Review: Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD (Switch)

The definitive version of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, but still a game marred by broken pacing.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/02/2024 20:34 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Improved visuals and controls make this the definitive version of the game; excellent world design that is varied and creative; lots of fun new mechanics introduced that expand on the foundation laid by the GameCube original
Poison Mushroom for...
Professor E. Gadd can't shut up, thus throttling the pacing of the game to constantly interrupt the action to hold the player's hand, whether they want the help or not

Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD, which originally launched on Nintendo 3DS as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, is a game that I simultaneously love and find frustrating. On the one hand it’s gorgeously rendered and full of all sorts of clever gameplay and puzzles. On the other, it refuses to let go of the player’s hand, forcing them into nearly constant communications with Professor E. Gadd who brings gameplay to a screeching halt in order to guide players to the most obvious of objectives.

I had hoped that Nintendo would find a way to mitigate this glaring shortcoming of Dark Moon, but alas, that is not the case, and it remains an irritant throughout Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD. I also can’t help but feel like the game is a step backwards compared to its superior sequel, Luigi’s Mansion 3. Still, for what the game gets wrong, it gets more things right, and the sum of its parts, particularly the upgraded visuals and controls, make this the definitive version of Luigi’s Mansion 2.

If you have yet to play Dark Moon, this second installment in the series starts things off with E. Gadd in his lab at Evershade Valley working side-by-side with—gasp!—ghosts. Things take a sour turn, however, when King Boo shows up and shatters the Dark Moon crystal, which was creating a calming effect on the spirits in the area. With the crystal in pieces, E. Gadd needs Luigi’s help to set things right as the ghosts begin to spiral out of control. And thus the frightened hero is off on his next adventure.

Since Dark Moon was released on 3DS, a portable console, the game has a mission-based structure to facilitate playing on the go. These bite-sized segments of gameplay have been carried over into Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD and remain mostly effective. Going through each stage trying to accumulate as much treasure as possible, locating hidden gems, and hunting down hiding Boos is a very engaging. I often found myself replaying stages to go back and find things I’d missed, and increase my star ranking.

If there’s a downside to this structure, however, it’s that sometimes it’s unclear what parts of an environment should be re-explored when moving on to the next stage. There’s a bit of a Groundhog Day-esque quality to the stages, where Luigi will pop up right back where he started previously but with new objectives to complete. However, in the process of taking on these new objectives, players will pass through the same areas, or are free to go to them to look around. It can cause some disorientation, where the player wants to go through all of these locations again just in case they missed something and never knowing if they really have to or not. The result is that tedium can begin to take root as Luigi retraces his footsteps without need.

That said, more often than not it’s evident where Luigi should be headed and the fresh areas to explore yield delightful new challenges. Unlike the original Luigi’s Mansion, Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD has a lot of different mechanics mixed in that are all centered around the use of the Poltergust 5000 vacuum. This ghost-busting device does a whole lot more than simply suck up specters. In Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD, the vacuum can be used to latch onto pulleys to tug, swing, and dangle, as well as hold onto items like big blobs of flaming spider webs to use as torches or buckets of water to splash onto plants. The variety of gameplay here is very impressive, and it goes a long way to diversify missions.

Equally impressive is the volume of different locales to explore. Unlike the first and third games, which are restricted to a single manor with a bunch of different rooms inside, Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD brings five different locations to comb through:

  • Gloomy Towers (a fairly vanilla haunted house)
  • Haunted Towers (a hotel overrun with plant life)
  • Secret Mine (a frozen lodge with a mine below)
  • Old Clockworks (a western-style clock factory)
  • Treacherous Mansion (more like a castle out of a Frankenstein film)

All of the environments are stuffed with details and are beautiful in their own way. Given this game was originally made for handheld, it’s even more impressive to think about how Nintendo managed to cram so much into it.

With Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD, the visuals are given a notable bump in quality. Lighting effects are better than ever, textures improved, and animations smoother than before. While it’s still evident that this was a game produced for less powerful hardware, it’s nonetheless impressive from a design standpoint. Improvements have also been made to the controls. The original suffered from 3DS (well, the standard 3DS) only having one control stick. The dual-stick setup of Switch means Luigi can maneuver and aim perfectly, making the controls in Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD yet another significant improvement over the original. Throw in some nice use of the console’s HD Rumble and the quality of life enhancements are a real highlight.

Where Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD drops the ball is its pacing. I’ve hemmed and hawed over this for years now, but with this remaster in my hands and having played through the game yet again, I have to admit—I can’t stand Professor E. Gadd in this game. He interrupts gameplay constantly to make the most braindead, obvious observations. I don’t need to have the game come to a screeching halt so that Luigi can take a call from E. Gadd saying that he (surprise!) should follow the ghost that just took the thing that he needs in order to proceed. Hand-holding is nothing new in a Nintendo game, but Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD takes it to the deepest lows. One might think that Nintendo would have allowed players to toggle off E. Gadd’s pointless interjections, but instead he’s just as irritating here as he was before.

This last gripe is something that I don’t hold against Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD from a scoring standpoint, but is nonetheless something I couldn’t help but feel as I was playing, which is that ultimately, as good as the game is, it’s not as good as Luigi’s Mansion 3. The third entry is such a superior experience that it makes the warts of Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD stand out that little bit more. Taken for what it is, this is a fine installment in the series, but all of the lessons learned from Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD that were incorporated into Luigi’s Mansion 3 remain untouched here, like dead mosquitos frozen in otherwise immaculate amber. If only the time had been invested into ironing out the pacing issues along with the control ones, and this game would score higher.

Before wrapping things up, I’ll say that the Scarescraper multiplayer mode from Dark Moon has returned here… for what it’s worth. I personally don’t have any interest in the Luigi’s Mansion multiplayer modes, but they’re there for those who are interested and work well enough. At the end of the day, as far as I’m concerned, Luigi’s Mansion is a series about its solo adventuring. Solving puzzles, catching ghosts, and exploring beautiful, haunting (no pun intended) locales. In that regard, Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD is a winner, but the constant rambling interruptions to gameplay by Professor E. Gadd are a real mood killer. Thankfully when the good professor does shut up and let Luigi get to work, the improved visuals and controls shine and will keep the player hooked all the way to the end. Don’t expect the near-perfection of Luigi’s Mansion 3, but also definitely don’t miss out on this strong, fun sequel.

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