Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Did You Miss It? - Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

It’s been almost twelve years since the release of the Nintendo Gamecube. The little purple box boasts a wide range of excellent releases, and Luigi’s Mansion was one of its earliest and brightest. Despite the game’s short length, Luigi’s Mansion was innovative, intelligent, and gave the timid Luigi a chance to shine in the spotlight! Now, at long last, Luigi’s Mansion has been given a sequel on the 3DS. The result? It’s a delightfully comic and eerie adventure, one that takes the innovation of its predecessor to beautiful new heights.

The story opens in the haunting Evershade Valley, where Professor E. Gadd (retired Ghostbuster) spent his days studying the playful and friendly ghosts inhabiting the region...or at least he was until the “Dark Moon” was shattered and fell out of the sky. As a result, the ghosts become hostile and start causing mischief and mayhem around the Valley. E. Gadd then drags Luigi out of his comfortable life, hands him some equipment, and sends him off to collect the fragments of the Dark Moon.

The gameplay is very similar to the original Luigi’s Mansion, and is fairly instinctive and accessible. Luigi is armed with the Poltergust 5000: a vacuum specially designed to suck up anything from dust to piles of cash, and even malicious little phantoms!  Capturing the ghosts is a fairly straightforward process. You just charge your “stroboscope” (read: big flashlight) to stun the ghosts, and then use your Poltergust 5000 to wrangle them into captivity! Not all ghosts will be so easily captured, however! There’s a certain puzzle element to discovering the weaknesses of each type of ghost, and figuring out how to get them into the beam of your flashlight. This makes it so that collecting ghosts is never a bore, and I always felt a sense of satisfaction when I finally managed to trip up a cunning specter.

That's a big twinkie...

Outside of capturing ghosts, Luigi will frequently be forced to solve various puzzles in order to advance through each mansion. Many of the puzzles are well-designed and present a fair challenge, but by the end of the game, they do become slightly repetitive. It’s a minor flaw, but it did occasionally draw me out of the whole experience. 

The presentation of Dark Moon is nothing short of delightful. Each of the spooky mansions you explore in Evershade Valley has its own aesthetic quirks, unique puzzles, and countless hidden secrets. The world of Evershade Valley is beautifully designed, and the game was clearly developed to maximize the 3DS’ potential. Seeing mischievous ghosts gambol about and pop up out of the screen never ceased to be entertaining. 

You know Zuul, for an undead demonic entity, you are one adorable little puppy.

The greatest strength of Dark Moon is probably the fact that it does not take itself too seriously. Despite the spooky premise, the game is nothing short of hysterical. Luigi’s bumbling efforts and the ghosts’ antics faultlessly inject humor into the gameplay. You may not end up doing something as ridiculous as fighting an ancient Sumerian god in the form of a giant marshmallow man, but you’ll constantly be charmed and wearing a smile. 

There’s also an interesting multiplayer mode, where you and three other players work together to clear randomly generated rooms of ghosts, and collect coins for bonuses. It’s not a very in-depth multiplayer experience, but working together to capture ghosts often plays out in rather entertaining ways. 

"Don't cross the streams."
"It would be bad."

Overall, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a fantastic and long-awaited revival to a delightful franchise. It suffers from its predecessor’s faults of being rather short (you can expect approximately 12-15 hours of gameplay) and being rather fast-paced at times, but it’s an enthralling and masterfully detailed experience. If you missed this game’s release and require any more incentive, I only have one more thing to say.

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