That's the spirit.
Nintendo can often neglect their many endearing mascots. One minute they’re the centre of the company’s attention, spoilt with unprecedented devotion and a renewed sense of enthusiasm; the next, they’re thrown into a golden, impenetrable vault, guarded by Twinbellows, sealed shut until the stars and planets align in a particular way that pleases the master of mascot creation himself, Shigeru Miyamoto. Then, and only then, will one lucky character be chosen at random, completely uninfluenced by demand, and granted the chance to escape the creative confines that house the company’s most important intellectual property.
Take Luigi for example. Despite being an ever present figure throughout their celebrated history, Luigi has been continually shunned, ignored and downright humiliated by Nintendo’s finicky selection process when it comes to the big time. The beanpole plumber has been cruelly cast aside in favour of a fatter fictitious character at every opportunity, left to wallow behind a more sizeable and wider shadow, mopping up the remains of his rotund rival’s leftover bolognese sauce with nothing but the crunchy end bit of a baguette. (And did I mention the bread’s gone terribly stale? Yeah. Brutal.)
The beanpole plumber has been cruelly cast aside in favour of a fatter fictitious character at every opportunity.
But luckily this year belongs to Luigi. It is Luigi who can confidently declare, “I’m-a number one!” because the green machine is finally back in the limelight in Luigi’s Mansion 2 (Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon in the US) after a shocking twelve year absence.
Dark Side Of The Moon
Luigi becomes unwillingly embroiled in another manic ghost hunt after a glimmering gem known as the “Dark Moon” is shattered into pieces by an unknown evil entity. The zany professor Elvin Gadd – a bonkers, babbling scientist who returns from the original game – soon discovers that the Dark Moon is an imperative influence on the Evershade Valley ghosts’ behaviour. Without the soothing aura of the Dark Moon, the once friendly and surprisingly abled ghosts-cum-bizarre-lab-assistants quickly transform into meddling miscreants, scuppering Gadd’s research, and dragging Luigi kicking and screaming into the forefront of Elvin’s agenda.
Gadd persuades Luigi to test his mettle once again against an army of mischievous ghouls, as he’s tasked with restoring the Dark Moon to its former glory and returning harmony to Evershade Valley. Armed with nothing but a couple of the prof’s wacky gadgets, such as the new and improved Poltergust 5000 and the “Dual Scream” communication device, our courageous craftsman sets off on another knee-wobbling adventure, similar to the one that served him so well in his first original solo-outing on the Nintendo GameCube.
The basic premise behind Luigi’s Mansion 2 is essentially the same as before: explore a spooky mansion (in this case, several), vacuum up a colossal amount of money and bust some troublesome ghosts along the way; however, developer Next Level Games has exponentially improved upon Luigi’s warmly received debut in almost every department. By far the biggest and most pleasing change to the gameplay formula is the ingeniously clever level design and stunning presentation that lights up Luigi’s agitating adventure in more ways than one.
Although Luigi’s habit for hoovering was utilised admirably back in 2002, LM2 takes the satisfaction of suction to a whole new level. Luigi can interact with practically every single object in the many varied environments, whether it be physically opening a draw with a tap of the A button, sucking up a hanging curtain with the Poltergust, or simply blowing back a rug to reveal a hidden button. The mansions present a treasure trove of wonder to uncover, so you’ll be tempted and encouraged to touch and hoover up everything in sight, with those who do so handsomely rewarded with heaps of cash or one of the many hidden collectible gems strewn throughout the game.
It’s genuinely fascinating when you consider how many brain teasers Next Level Games has managed to fathom with such a simple foundation to build upon.
The greater emphasis on interaction, exploration and experimentation isn’t purely about the joy of discovery, though. The game is littered with devilishly delightful puzzles using the basic actions above, with a few twists such as the “Dark-Light Device”, which makes invisible objects reappear. Luigi is also surprisingly mobile in LM2, able to overcome greater environmental obstacles using the power of the Poltergust, instead of simply opening numerous locked doors.
It’s genuinely fascinating when you consider how many brain teasers Next Level Games has managed to fathom with such a simple foundation to build upon. It’s even more perplexing when you find yourself utterly stumped by the deceptively tricky challenges on offer, as you will be required to use some brain power here. With that in mind, some puzzles may pose too much of a conundrum for casual players to overcome, but they all seem blindingly obvious once you figure them out, with the initial frustration a fleeting afterthought once the eureka moment kicks in.
Suck It Up
Naturally, Luigi is not alone as he waddles around the seemingly desolate mansions. A host of nasty ghouls lie in wait for our moustachioed man, determined to toy, tinker and scare the wits out of the timid plumber at every opportunity. But fortunately for our hero, there’s a suckable saviour at hand, a vigorous vacuum specially designed for cleaning up problematic spectres: the Poltergust 5000.
Luigi’s flashlight is used to stun the ghosts into a temporary submission, allowing the player to get their hoovering hooks into the evasive apparitions. I say hooks, because what basically ensues is a fishing-like mechanic where you push the circle pad in the opposite direction from the fleeing ghost, tapping A to deliver an added shock until the translucent terrors end up trapped inside the spectral vacuum.
Watching and hearing the ghosts desperately struggle to escape the Poltergust’s cyclone of suction is a thoroughly entertaining spectacle, with a strangely tactile feel to the back-and-forth fracas only strengthening the on-screen action. It’s just as much fun as it was twelve years ago despite the small learning curve of moving to the single stick format, though the same can be said in regards to Luigi’s Mansion 2’s overly forgiving difficulty. This really isn’t a hard game.
What is hard to overlook, however, is the one area that continued to be a sticking point throughout my time with Luigi’s ghostly escapades. And that is the new mission format.
Similar to the design decision in Super Mario 3D Land, it’s obvious that the developers wanted to ensure that Luigi’s Mansion 2 could be played in handy 30 minute chunks – it’s a handheld game after all, so the logic is arguably sound. The end result isn’t a good one sadly, as each mansion is broken down into five missions which repeatedly revolve around treading over old ground, uncovering the various areas of the mansion bit-by-bit, and dealing with far too many familiar objectives throughout. It’s really an odd fit.
Though the idea of multiple mansions seems obvious and beneficial at first, owing to the differing challenges offered in their design and construction, they’re actually detrimental to the fluidity and cohesiveness of the game’s meaty campaign. I frequently found myself longing for the original one mansion format, especially when Professor E. Gadd kept rudely kicking me out at the end of each mission only to have to start again, just as the action seemed to be hotting up. Again, it’s an understandable move from Next Level Games, but one can only wonder how brilliant LM2 might have been if the mission format was scrapped entirely. Hopefully we won’t have to wait twelve years to find out.
Looking Like A Million Bucks
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a tour de force in the visuals department and the perfect fit for Nintendo’s glasses-free 3D tech. Rivalling the outstanding presentation of Luigi’s GameCube debut and at times surpassing it, LM2 is damning proof once again that Nintendo’s modestly powered machine can still produce an almighty spectacle for gamers to enjoy.
Next Level Games paid obvious attention to animating the already adorable Luigi into a convincing yellow-bellied individual and he’s undeniably charming from the get-go. Every crack of thunder, interfering ghost and devious mansion trap leaves Luigi in believable shock, but you never feel too scared or worried about him as his general goofiness and clumsy persona smooths out any unnecessary emotional ties. Luigi will clearly survive, and he’ll bumble about in the cutest way to do so.
An unexpected addition to LM2 is the ability to play online multiplayer. Even now, playing online on the 3DS seems foreign and unthinkable, mainly due to the fact so few games support it, but Luigi’s multiplayer component is an admirable inclusion and provides an extra dose of longevity should players grow tired of searching for the collectibles or rounding up the hidden Boos.
A team of different coloured Luigi’s can tackle the “Scare Scraper” and attempt to scale the many floors by ridding the randomly generated mansions of inhabiting ghosts. There’s also two other modes which involve tracking down the Polterpup and racing to find the exit, all of which are cooperative. It certainly isn’t going to be the next Call of Duty but it’s nice to have nonetheless, if only to experience four Luigi’s speaking to each other using one of the four adorable pre-set phrases.
A review copy of Luigi’s Mansion 2 was provided courtesy of Nintendo.
Luigi kicks off his year with an accomplished ghostbusting bang. His handheld heroics prove that the slender sidekick is just as capable as his more mainstream brother, even if the overall experience is frustratingly hampered by the rigid and repetitive mission structure. That aside, Luigi’s Mansion 2 shines brightly and does a wonderful job of capturing the good-hearted spirit of everyone’s favourite underdog. Do yourself a favour and suck this one up.