|Release: March 24, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Crude Humor, Mild Cartoon Violence|
Collecting treasure while exploring the mansion allows Luigi to upgrade his tools, which is particularly important in the case of the Poltergust. The fully upgraded Poltergust is much faster at sucking up ghosts than the basic version, which makes ghost hunting less frustrating and easier on the hands. Players having trouble with a particular boss fight may wish to replay previous missions for a while, uncovering previously missed treasure and collecting enough money to upgrade the Poltergust in a way that makes the battle easier to win.
A few collectables give the game added play value. There are hidden gems in all the mansions, and collecting an entire set for a mansion is a challenging task. There is also a hidden Boo on each non-boss level, and finding all the Boos in a particular mansion opens up a bonus mission. The developers had a great deal of fun giving each Boo a punny name and silly catch phrase, which makes finding and defeating them enjoyable.
The one system that is imperfectly integrated into the experience as a whole is the hit point system. Luigi has a hundred hit points (measured in hearts), but everything does damage in fives and tens, so twenty hit points would have worked just as well. He can regain hearts by searching containers throughout the mansions, and occasionally defeated ghosts drop hearts as well. If his hit points drop to zero, he gets knocked out, loses all progress, and has to start the mission over again. Since the player is most likely to die from a big fight near the end of a mission, this can be very frustrating.
Luigi can be automatically revived by the Polterpup once per mission if he finds a golden ghostly dog bone during his travels. The game claims that the dog bone is more likely to show up in a container the more treasure a player has collected. The big problem with this system is that golden bones are the least likely to be found during each mansion's boss fight mission, the one time the player is most likely to need one. Although the game is easy enough that most players won't die very often, the strangely punishing death mechanic goes against the general feel of the game and is a real downer when it's encountered, especially if the player has collected a bunch of treasure and gems during a level only to lose them all via knockout. Overall this is a minor quibble—it's just a bit obnoxious when you end up on the wrong side of it.
One place where death comes early and often is in the game's multiplayer mode, in which one to four players take on a multi-level Scarescraper. Players can join up locally or online, choosing between several timed co-op challenges such as hunting ghosts or tracking down Polterpups. Players ascend the tower, taking on increasingly difficult challenges until they must defeat a boss fight at the top.
The game generously allows full use of the multiplayer mode via Download Play, so you can even play (locally) with friends who don't own the game. The challenges are fairly simple but fun, with the exception of the “rush” challenge, which isn't as interesting as the modes that involve ghost hunting. Players can choose between several difficulty levels, which is especially useful for playing solo or with just one other player. The challenges are tuned for four players, so smaller groups will probably want to play on normal.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is a breath of fresh air during this crazy month of AAA game releases. It's a gently paced, genre-defying adventure that oozes creative design and is a treat for the eyes and ears. Its developers did an excellent job nailing Nintendo's charm, and the game will appeal to fans of the company and anybody who enjoys exploration in games. Nintendo has been releasing a string of quality games on the 3DS lately, and this one is just another reason to get your hands on the little portable.
Date: March 22, 2013