It was funny looking in Nintendo’s booth at E3 this year only to see nothing but Wii U consoles. You would have been forgiven for thinking the company had pretty much forgotten all about its handheld save for the odd representative walking around with a couple of 3DS consoles strapped to her. While the announcements for the system may have been slim, the games present left a very good impression. New Super Mario Bros 2 was fun and the promise of co-op was great news, Paper Mario looked fantastic and even third party attempts like Kingdom Hearts and Castlevania showed the console had enough to look forward to later this year. The one game however that really stood out for me was Luigi’s Mansion and its new subtitle Dark Moon.
The original on the Gamecube was somewhat of a cult hit. While not attracting the masses like his older brother’s adventures, it did deliver a genuinely enjoyable experience full of character and plenty of charm. The sequel judging from the demo looks to offer more of the same but this time taking the green plumber to multiple mansions. Shown were three stages each with their own unique theme; a standard mansion, a snow covered mansion and finally an abandoned clock tower. The layout of the game appears to have changed this time round with each mansion housing a selection of smaller missions not too dissimilar to the design seen in Mario Sunshine or Galaxy. These can be selected in the hub area before Professor E. Gadd then teleports you to your desired destination. While only one mission was selectable for each stage it seems highly likely the remaining two will take you to varying areas of each mansion with a different end goal.
I tried out the standard-style mansion first which basically acted as an introduction. Wondering the empty halls I managed to find my trusty Poltergust and flashlight once more before then sucking up ghosts, coins and even the little mice from the original title. Since the game doesn’t offer two sliders to control both Luigi and where he aimed the vacuum, this was instead done via tilting the device. At first it felt awkward, much like the Wii U controls found in Pikmin 3, but after a couple of battles with the undead I started to get the hang of it. Whereas a quick shine of your flashlight would suffice in the original, charging was key to stunning ghosts here as well as sending an electrical charge while sucking them up to weaken them further. It felt like Luigi’s Mansion but with these small added elements it made the controls feel fresh once again.
Once I’d cleared the first mansion of all its undead inhabitants it was back to Professor E. Gadd where I was given a rating on my performance. Two stars. Not bad for a first try and something I could easily see myself coming back to top when the final game ships. Here’s hoping some form of online leaderboards or StreetPass equivalent makes it into the game too.
Finding Toad in the snowy themed mansion was my next mission and saw me once more collecting coins and sucking up ghosts. I even found myself skating on a small ice rink complete with giant hockey punk and goal. Interestingly the third and final stage on display; the clock tower mansion introduced an upgrade for Luigi’s flashlight that allowed him to uncover secrets and hidden paths. Shining the now rainbow beam on a gap between you and a chest revealed a path that allowed the plumber to walk over and claim his booty. It was a cool feature that will hopefully be the first of many upgrades in the final game.
Those worried the visuals and overall character from the first title may have been lost in the transition to the smaller screen need not worry as Dark Moon manages to meet and sometimes surpass that featured in the Gamecube launch title. Luigi animates wonderfully with furniture making him leap in fear and ghosts pulling him around the room almost as if he’s water skiing. The ghosts as well are funny to watch especially during sections where the game allows you to peak through windows first person style whilst tilting the console. The environments themselves seem like a big improvement from last year with plenty to interact with and more importantly a nice amount of variety (something I felt the original lacked). It’s nice to not just be exploring a standard mansion but instead get the chance to venture ice covered structures and more. Last year’s trailer for example also showed a Egyptian style tomb, complete with rising mummy. It’s these new settings that should offer plenty of surprises, visual marvels and gameplay opportunities.
I still can’t get over how little Nintendo was pushing it’s 3DS at E3 this year especially considering the quality of its titles. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon headlines a strong line-up for the rest of the year and if the three mansions I got to try out are any indication of the quality of the plumber’s next ghost-capturing adventure, it looks like Luigi may have something to rival that of his brother’s platformer last year. Keep your eyes on this one.