Bump In The Night…
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS / Price: £34.99 / Time Played: Lost track, sorry!
If the devil is in the details, then Luigi’s Mansion 2 needs an exorcist.
Always in the shadow of his brother, it wasn’t until Luigi’s Mansion on the Nintendo Gamecube that this hapless little brother got a taste of true stardom on his own. Armed with the Poltergust 5000, Luigi traipsed around a mysterious haunted house which had so much charm and detail that in spite of its lack of challenge and short length has managed to be one of the Gamecube’s most beloved titles – far exceeding the rather disappointing Super Mario Sunshine.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 – or Dark Moon, if you’re in the States – is more of the same. Now, people tend to complain that Nintendo has a thing about not innovating too much outside the box, but in Luigi’s Mansion 2 they really didn’t have to. The whole concept is still pretty fresh and novel, and the wit and charm is still here in spades. This time, bumbling Professor E. Gadd has been doing some more ghostly experiments when an object called the Dark Moon breaks and things go a bit out of control. Unable to restore order himself, he calls upon Luigi once more to trundle around multiple mansions this time, sucking up ghosts, money and whatever isn’t nailed to the ground with heavy-duty nails and super-glue. The plot, whilst nice, is like so many entrants into Nintendo series – a bit besides the point. Because once you’re actually playing the game itself, the plot takes a back seat and lets you get on with things.
And man, do you ever get on with things! Whilst there are some new gameplay mechanics mostly surrounding the whole ghost-catching thing, it’s immediate and clever enough to feel natural, whilst the gloomy scenery is chock-full of rich detail and hidden objects and collectables that it seems more full than it obviously should be. Luigi himself is as hilarious as ever; nervous, haphazard and easily spooked. He’s the perfect folly for this sort of game. Mario would simply waltz around like some kind of superhero, whereas Luigi provides a more human, understated heroism in the face of adversity than you’d ever dare hope for. He’s not natural hero material – which is ultimately why it works.
Not that the game is always smooth – there are moments the game hurries you on, and you don’t get the time to slowly take in the brilliant 3D detailing that has been crafted. At times the pacing itself is just a little bit off, and the challenge a little scattershot. And the mission structure is pretty weak overall.
But – and this is going to sound horrifying – the biggest problem I have with Luigi’s Mansion 2 is that the humour wears extremely thin. The first game was just the right size and length and therefore nothing overstayed its welcome. Making a game like that longer and deeper means you need more than a few jokes up your sleeve, and even the most professional of comedians will tell you it can be very hard to sustain laughs all the way through a gig for everyone. The same is true of Luigi’s Mansion 2. It’s funny for a while, but then the humour wears a little. The first time a ghostly pup makes off with your items, it’s kind of fun and cute. But the joke is repeated way too often, and after a second bite of the apple the pun is more annoying than funny. Luigi maintains his charming shaky persona; Luigi is never the issue. It’s just the game feels at time a bit too long to really be able to repeat its handful of amusements in the manner it does. Puzzles are at least kept fresh however, so small mercies and all that.
It also has something that has bugged me about this generation; support characters who contact you like possessive husbands. In this case, Professor E. Gadd disturbs you with the ferocity that Otis used to in Dead Rising and where he was once a charming comedic element, he quickly sours and becomes a character you just wish would shut up and have a career change. I get the whole concept; I just think this generation has too much “communication”, and that breaks the immersion. A picture says a thousand words, and the locations in Luigi’s Mansion 2 obviously speak volumes. You don’t need someone interrupting with a ringtone, or yanking you back out because they feel lonely and need someone to talk to. It’s just not necessary, and it’s a design flaw that I’m shocked Nintendo fell into; seeing as they are normally very good at stepping over such faults in the paving, here they’ve tripped up and it’s a real shame.
Still, that for the majority of the time it’s fun, and the game is solid and entertaining. The multiplayer is more action-packed and less tolerant to scrutiny, but it’s no less enjoyable and entertaining. But play it with only one friend and it’s a bit of a headache, which again is a fault that should have been picked up on.
All this said however, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a refreshing title and whilst it does outstay its welcome and falls flat on its face many times, there is something lovely about it. Perhaps it’s a reminder of games like Maniac Mansion, the old point-and-click adventure lovingly recreated with a modernist twist. Perhaps it’s that with only one outing a decade ago, it still feels fresh and alive rather than stale and stodgy. It’s NOT a perfect game; Next Level Games put out some of their very best work here, but its noticeably lacking the restraint and control that we associate with Nintendo products. It’s clearly a second-party attempt at a first-party gen, and it kind of misses the mark. It’s a bloody good facsimile, but you just know that the beating Nintendo heart isn’t quite here. It’s a pervasive sensation and one that slightly undermines the whole thing: not to the point that it ruins the game, but just enough that you notice it. Just enough that you feel a little saddened. Just enough that you feel that it could have – should have – been better.
It’s brash and ballsy and fun and full of detail. But without that typical Nintendo polish, it’s always going to feel like a pretender to the throne. It’s, for me, an inescapable issue that behind the oh-so Nintendo visuals and lines that it does noticeably feel like someone else is pulling the strings, like someone else is inside the game and doesn’t quite understand the things that made the original such a true classic. It walks and talks a great game, but behind those eyes, you know someone else has taken control.
And no amount of holy water and “The Power of Christ Compels You!”‘s can ever scrub that off. It’s nice… but it’s just lacking control. It looks like Luigi’s Mansion. But it has someone else’s voice and ideas. They’re almost on the same wavelength, but one likes precision and the other just throws everything out there and hopes it works.
Where’s Father Merrin when you need him, eh?
- It’s a Luigi’s Mansion sequel. And it’s long overdue.
- Incredible attention to detail.
- Could charm the beak off a hummingbird.
- Luigi is a much nicer hero than Mario will ever be.
- Recycled jokes and game mechanics get old fast.
- Scattershot throwing of ideas and mechanics lacks precision and meaning.
- Professor E. Gadd took lessons from Otis. Now we need to quarantine them before this spreads!
- Noticeably lacks the spit and polish that Nintendo are usually so good at.
- Sometimes, you really can have too much of a good thing!
- Can’t help but wonder if this might have been better on the Wii-U.
- Another 3DS game. Come on Nintendo! You do have TWO consoles out there. Remember?
- I made an Exorcist joke. And I’m about to make a Spaceballs reference.
OVERALL CONCLUSION – She’s gone from suck to blow! (7 out of 10)
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a decent attempt at expanding on the classic. But in changing hands, it’s lost something and that something is so important in a game which demands precision and polish. Everything is nice, lovely and well done. But for me, it just doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the original to its fullest. If it’s your first time with Luigi’s Mansion, it’s definitely worthy of a higher score – perhaps an 8 or a 9 even. But for those of us who revere the Gamecube original, it will never quite measure up. It’s just not sharp enough to cut as cleanly.