the Dark Light Device; a new type of flashlight, that can reveal hidden Boos and the objects that they hide themselves. While it doesn’t add much to the combat, it is fun to check each mission out and to see what you’re missing.

lm5The combat in this game has not changed much from the original formula of sucking up ghosts, while holding back on the circle pad to pull it in more as you knock it’s health down to zero. You still press R to suck and L to blow, a function which is used much more in this game than its predecessor. However, there is the problem that the 3DS does not have a second circle pad for aiming, and the circle pad pro isn’t compatible; Next Level Games has attempted to solve this problem by utilizing the Gyro sensor; tilting the 3DS up and down while strafing will find you aiming up and down, and tilting it left and right will move the camera in those respective directions. However, you also have the option to press X or B while strafing to aim up or down. The gyro, like many other games, is also used for moving around the camera in first person; this is done when either peeking through a small gap or window, or aiming a cannon. While I do prefer to press X and B to aim up or down, I find that using the gyro is much more comfortable when aiming a first person camera. One area where the gyro really feels uncomfortable is walking along a narrow bar; if you’re playing lying down or sitting in a position where the 3DS is perfectly aligned, it can be difficult to get the perfect balance when you walk across, and falling normally results in a loss of health.

Sucking up ghosts doesn’t just consist of holding R and pulling back on the circle pad; a new “A-Pull” feature has been added, which adds an extra oomph to the vacuum, and is essential for, say, pulling things off walls, and delivering a much more damaging blow to an enemy. As you upgrade the A-Pull meter, you can begin to produce bigger A-Pulls and cause more damage to an enemy. It feels really good when you get a completely levelled up bar full and press A to let the enemy feel immense pain. A-Pulling on a ghost also gives you extra bonuses, such as health or money.

The way you stun the ghosts is different to first game’s method; instead of just shining your flashlight on them, you need to use the “strobulb”; this is a large flash of light which stuns any ghosts in front of you, and it can be charged to affect a bigger area. Once stunned, you can press R and begin to suck up to three ghosts in the near area (although there will apparently be an update to increase the number). I love this new feature; it makes it easy to get multiple ghosts stunned, and it’s great to manage to grab three at once, as doing so can earn bigger bonuses.

lm6While the combat isn’t necessarily too hard, it can get irritating – sometimes you’ll be stuck in a small space, fighting multiple ghosts, and they will attack you if you’re defenseless. It was when I lost all my health in a situation such as this that I realized that there are no individual mission checkpoints – die in a mission, start from the beginning. Unless you have a golden bone which calls PolterPup to bring you back to the fight, all progress is lost and you must start again. This is extremely annoying when you rack up a load of coins and gems – only to lose them. And it’s not like Golden Bones are easy to find, or can be stocked up; there’s one hidden in each mission, and if you use it, it’s gone for that mission – so you better hope that the mission doesn’t throw anything more difficult afterwards. What got me though is that there are no checkpoints at all – not even during the boss fights, which normally happen in multiple stages. One boss in particular had me so angry that they didn’t include some sort of checkpoint support, as it was one that so obviously desperately needed it.

My experience of the multiplayer (called the ScareScraper) was not exactly a most positive one – when I got into the online lobby list, all I received were constant “connection errors” and when I did get into a lobby, the host would nine times out of ten quit due to no players arriving. Even in games, players would quit out, leaving me with just the host. However, when I did get into a game, the connection was decent – there was no real lag to speak of. That didn’t stop people from leaving one particular game I was in – all three teammates left the match.

There are four modes in the game – Hunter, Rush, Polterpup and Surprise; however Surprise is just the three other modes mixed together. In Hunter Mode, four players race around a floor of the ScareScraper, hunting down all the ghosts in the given time limit. There isn’t much else to it, really. It’s decent enough, and it is fun to try and catch more ghosts than the other Luigis.

lm7Rush Mode requires all four players to work together to find a hatch in order to reach the next floor. What’s great about this mode is that it’s much more cooperative than Hunter Mode – every player must reach the same area to pass, and it gets tense as the short time limit counts down, and no one else can find any more time extending clocks. I had fun playing it until, as I said before, everyone left because they couldn’t make their way to the exit.

Polterpup mode, the final real mode, requires all players to capture the polterpups littered on the floors, using the Dark Light Device to track their pawprints. There really isn’t much to this mode; it’s very similar to missions in the main story in which the main objective is tracking down Polterpups.

Honestly, I could leave the multiplayer; while the modes themselves aren’t particularly bad, they aren’t as much fun to play as the story mode, and the connection problems and the player dropouts certainly don’t make traveling up the ScareScraper anymore worthwhile.

lm4The 3D in this game is, as is expected of first party 3DS games it seems, decent; everything sticks out, and makes the mansions seem a lot bigger than they really are. However, it’s very unremarkable, as far as 3DS 3D goes.

Next Level Games has succeeded in a making a beautiful game, one that manages to look just as good as it’s already gorgeous console predecessor; while the artstyle doesn’t seem to be going for the “scary” or “creepy” atmosphere the original game managed to pull off, it still looks very nice , especially the character animations. Luigi reigns supreme in this department; his expressions, emotions, the way he moves, all of it is excellent and hilarious, especially when he succumbs to a trap or a scare – every new area provides a slew of cute new things for Luigi to get frightened by or to get tricked into, whether it be a ghost pulling a nasty prank, or revolving wall swinging him around, throwing him into the wall. It’s not only him, either; the toads are just as cute, as the run terrified around ghosts, and as they give Luigi a big hug when they are saved.

The Sound design, however, I found to be a bit of a mixed bag – while the music is good, it never moves on to being memorable, and while it doesn’t get annoying, it’s not always something you want to hear during a long playthrough, either. The sounds the characters make, though, are something else. While E.Gadd essentially makes the same sounds of gibberish he made ten years ago, Charles Martinet really puts in his all to give Luigi a proper personality – the way he says certain words are nothing short of adorable. The way the new ghosts laugh are reminiscent of the original ghosts, although they don’t seem to be as talkative as the original ghosts – not even talking via text, which was a bit disappointing, as they were just downright evil ghosts in the last game- here they just feel like bullies.

lm8Overall, Luigi’s Mansion 2 did turn out to be as good as I’d hoped it would be; while the Multiplayer wasn’t up to scratch, I didn’t really mind as much due to how much fun I had in the main story – I was expecting a fun ghost story, and I got that. It was great to jump back into the story of Professor E.Gadd, Luigi and King Boo once more after so many years; and it all ends in one of the most heart-warming endings I’ve seen in a while.

Nintendo really needs to step up its game in terms of developing the Mario franchise; Next Level Games is another developer up there with Alphadream and Intelligent Systems that really knows what to do with the Mario franchise, and how to innovate within it; something Nintendo clearly needs help with.

Luigi’s Mansion 2, or Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon sits proudly with Nintendo’s growing library of fantastic 3DS games along with Fire Emblem Awakening and Kid Icarus Uprising, among others. If you own a 3DS, you need this game. If you don’t own a 3DS, but you like the Mario franchise or the original Luigi’s Mansion, it’s worth getting.

Final Score: 9/10

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