Tackling paranormal activity isn’t perhaps where Luigi’s talents truly lie, but that doesn’t prevent him being thrust into the profession once more in Luigi’s Mansion 2.
This 3DS exclusive signals the start of Nintendo’s celebratory “Year of Luigi,” Mario’s younger twin brother allowed to gallivant energetically into the spotlight.
Since the GameCube original, we discover that Professor E. Gadd has become somewhat of an authority in his field. Now residing in Evershade Valley, the crazed scientist finds himself able to peacefully study its ghostly inhabitants due to the Dark Moon looming in the skies above.
This mysterious celestial body has a pacifying effect on the spectres, although is soon shattered, scattering across the valley and sending the ghosts into a mischievous frenzy. Gadd escapes the Gloomy Manor, hiding away in an impenetrable bunker and immediately calls upon Luigi for aid.
The Italian must timidly explore five haunted mansions brimming with such apparitions, all in the name of science. As with its predecessor, Luigi’s Mansion 2 enables developer Next Level Games to bring an endearing level of personality to one of Nintendo’s most recognised, yet perhaps under-appreciated, stars.
Frantically scurrying his way down corridors, screaming in terror when lightning strikes, bracing for impact by clutching his hat and humming along to the game’s soundtrack to calm his nerves, it’s Luigi once again seen within a different, more emotive light that builds upon his character.
Designed for portable play rather than a console experience, the game sees itself divided into separate missions. This will prove divisive among fans of the original, which saw you on a continual exploration of an entire mansion.
Yet it works well, individual levels taking between 10-30 minutes to complete depending on the eventual goal. Gadd will brief you on your next objective, the completion of such menial tasks broadening the area in which Luigi may explore whilst also inevitably heightening difficulty along the way.
Zapped between locations through the use of Gadd’s Pixelshifter, Luigi finds a new selection of ghost-busting tools at his disposal. Gone are the Poltergust 3000 and Game Boy Horror, replaced by the upgraded Poltergust 5000 and Dual Scream, with the latter allowing you to maintain communication with Gadd, whilst also acting as an interactive map.
Alongside this, Luigi employs the use of the Strobulb to temporarily stun ghosts so that he can suck them up, and the Dark-Light Device extension to this which breaks illusions, revealing otherwise hidden objects, doors and enemies.
It is the game’s intricacies that ensure that Luigi’s Mansion 2 surprises throughout, a seemingly basic set of tools masterfully reinvented between the separate missions that cause the game to continually surprise and entertain. Using the Poltergust 5000 to project spiky balls at enemies, inflate elasticated plants to lift Luigi like balloons, and carrying flaming cocoons to burn through webs, there’s seemingly something new at every turn.
Interactive environments enhance this, players becoming naturally curious as to what the result of their interaction will be. Luigi will see himself flipped between rooms by taking a rest on a bed, tumble through holes in the floor sneakily covered by carpets, and being smacked against walls by fake doors.
The ghosts themselves are also granted plenty of character, the player able to peer through windows and cracks in the wall to see them having pillow fights or throwing balls to one another.
Each pose their own unique challenges too: the basic Greenies soon arming themselves with kitchen pots or darkened shades; Hiders whizzing off to conceal themselves within the surrounding environments; Sneakers making themselves entirely invisible; Gobbers spitting puddles of goo at you to see you slip up whilst trying to catch them; and Polterpups that leave spectral paw prints for you to pursue between rooms, among others.
Whilst overcoming their relative defences is a joy in itself, each follows the same pattern of approach – being stunned through use of the Strobulb, and then quickly tussled into your Poltergust 5000. Descending numbers that appear above them indicating their strength, with players able to pull away from the direction they’re fleeing to give a further tug – your vacuum sparking when you’re pulling directly away from them.
Bosses take the form of Possessors, taking control of creatures and objects that themselves present the game’s significant, standout moments. The first of these sees Luigi go face-to-face with a monstrous spider, dodging incoming attacks as you fling burning cocoons back at the possessed arachnid.
Every ghost that you capture is safely sucked into E. Gadd’s Vault after the conclusion of each mission, with players able to admire their collection at any point.
Gathering money that abundantly hides away within each mission also grants you the opportunity to upgrade your equipment, such as extending the A-Pull meter for a stronger pull to weaken ghosts even more, or allowing the Dark-Light Device to not overheat as quickly, necessitating play exploration.
Players are invited to replay levels through the inclusion of hidden Boos, an assortment of gems that unlock extra missions, and bonus levels that pot you cash prizes. Coupled with a ranking system that is awarded based on your clear time, ghosts captured, health lost and treasure, there’s certainly enough reason to truly get your money’s worth from Luigi’s outing.
Even if that wasn’t enough, Nintendo has seen fit to include a tantalising Multiplayer mode in the form of Thrill Tower. This can be played locally, through Download Play, or over Nintendo Network, and sees four players tackle three separate modes: Hunter, where you must clear each floor as quickly as possible; Rush, where you must find an escape hatch before the time limit runs out; and Polterpup, where you have to track the ghostly hounds.
This proves to be great fun in groups, although becomes more of a tiresome experience without the full complement of players. With altering levels of difficulty, and either five, 10 or 25 floors to zap through, there’s much to dive into to extend your experience.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 amounts to one of the most inventive and joyous games to have released on Nintendo 3DS during its two-year reign, becoming a further hit among an ever-increasing stellar first-party lineup. Luigi’s back, and if his year-long celebrations continue with such undeniable quality, we’re looking forward to it very much indeed.