It’s not often the more lanky brother steals the spotlight away from himself. Usually double acts tends to stick together under the end of their career. The Chuckle Brothers, Morcambe and Wise and Ant and Dec were – or still are – side by side during their every appearance to the general public. Mario and Luigi have – on many occasions – broken this rule, but it’s always been our shorter, red-clad plumbing friend that has saved the mushroom kingdom and had cake baked for him by Princess Peach. Well no longer! Luigi has broken free from the shadow of his brother – again – in Luigi’s Mansion 2.
While I can reluctantly say that the original Luigi’s Mansion never graced my beloved Gamecube – somehow, my PS2 obsessed friends have both played the sleeper hit 2002 title and speak nothing of good words about the experience.
While we’ve recently learned that Luigi’s original escapades through the haunted mansion formed another attempt of 3D gaming with Nintendo during the turn of the millenium, it seems only fitting that it’s sequel took so long to arrive now that the company has nailed stereoscopic 3D at an affordable price and pushed it onto consumers in a way 3D television manufacturers could never manage during the apparent 3D boom asserted by the market leaders.
Armed to his chattering teeth, Luigi is pulled back into the misty manor of Dr. E. Gad. to regather the shattered ‘Dark Moon’ that kept the professor’s ghouls friendly and tranquil. With a multi-purpose vacuum that could put James Dyson to shame, our lanky green plumber gets roped into a job that actually requires the plumbing skills he and his brother must have shelled out many coins to learn without ever really showcasing their planned life-talent.
The Professor ships our green hero out into the murky surroundings of his own mansion to put an end to his once loyal lab minions. Packing just a flashlight to illuminate the path to the mansion’s garage – Luigi is pixelshifted out to the gardens like a groundskeeper to recover the tool he mastered over a decade ago – the ‘Poltergust 5000′.
Somehow managing to combining the naive art of sprawling back on a lounge chair in a haunted house – while having a hulking vacuum strapped to his back – Luigi seems to get by with the thought that his efforts will eventually mean he can fall asleep in front of the television without fear of Dr. E. Gad pulling him back through for a 3rd round at ghost busting.
Traversing the eerie manor – and the areas preceding the adventure from hell – follows different main objectives throughout the tale. Sometimes you’ll simply be tasked with clearing the rooms of cobwebs, other times you’ll be hunting down fragments of a key required to get a little closer to the clouded rock the professor calls the ‘Dark Moon’ – what you can be sure of, though, is that each and every trip back into the darkened rooms of valley’s buildings will showcase a healthy amount of fear on Luigi’s part as he fights off the giddy ghosts turning the poltergeist legacy into a humorous affair.
While each room may not be filled to the brim with ghosts swinging from lampshades and paint obscure artwork on the nearest available easel the Poltergust will always manage to be of some use. When it’s not busy sucking up ghosts on Luigi’s command, it’s blinding them with a high-powered flashlight, blowing a chestnut-esque spiny shell into a hungry venus fly trap or revealing illusions through the marvel that is ‘Dark-light’. It’s a busy little contraption that seems to run on the spectral mass of those that it absorbs.
Running through room after room and spending a good deal of time poking everything imaginable, Luigi’s return trip to ghost hunting seems like how an entry into The Legend of Zelda would play out if Link wasn’t the courageous young man the Hylian lore demands. Each segment of the title has you solving puzzle after puzzle in much more reasonable and subtle way than the newest Professor Layton story – and both characters in question are near silent, green-clad heroes… maybe we’re onto something here!
While the game’s missions may still be laid out in a stage-like manner like standard Mario series games, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is still – at it’s core – an adventure game. Each subsequent stage within the same area will often have you retracing familiar rooms to uncover secrets like hidden pathways, collectibles and familiar Boo ghosts suspected to be encouraging the ill behavior of the other ghouls.
While you’ll probably run through the main quest in around 8-10 hours, you’ll add a healthy amount of time to that tally by trudging back through the shaky buildings and their questionable architecture hunting down the remaining Boos, secrets rooms and gems by essentially dismantling each room in a way only a vacuum could – but probably shouldn’t – partake in. And that’s without ever touching the online or download play co-op modes.
At its core, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a captivating adventure-puzzle combo that eludes itself as a horror title much in the same way Ghostbusters or Ghost Master did in the past. The nervous plumber gains a seriously well-needed sense of character after decades of being “that other one” and actually comes out as the better of the two for his efforts. Everything about Luigi’s Mansion 2 screams the attention to detail only Nintendo manage to pull off time and time again to offer a game that’s a much fun as it is challenging.
Audio/Visual – 5/5: Pixel perfect visuals come in strong on the Nintendo 3DS hardware. The added extra of Luigi humming along to the music in true Mario fashion just ups the ante.
Gameplay – 5/5: I’ll admit. I was sceptical here. Creeping around and vacuuming ghosts didn’t sound appealing to me the first time around, and certainly didn’t with a sequel. But switching a serious topic (paranormal activity) into a comedic affair works out well more times than not.
Innovation: – 5/5: There’s no shame in using the obvious as inspiration. Luigi’s Mansion 2 does what Ghost Busters did to Hollywood.
Replay Value: 4/5: Secret rooms, gems, lazily placed cash hiding within curtains, Boo screwing with the light fixtures and a multiplayer mode only existing through Miyamoto-san’s approval means you’ll get a lot out of this after the main ‘story’.
Final Score: 5/5