I’ve always felt that the original Luigi’s Mansion on the Gamecube got a bit of a raw deal. Right out the gate it had to deal with the gamers who complained it wasn’t the true Mario launch title they were expecting. No platforming, no Mushroom Kingdom and no Mario. It’s a real shame as Luigi’s Mansion ended up delivering one of the most unique experiences the Gamecube had to offer – one full of charm, wit and most importantly fun. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but for owners it was the chance for Mario’s younger brother to shine and a series many thought was dead and buried. You can imagine my excitement (and surprise) however when a sequel was announced at E3 two years back. Is it great to see Luigi ghostbusting again?
The first thing you notice about Luigi’s Mansion 2 is just how much care and detail has gone into the overall look and feel of the game. Mansions contain plenty of junk to rattle and poke in the hope of gathering hidden goodies. A perfect fit for the 3DS, rooms look like tiny dioramas on the screen with 3D actually feeling like a benefit to the game for once. The ghosts too, while lacking the character of the original’s twenty or so Portrait Ghosts, still deliver plenty of laughs with their shenanigans and animation. It’s Luigi however who is the real star of the show and manages to make you laugh, chuckle and genuinely feel sorry for the poor guy all at once. Whether he’s humming along to the game’s theme song, getting battered around by a revolving bed or leaping out of his skin as a new ghost makes a surprise appearance, Luigi has never looked better nor been more enjoyable as a character to watch and play as.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is all about exploration and combat with ghosts. Stun a ghost with the flashlight and your opportunity opens up to suck them away with the newly powered Poltergust 5000. What occurs is a tug of war of sorts as you move the slider in the opposite direction the ghost fights in to inflict extra damage. As you progress, ghosts become more crafty donning sunglasses that protect them from the flash of your Strobulb or even hiding in objects around a room. The game’s few boss battles also make for an interesting change of pace calling upon logic to defeat and your ability to use the environment to your advantage. Overall combat feels satisfying and more importantly fun.
Exploration plays a big part in Luigi’s Mansion 2 rewarding gold, gems and notes to those who take the time to search every nook and cranny. The new Dark-Light device also allows you to scan rooms for hidden items and doors further emphasising the need to pick up on the game’s many secrets.
At first the game is a little fiddly to get to grips with no thanks to the console’s single slider. Where the Gamecube original had the benefit of a second analogue to aim the Poltergust’s nozzle, with the sequel aiming is handled by either tilting the console itself or holding the X or B button. It can become a bit of a handful especially when trying to face and stun ghosts with your flashlight. Sucking and blowing is handled via the shoulder buttons and most important of all, Luigi’s cowardly calls all performed via the D-pad. Obviously it’s not the simplest of control schemes, but after a handful of missions you’ll start to adjust and never at any point does it really feel like it hinders you as your progress.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is split into five different mansions, each with a number of smaller missions to tackle. Each will last anywhere between ten and twenty minutes with more time spent by those who like to detour. These missions can be a simple collecting of important items, chasing a ghost dog or even going toe to toe with one of the game’s many bosses. The new structure feels more in line with Mario’s 3D escapades offering smaller chunks of gameplay that are easier to digest and more suited to a handheld. The variation in location too manages to help keep things fresh taking you from snowy igloos to underground temples as opposed to just one standard mansion. Whatsmore a new scoring system also encourages repeated plays as you try to raise your gold count or shorten your time spent to reach the attractive gold medal. Whereas many complained about the original’s length, with five mansions on offer, plenty of missions and tonnes of collectable boos and gems the sequel more than manages to address this issue.
A surprise addition to the series, the multiplayer offers a genuinely great time. At first I was a little sceptical as to how the ghost busting formula would translate when you add three more players to the mix, but after ten minutes tacking ghosts with my friends it became clear that Luigi’s Mansion can be very much a team game too. Taking place in the Scarescraper, up to four players venture room by room clearing out any unwanted visitors before moving upward to the next floor. The three modes available offer differing objectives but an equal amount of teamwork. You’ll either be hunting every ghost floor by floor, racing against time or searching for hidden Polterpups. It’s surprising how much communication is required in order to succeed as you often try to make the better decision as to whether your team split up or move together as a unit. Local play benefits most from this with online being restricted to basic greetings and alerts. With three difficulties and 25 floors multiplayer has plenty of legs to keep you going long after the main adventure is over.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is an excellently crafted adventure that justifies the three years the game spent in development. Initial fiddly controls and missing Portrait Ghosts aside, it’s hard to fault what Next Level Games have done here.
It’s great to see the green plumber back in top form with Luigi’s Mansion 2. Not only have Next Level Games delivered a game that stays true to the original, but one that manages to improve in almost every aspect. 2013 is officially the year of Luigi and if Luigi’s Mansion 2 is any indication of things to come then as far as I’m concerned, Mario can step back and let his younger brother handle the show. One of the most charming and enjoyable games on the 3DS.