The original Luigi’s Mansion for the GameCube was full of innovative ideas and proved that Mario’s brother could hold his own as a protagonist. A decade later Luigi once again takes centre stage in Luigi’s Mansion 2, which sees this reluctant hero face his fears in the mansions, towers and abandoned mines of Evershade Valley where the usually docile ghost population has turned hostile due to the sudden disappearance of the Dark Moon – a celestial body believed to have pacifying effects on the valley’s ghosts. Armed with the ghost-busting Poltergust 5000 and under the watchful eye of ghost scientist Professor E. Gadd, Luigi must summon all his courage to recover the shards of the Dark Moon and restore peace to Evershade Valley.
Luigi’s Mansion 2’s missions span five main locations with names like ‘Gloomy Manor,’ ‘Old Clockworks’ and ‘Treacherous Mansion.’ Defeating each location’s boss will grant you a shard of the Dark Moon which in turn will cause some of the mist in the valley to dissipate, revealing the next area of the map which can be explored. There are a handful of missions to complete in each location, most of which are focused on obtaining a key-like item or partially opening up a path to that level’s boss. In terms of structure Luigi’s Mansion 2 feels like a hybrid between the traditional Resident Evil games and The Legend of Zelda, since you’ll often come across doors which require keys to unlock and environmental puzzles which open up new areas when solved. Some missions require you to track down a dog-like ghost called a Polterpup, for this you’ll use an attachment for your Poltergust 5000 called the Dark-Light Device which reveals hidden elements in your environment such as doors and in this case – the Polterpup’s paw-prints. There are even some escorting missions involving the adorable Toads from the Super Mario series who are even more scared of ghosts than Luigi is!
As mentioned earlier, Luigi’s ‘weapon’ of choice is the Poltergust 5000 – an advanced vacuum cleaner given to him by Professor E. Gadd which can suck or blow almost every object in the environment and stun enemies with its flashlight attachment which allows Luigi to illuminate the predominantly dark areas he explores. Besides vacuuming up ghosts, the Poltergust 5000 can be used to solve environmental puzzles such as suctioning up a prickly pear and then launching it into the gaping mouth of a carnivorous plant blocking your way that is destroyed upon eating the pear. You can point the Poltergust at the ceiling or the floor by pressing the X or B button respectively, allowing you to vacuum up or blow objects which are seemingly out of reach. Most ghosts can be defeated simply by stunning them with you Strobulb Flash and then depleting their HP gauge to zero by sucking them up with your Poltergust. Other, more powerful ghosts can only be damaged by pushing the left analog stick in the opposite direction to their movement, while others wear various items such as sunglasses or welding helmets over their eyes, meaning that you have to stun them when they briefly peek at you from behind these barriers.
One of the standout features of Luigi’s Mansion 2 is the way in which all its characters and ghosts are characterised. Luigi steals the show with a diverse range of animations and short lines of dialog effectively conveying his fear and nervousness, or alternatively the sheer relief he feels when he escapes from dangerous situations. It’s hard not to warm to Luigi as a character when he’s humming along to the background music or doing a jig of joy when he completes a mission. A lot of thought and effort has also gone into the ghosts you’ll stumble across in Luigi’s Mansion 2, and observing them making mischief through cracks in walls or through windows rewards you with humorous scenes such as one where a few of them are bashing each other over the head with pillows!
The ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion 2 truly come alive when the 3DS’ 3D slider is turned up, and there are certain boss fights and environmental puzzles which practically demand that 3D is turned on. For example, there is one scene during a boss battle where a number of spiders start descending from the ceiling and it’s difficult to see how they are placed in relation to Luigi unless the 3D slider is up. The most impressive part of the game’s 3D presentation for me was the depth it lends to weather effects like snow and rain. Being able to see snow swirling around in 3D and judge the depth of each and every snowflake was a rare visual delight.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a lengthy game and you can add plenty of extra hours to your play-time if you go after all the gems, coins and gold bars hidden in the nooks and crannies of almost every room. There’s no quick-save option so you’ll have to put your 3DS into sleep mode when you’re forced to take a break. I found this a disappointing omission for a handheld game since some missions can take the good part of an hour to complete. Another gripe I have with the game is that you have to restart the entire mission if you die during it. If you search your environment thoroughly you can sometimes find a gold bone which will allow you to continue if the ghosts get the better of you, but these are few and far between so prepare yourself for the frustrating moment when all your hard work is erased and you’re forced to restart a mission! Unfortunately Luigi’s Mansion 2 has no adjustable difficulty setting so the unexpected spikes in difficulty later in the game may prove an insurmountable barrier for some players.
Even if you throw down the singleplayer game in frustration, there’s always multiplayer to lift your spirits back to where they were before Luigi’s Mansion 2 dealt you a crushing blow. The game features a co-operative multiplayer mode called ScareScraper where up to four players can hunt ghosts and take on other objectives as different coloured Luigis. You can play ScareScraper with friends over a local network or with strangers online, and this multiplayer mode also supports Download Play if only one of your friends has a copy of the game. Luigi’s Mansion 2’s multiplayer mode is a great diversion from the main game, but there are not enough game types to keep things fresh for an extended period of time. The environments in this mode are also quite bland compared to the singleplayer campaign so its appeal is likely to wear thin fairly quickly unless you’ve got some friends to enjoy it with.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 features some fantastic music and sound effects which take advantage of the 3DS’ virtual surround sound capabilities. Thankfully this enables you to more precisely pinpoint where ghosts are in your environment – allowing you to anticipate their attacks even when they’re off-screen. Things are a little less impressive on the visual side of the equation, as the development of the game started in 2009 and Luigi’s Mansion 2 very much resembles a first-generation title as a result. The game’s Monkey Island-inspired art style lends it plenty of visual appeal, but simple textures and jagged edges on most objects sully the graphical presentation somewhat.
The first few hours I spent with Luigi’s Mansion 2 were overwhelmingly positive, but further into the singleplayer campaign gameplay mechanics were recycled with greater regularity and the combination of unforeseen difficulty spikes and the lack of a checkpoint system made for a very frustrating cocktail. That said, the game is still a major improvement over its predecessor and there’s definitely a bright future for this franchise if Nintendo can create a more consistently entertaining and less patience-fraying experience next time around.