Poor Luigi just can’t seem to catch a break. Not only is the cowardly plumber being thrust headfirst into another ghost-filled adventure, but just when he has the chance to finally break free from his brother’s shadow and establish himself as a viable Nintendo star, a few technical shortcomings pop up to undermine his efforts.
Like the GameCube game before it, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon has Luigi taking on the role of amateur Ghostbuster, braving haunted mansions and capturing the spirits that lurk within them. Armed with the new and improved Poltergust 5000, which now boasts several different beams (including one that allows him to see invisible objects), Luigi must stun these ghosts with its strobe function (a sudden, blinding flash of light) before he can suck them up, vacuum-like, into its container.
The core gameplay is just as you remember it from the first Luigi’s Mansion, with plenty of environmental-based puzzle solving (this time over the course of multiple mansions). The experience translates surprisingly well to the 3DS considering its reliance on observation (not to mention the console’s smaller screen), and the entire game looks even better thanks to the handheld’s stereoscopic effects. Controls, for the most part, also feel good, though like in Super Mario 3D Land, players will now need to hold down a button in order to make Luigi run, which can take some getting used to.
Where Dark Moon stumbles, however, is in controlling the Poltergust. Because the 3DS lacks a second circle pad, aiming is handled via the system’s gyroscope. This makes it very awkward to suck up anything that isn’t directly level with Luigi’s waist (which was particularly apparent on the showfloor, as the demo unit was literally attached to a booth babe and couldn’t be moved around all that easily). It has yet to be confirmed whether or not the title will support the Circle Pad Pro attachment, but as it stands, this one flaw may be enough to derail the entire game (especially as aiming is so integral to the gameplay).
Dark Moon’s other shortcoming is far less crippling, though it was still noticeable enough to put a damper on the experience. The demo version at Nintendo’s booth consisted of three different mansions to explore, the last of which was set in a mountain blanketed by perpetual snowfall. I chose this area to get a better sense of the differences between each mansion, but I was disheartened to see the framerate take a considerable hit as soon as I set foot on the snowbound premises. To be fair, this may have been because of the system’s 3D capability (which was cranked up to its maximum setting), but it was still discouraging to see such a noticeable drop in framerate when particles overtook the screen.
Still, considering that Dark Moon won’t be launching until this holiday season, there is plenty of time for these mechanical kinks to be ironed out before the game ships. While my time with the demo was brief (and marred by a few problems), I’m still cautiously optimistic that Luigi’s new adventure will be one to look out for. The core gameplay is just as compelling as it was in the GameCube game (arguably even more so now thanks to the more engrossing stereoscopic visuals), and the addition of new flashlight beams proves that there will be an even greater emphasis on puzzle solving than the first title. With a little more polish (and Circle Pad Pro support), Luigi’s next game could potentially be a must-have.