Luigi’s Mansion 2 Review (3DS): Walking, not running.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 (or Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon) is an enjoyable, but flawed game. At first, exploration is rewarding, combat feels fresh and the design of each mansion is fascinating. But just after the half way mark, individual elements start to fall flat as locations take strange new directions, combat becomes repetitive and you have mastered every exploration puzzle the game has to offer. By this point, it’s a sprint to the finish. The problem is, you are forced to walk when all you want to do is run.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 Review
- Developer: Next Level Games
- Publisher: Nintendo
Barriers and Padding
Evershade Valley is a peaceful area occupied by people and poltergeists alike. In the night sky illuminating the valley below, is the purple Dark Moon which pacifies any aggressive ghosts. The Dark Moon maintains the peace, while also creating perfect research opportunities for Luigi’s taskmaster and poltergeist specialist Professor E. Gadd. If the Dark Moon was to say, be destroyed, then all out chaos would probably ensue. And of course that is exactly what happens. The Moon is destroyed, its fragments are scattered and fog descends on the valley. Somebody better call Luigi…
The story isn’t bad per se – it’s simplistic and that’s absolutely fine. However there are some serious issues with its pacing, which are exacerbated by barriers to progression at every turn. You locate the next moon fragment only to realise you can’t access the right area because a ghost has stolen the keys or a ghost has stolen the mechanism to a lift or a ghost has stolen the arms of a clock face. Basically if it isn’t bolted down a ghost has probably stolen it.
These barriers even go to absurd lengths when a Polterpup ghost dog continues to steal key items, one time just after you’ve secured it from the ghost that stole it in the first place. The pace is slowed down to a gruelling walk as you are forced to follow the dog around the area (sometimes taking the exact same route as the previous level) and eventually retrieve the item. Upon catching the dog in Luigi’s Poltergust5000 vacuum cleaner, it escapes, only to return later for some additional padding. At times it can feel like you are the caretaker of a lost and found box rather than a ghost hunter.
Incredible Exploration Puzzles
The exploration in Luigi’s Mansion 2 is not only extremely rewarding, but it is presented in such an inventive, interesting and almost puzzle-like way that it alone makes the game worth playing. At first, exploration is simple as you look upwards and see a safe in the ceiling which is opened with a well-aimed flash from Luigi’s torch. Then the complexity builds as the game starts to unveil its intricacies to you. A loose strip of wall paper hangs invitingly in the corner of a room and using the Poltergust5000, it can be pulled down to reveal treasure hidden within the wall. This is one example of many that encourage you to simply try anything – you never know what might work.
None of this is ever explained to you though, which makes it even more satisfying when a solution is discovered. It is not dissimilar to Prey (2017), where each piece of equipment could be used to explore, such as the Goo Gun creating temporary goo steps to reach hidden areas. Much of the satisfaction within Prey was discovering how each piece of equipment could be manipulated to explore and in Luigi’s Mansion 2 it is discovering how each environment can be manipulated to explore.
Exploration is also encouraged using the Dark Light function of Luigi’s torch which reveals hidden illusions like doors or invisible receptacles to rummage through. Some illusions hide items that were previously visible which intentionally makes you paranoid entering every room (“I swear there was a plant pot there before?”) Again, this reminded me of Prey and specifically the mimics that would disguise themselves as nearby objects.
However, unlike Prey there is only one solution to every puzzle which can be frustratingly illogical or overly convoluted. For example, I was stuck for around twenty minutes in an old Clock Tower as I’d overlooked a piece of hanging wallpaper. Behind the wallpaper was a crack in the wall that released sand into the room which raised the floor so I could reach the stairs. It was unnecessarily difficult for the non-eagled out gamer out there (i.e. me).
While exploration is rewarding at first, the feeling diminishes as you end up falling into a routine; sucking up spider webs, ripping down wallpaper, shining Dark Light at every available pixel on screen. The pace of new puzzles slows down and it starts to feel like you’ve seen everything. I wanted to finish the game, but it felt like I was walking to the finish line.
Luigi’s Mansion, Archaeological Dig Site and Ski Chalet 2
In order to support the excellent exploration, each location must also be excellent to keep you engaged throughout. In the first half of the game, this statement is true as you explore more grounded locations like a mansion and a stately home. Exploring these areas was fascinating as I ventured through servants quarters, a child’s bedroom (complete with spooky dolls) and the gardener’s tool shed and imagined the people who used to live here. However shortly afterwards, the game rams its foot on the accelerator and sends the car spinning out of control as you visit non-titular locations, like an ancient archaeological dig site (of course there are mummies) and a mine buried beneath a sub-zero Ski Chalet. At this point it felt as is all the realism created in the earlier locations was thrown out of the window and the game had taken a strange, yet generic new direction.
Once these areas are finished, which admittedly do have their strong points like the use of mirrors to disorientate your puzzle solving skills, the game returns to form. It’s time to visit a medieval mansion crossed with an ancient history museum in the most treacherous area of them all; the aptly named “Treacherous Mansion”. Each museum area is themed as you’d expect; an arctic exhibition with a woolly mammoth, a jungle exhibition with tiki heads, an Egyptian exhibition with more mummies and even a space exhibition where Luigi fights a ghost on the moon. It was a bizarre, visually impressive moment which livened up an incredibly long section where a ghost had just stolen a key item at the very last moment (god dammit).
Although I personally didn’t enjoy the non-mansion locations I still enjoyed the feeling of mastery each one of them created. By the end of each level you’ve learnt where every room is, where most of the good treasure is hidden and how to solve each exploration puzzle. It is rewarding in the same way that mastering an area in a game like Sekiro is (although without the brutal difficulty). While it is satisfying, this feeling always occurs at the last possible moment and as a result is unfortunately nipped in the bud. Just as you perfect your mind map and piece together how every room is connected, you are forced to move onto the next area, wipe the slate clean and start again.
When you first experience the combat in Luigi’s Mansion 2 it feels great. In order to capture a ghost you must stun them with your torch, then suck them up with the Poltergust5000. You have to wrangle the ghost into the Poltergust which results in Luigi being flung around the room as you pull in the opposite direction like you’re reeling in a prize fish. It is exceptionally entertaining and is enhanced even further by the sound of Luigi’s torch which produces a crunchy electric snap followed by a satisfying pop as the ghosts enters the vacuum chamber.
There are some glaring issues though, especially when multiple ghosts are encountered, as trying to manoeuvre Luigi in combat feels like you’re trying to moor a narrowboat due to clunky movement and a sluggish response. The situation is hampered even further when you start charging the torch or activate the Poltergust. In these moments Luigi’s aim is locked in place and his speed is drastically reduced as he is literally forced to walk. It feels like the combat in an early Resident Evil game, but without any of the weapon variety.
A lack of variety when taking down ghosts, especially in the second half of the game, makes everything grow tiresome. There has been a clear effort to liven combat up with an impressively large roster of ghosts, but each encounter involves exactly the same procedure. Flash, stun, capture, repeat. A larger move-set for Luigi would have kept combat fresh until the end, or less padding wouldn’t make combat feel as worn out. Because as it stands the end of the game is an absolute chore to play through.
The final level in every location is a boss fight to secure a Dark Moon piece, but because of issues with the controls they only serve to highlight the games shortcomings. At times they made me so mad I almost stopped playing the game for good. For example, one boss sends spiders at the exact spot you’re about to move to making it frustratingly difficult to avoid getting hit. Even more so because again you are forced to walk as you drag a web towards a naked flame at the back of the room. In another boss battle you fight a giant possessed staircase and have to wait your turn to attack making the whole event feel like a game of chess rather than an intense battle.
Just as the game should be starting to crescendo near the end, you are faced with an unnecessarily lengthy boss battle as you round up ten Boo’s and launch them into a moving toy train, but because of the controls it is incredibly hard to aim accurately. If you miss your window to capture any of them, you have to wait your turn for another attempt. Again, I nearly stopped playing.
Even during an enjoyable boss battle, where you quite literally have to pull the rug out from a skyscraper sized suit of armour’s feet, you have to wait until he’s finished his move set before progressing. And of course as this is a video game the rule of threes exists as you are forced to repeat mundane actions three times over (or more for the Boo train encounter). It is as mundane as the boss fights in Sea of Solitude which also suffers to the rule of threes, but at least in that game storytelling is being played out on screen to reduce the banality.
These supposedly climatic moments were opportunities to highlight the games strengths like exploration and puzzle solving, rather than hone in on the frustrating combat mechanics. It is infuriating.
Verdict: Should you buy Luigi’s Mansion 3?
I’ve highlighted how Luigi’s Mansion 2 holds up in 2019 and as such have scrutinised it to today’s gaming standards. Although it did frustrate me at times, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a masterclass in exploration and puzzle solving which makes the gradual decrease in quality all the more harder to stomach. My annoyance with the game made me overlook its brilliance the further I progressed.
Even with this in mind, I would still recommend Luigi’s Mansion 3. Many of the issues I’ve highlighted have seemingly been addressed with additional moves in combat and one large area to explore and truly master (I just really hope the boss battles are a lot stronger). Plus it has couch co-op with the addition of the green doppelganger Gooigi. That alone should be worth the money.