When the purple plastic box of goodness that was the Nintendo Gamecube launched, the pick of the dozen launch titles was Luigi’s Mansion. An extremely playable spook-’em- up that saw a jumpy Luigi stalking in the shadows of a haunted house – all too apt a premise, with our man in green having spent almost his entire career hiding modestly behind his superstar brother’s back.
Looking back, it’s probably fair to say those old enough to remember the heady days of 2002 still hold the original in high regard. Although perhaps on the brief side, it was full of Nintendo’s trademark charm and inventiveness, and filled a niche in the market while gamers waited for their full-fat Mario hit.
In the intervening years, the game’s supernatural location has been kept from dereliction, utilised in various Mario Kart sequels, party games and sporting spin-offs, even recently making an appearance in the Wii U’s Nintendo Land.
Not until now, however, has Luigi returned, ghost vacuum in hand and still quivering at the prospect of exorcising malicious Boo’s from abandoned abodes. We find our hero in Evershade Valley, where returning gadgetmeister Professor E. Gadd now studies the friendly spectral residents.
However, the Dark Moon that hangs in the sky above the area is inexplicably shattered, causing the ghosts to suddenly become hostile. Luigi is tapped up by E. Gadd to locate the pieces of said Dark Moon, scattered around five different mansions, in the hope of restoring peace in the valley, as the old gospel song goes…
At first gameplay seems broadly similar to the original. The flashlight is required to stun ghosts before you can suck them up Venkmann-style with your Poltergust 5000 (upgraded from the original’s 3000). Frequently inventive, the denizens of the mansions can use props to liven up their attacks as the game goes on – certain spooks might sport sunglasses to protect them from the light, so must be dispossessed of eyewear before they become vulnerable.
The 3DS utilises the internal gyroscope to aim, or if you prefer you can control it manually, making up for the lack of the second analogue stick. Sucking up scenery, spooks and shiny stones is excellent fun, and once you get the hang of pulling backwards to speed the capture of ghosts, it soon becomes second nature to take on several at a time.
Prof. E. Gadd kindly supplies different heads for the Poltergust, the key accessory being the Dark Light, in that it allows Luigi to scan for hidden objects. Further upgrades to his pimped-out hoover are unlockable via coin collection, so despite his timid demeanour Luigi can soon adapt to bigger beasties as he delves deeper into the various mansions.
Each particular mansion has a set of several tasks to complete, Nintendo gradually revealing new areas with consistently charming results. Anything you notice the first time through has potential to come in handy a few levels down the line, even if you’re not immediately sure of its purpose. Collectables and achievement checklists liven up repeat visits.
The biggest barriers to our part time plumber’s progress are the puzzles, which take on some interesting forms and form a larger part of proceedings this time round. Some neat conundrums involve setting fire to spiderwebs in a variety of ways in order to free your route around Gloomy Mansion, or manipulating the water levels in the botanical garden gone wrong that is Haunted Towers.
Luigi is as compelling a character as ever, his voiceover being particularly entertaining as he hums along with the spooky tones of the soundtrack, whimpering, shaking and cowering like a true everyman. His wide range of animations superbly conveys the fear coursing through his dungarees.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a lovely looking game, the 3D being used to excellent effect – peering through cracks in walls to spy the contents of locked rooms piques your curiosity perfectly, and the depth apparent when in the garden of a mansion (enabling you to see all the way back into the house through an open window) is phenomenal. Obscuring and revealing as the game sees fit, it’s a very powerful tool in orientation and very much integrated into proceedings.
Interestingly, the original was supposed to include a stereoscopic 3D mode, but due to the low take-up of 3D televisions at the time the option was shelved. How neat and tidy to see the game finally make its way to the next dimension – in the 3DS Luigi’s Mansion has finally found it’s spiritual home.