Luigi’s Mansion 2

It’s been over ten years since Luigi stepped into the limelight of a main protagonist role in the GameCube classic, Luigi’s Mansion. A decade is a long time when it comes to the gaming industry – two console generations later, Luigi has retired the controller and opted for the portable realm of the 3DS. With a new development team, years of fan anticipation, a new system market and potentially a new audience, one has to question if a sequel release after this long can hope to live up to the original’s acclaim.

Has the green-garbed hero’s Poltergust rusted during this long time, or has the secondary sidekick proved once more that he deserves as much attention as his more famous brother? Let’s just say that Nintendo’s ‘Year of Luigi’ could not have started better.

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Luigi’s Mansion 2 begins with Luigi’s eccentric mentor and paranomal professional, Professor E. Gadd, hard at work on his studies in Evershade Valley. In this new region, all ghosts appear to be friendly, and actually assist the good professor. When a sparkling object in the sky known as the Dark Moon shatters, all of the ghouls wreak havoc and become hostile. Naturally, the cowardly but experienced ghost-buster Luigi is called upon to collect the six shards of the Dark Moon and return peace once again.

Instead of one gigantic mansion that you can freely roam in as the original provided, Luigi’s Mansion 2 instead presents five large architectures with gameplay segmented into missions and levels. Despite the game following a more linear structure than it’s predecessor, there is still very much a high focus on exploration.

The new mission-focused structure eliminates the back-tracking present in the original, while still allowing the player to progressively unlock new rooms in each mansion. The only small gripe with this is that you can never quite tell when you are about to finish the level – you could walk into a room or open a chest that causes you to inadvertantly complete the level prematurely, when there may have been more rooms you had to yet to explore. When the replayability factor is so rewarding, however, this is a minor issue.

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As ever, there is a ton of treasure to find – in fact, it’s crammed just about everywhere. Despite how simple and small a single room may appear, every crevice in said room could contain heaps of gold. Pulling back rugs, spinning ceiling fans, peeling loose wallpaper… it doesn’t take long until the game teaches you to leave absolutely no object unattended, and exploring and experimenting is highly rewarded – and thus, highly satisfying.

Bling isn’t all you’ll be searching for, either. Luigi now has a new device called the Dark-Light, which causes his flashlight to emit a rainbow-coloured beam. When in use, it allows the player to see invisible objects, and make them interactive. Each level also includes a hidden Boo, and when all Boos in a mansion are caught, an alternate mission is unlocked.

Ghost hunting is largely the same, and when you consider how fun it was in the GameCube title, that’s no bad thing. The main difference is that the flashlight has been tweaked so that you can blast a large flash with the press of a button, or even charge it for a larger radius (and therefore stunning more ghosts). This is a significant improvement over the simple on/off functionality in the original. When ghosts are stunned, you can start reeling them in and wittle down their health points until they succumb to their vaccuum prison.

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The different types of ghosts mean that some will hide in objects round the room, spit fluid at you, or attack with large shockwaves. There’s something incredibly satisfying about pulling off a capture of multiple ghosts at once, and hopping around to avoid attacks during combat.

The advanced ‘Portrait Ghosts’ from the original are no longer here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some enticing boss battles. No boss fight is the same, requiring different tactics and fightings styles each time. Like the many puzzles littered across the mansions, the bosses also invite strategic thinking. Exposing a weak point or finding the right time to strike isn’t as simple as you might expect.

I was initially pretty disappointed that the game no longer allows you to expel fire, water and ice from your vaccuum, nor really gives you any new abilities as you progress (aside from upgrades to the intensity of your vaccuum and Dark-Light battery). However, I soon discovered that I didn’t need them at all, because the simple suction and blow mechanics of the vaccuum can already be cleverly utilised in a huge variety of ways.

For example, let’s go back to the boss fights. In my battle with the gigantic ghostly spider, I had to ignite the web with fire. Shooting fire from the Poltergust would have been too easy – it was much more engaging having to drag the web to the single source of flame in the area, all the while avoiding incoming attacks and obstacles. Watering the plants outside would have been too simple – finding a bucket, finding a waterfall and then finding a portal to go back to the unbloomed plant, however, required dexterity. The Poltergust’s many uses allow you to spin wheels, yank chains, and even inflate a balloon to fly in the air.

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The graphics are just as appealing as ever, with colours clashing vibrantly while still providing a spooky style. The 3D effect is truly impressive, with visual depth that few other 3DS games can rival during both gameplay and cutscenes. The sound design and soundtrack also add to the quirky yet scary vibe, and it’s highly recommended that you keep your volume turned up.

The 12-15 hour campaign, with potentially a further 10 hours for completionist players, would have been more than enough for me to call this an instant classic. However, there is also a multiplayer mode that is both local and online. As odd as it sounds for a game like this to have multiplayer, it is far from tacked-on and is far more compelling than you could imagine.

Hunter mode is a simple wave-based survival game that allows up to four players to capture all ghosts on every floor. Co-operation is a surprisingly fantastic fit for the gameplay, with four Luigis covering each other’s backs and pulling in the ghosts across multiple vaccuums. Then there’s Polterpup mode, which tasks players with searching each room for the adorable ghost puppy, using the Dark-Light to trace footprints. Rush mode is a frantic race to find the correct room, with time constantly and harshly ticking down with only time pick-ups hidden around and held by ghosts able to assist you.

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March has been one hell of a big month for game releases. Yet, I passed up Bioshock, Tomb Raider and Gears and opted for Luigi’s Mansion 2, and I don’t regret that decision one bit. Mario’s little brother deserves your attention just as much (if not more) than the mammoth AAA games this year, and while there are a ton of temptations elsewhere, I’d highly recommend you do the same and experience the greatest 3DS game so far. Next Level Games have absolutely outdone themselves, and have not only delivered on a superior sequel with the challenge of a new system, generation and years of fan anticipation, but have made even a decade gap worth the wait.