Luigi’s Mansion 2′s modular, room-based adventure not only surpasses its GameCube roots in terms of ingenuity and ideas, but manages to position itself among the very best the 3DS has to offer in terms of gameplay and visuals too. It’s because its so controlled, the game moving between blocks of interconnected jigsaw pieces purely at a prescribed rate and often in a specific order, that the pacing and plot can be so tightly restrained – and as a result it’s never less than compelling, without ever feeling unnecessarily linear or contrived.
A neat trick. The players are very much playing by the rules – exploring each separate cell one by one, but the game feels coherent and whole because each room and area has its own identity whilst still being connected to others, and not solely by doors. Hidden entrances, mechanical devices, ghosts that flit in and out and puzzles that run across entire floors. It’s all there for the taking, and it always feels like the player is making the decisions that shape the exposition.
It’s a delicate, careful unwrapping, with everything delivered piecemeal so as never to overwhelm. And whilst the game kicks off with a familiar character (the re-introduction of Professor E. Gadd, of course), this time around Luigi is charged with the collection of pieces of a shattered (and in other territories, titular) Dark Moon, spread over a handful of locations that are accessed – as you might have guessed – in a regimented order.
That’s not to say that this structure isn’t welcome – it most certainly is. Because the locations are reused several times each, Luigi’s improved abilities (and nerves of steel) allow him to access deeper into each on repeated visits, which means that although you’ll wander through the same rooms more than once, the ghosts will be different, the puzzles will be changed and the routes will be simplified. It’s that unwritten Nintendo ethos at work, the one that ensures that there’s as little friction as possible, and Luigi’s Mansion 2 excels at pushing the player forward.
The main game is presented as if you’re peering into a doll’s house, especially if you use the portable’s 3D capabilities. With a camera locked to a single direction unless the view is temporarily moved to first person, moving Luigi is simple enough – the 3DS’s gyro controls are used to aim up and down (along with a couple of face buttons as an option) and although a couple of buttons double up, navigating between rooms and activating key elements is mostly problem free.
Battling ghosts on the 3DS is a little simpler than it was on GameCube – there’s no second stick (the game doesn’t support the optional extra either) so it’s really just a case of holding away from a spirit, once you’ve flashed it with your torch, found the weakspot and caught it in the Poltergust, that is. Wear it down enough and you can tap a button to capture it for good, where it’ll appear in E. Gadd’s underground lab for later perusal. There’s variety in the spectres, as you’d expect, but it’s in the bosses where the developers have really worked hardest, such encounters are easily highlights.
Visually Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a real treat. It’s a very solid looking game, everything’s well modeled and nicely animated, with rich colours and detailed textures – it looks nearly as good as Super Mario Land 3D, albeit often much darker. Luigi’s torch is really well done, with a variety of lighting effects in play (including the occasional realtime shadow too). With the 3D on there’s a convincing (yet never overstated) sense of depth, and without you get a little more anti-aliasing – 3D isn’t required, but it does improve the immersion slightly.
The music’s great too – the main theme is really catchy (just ask Luigi, who if left alone will happily hum along) and yet the soundtrack can veer dramatically into spooky and creepy when required. Everything has a pleasing physicality to it in terms of the sound, there are clunks and clanks at every corner, and married up with the animation just stopping to interact with the various environmental details is a nice diversion. And it’s a diversion normally rewarded with cash and other trinkets, too.
And although the game has but five such environments, each is split into levels and missions and each has its own ranking system so determined players can opt to retry for perfect scores. There’s lots to collect too, gems are hidden out of sight and are all tallied together so you can see which you’re missing. When the game’s complete in terms of story chances are there’s still loads to tempt you back in for another run, and the modular construction of the game actively makes this easy to dip in and out of at your leisure.
Finally, the game features a number of multiplayer modes. The co-operative, time-based Hunter Mode is potentially superb with a like-minded group of mates, but there are three modes in total featuring both local and online play.
- Great visuals – the lighting is beautiful
- Well structured single player, with loads of replay value
- Inventive boss battles
- Snippets of Nintendo fan-service
- Frame rate jumps around a little
- Multiplayer is slightly, just slightly underdeveloped
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is filled with little gags that Nintendo fans will really appreciate (the original DS is a nice touch). Luigi’s character is much more rounded than it was last time around, and the game feels like a real evolution in terms of storytelling and gameplay – everything is richer, bigger and more fun to explore, and the control scheme fits the handheld like a glove. Multiplayer rounds off the package nicely, and whilst it’s not as immediate as the namesake in Nintendo Land, there’s plenty here to keep people happy. A really, really good game.