Luigi returns to his ghost hunt and capture occupation.
I always thought it was a real shame that Luigi’s Mansion, one of the GameCube’s launch titles, didn’t rate more highly. It was an utterly charming and engaging game that suited our famous plumber’s younger sibling perfectly, as well as a refreshing change of pace. Even though the original suffered from unfortunate release timing that affected expectations, here we are with the sequel and it turns out that Luigi’s return to the haunted mansion is a perfect fit for the Nintendo 3DS.
The way in which the game is presented, pretty much identical to its predecessor with Luigi moving from room to room, provides the ideal setup to demonstrate what the console can do both in terms of its 3D visuals and in overall graphical wizardry. It looks really lovely, easily one of the best games I’ve seen so far on the console, and it lays claim to being the first game where I’ve pushed the 3D slider right up to the max (up until now I’ve always found the picture easiest to see at around the halfway mark). All the rooms are full of little details with lots to catch the eye: lights flicker, Luigi’s torch gives off a wonderful looking lens flare when he’s facing the screen and lightning bolts flash outside illuminating darkened areas.
The feeling of this being more of the same extends to how it plays but this is no bad thing. Obviously with only the one analogue control this time around it does feel slightly awkward at first, but nothing that a few minutes of play time will get rid of and after a while you’ll be moving around and using your Poltergust 5000 with ease.
The demo tasked us to tackle a ghoulie who’s lurking in the library. Professor E. Gadd makes a welcome return from the first game and is on hand to guide Luigi throughout the game. He uses his new gizmos to warp Luigi through to the outside grounds of the mansion where we are given the opportunity to spend a bit of time moving around, trying out the vacuum on a statue of our toothy scientist friend and generally getting used to the controls. The Circle Pad moves Luigi, pressing R sucks in air through your vacuum, and pressing L blows air out. We were encouraged to practice by sucking the sheet covering E. Gadd’s statue, then blowing air out to make the helicopter blades spin, with cash aplenty your reward. You can interact with pretty much everything in this way.
We made our way into the mansion and headed to the library, passing through a lab full of machinery, a garage with an old car sitting abandoned and a dining room. Each contains ghosts and to tackle them you need to stun them with your strobe light, which is turned on by pressing A. Some ghosts can only be stunned at specific times, such as the ghost in the dining room who is armed with a saucepan on his head. You need to wait until he lifts it in order to stun him, whereupon his heart appears and you can then vacuum him up. In the first Luigi’s Mansion game you did this by using a combination of the analogue stick and the yellow C stick. Luigi’s Mansion 2 gets around the 3DS’ lack of a second stick by bringing up a prompt to press A when you get near to defeating the ghost. Press A in time and you’ll be given an extra dose of vacuuming strength to help finish off the ghost you’re tackling.
As you wrestle with the ghosts, they’ll do their best to escape, dragging Luigi around the room trying to make him crash into furniture or other ghosts so that the vacuum’s hold on them is broken. All you can do is pull on the Circle Pad in the opposite direction to where the ghost is dragging you and hang on for dear life. The battles with the ghosts can be quite frantic and exciting and it makes for an interesting mix of styles, fighting with the ghosts and then returning to the slow but steady exploration of the spooky haunted house. Once we reach the library we’re faced with a big-headed ghost who will lob books at Luigi before giving you clues on how to stun him.
For those who played through Luigi’s first mansion and came away disappointed then I’m afraid there’s not much here to tempt you back as it is a case of more of the same, but tweaked and refined to make best use of the new technology. For those of you who did enjoy it then you should be very excited. The game shows a lot of promise. It looks gorgeous, it’s full of charm, personality, and quirky humour and it should prove to be an entertaining alternative to all the other games looming over the horizon. Hopefully this time around more people will give Luigi's offering the attention and praise it deserves.