The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The GameCube’s 2001 release didn’t come with an impressive-sounding launch line-up. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader looked good, but a game starring Luigi? Nintendo fans were pleasantly surprised by the younger Mario brother’s starring debut, and over a decade later, they are being treated to another ghost-hunting Luigi adventure that improves on nearly every feature of the original.
The core of the GameCube title’s gameplay remains the same. Players stun ghosts with a flashlight and use the Poltergust 5000 to suck them up. Dark Moon adds a layer of strategy to the flashlight, allowing players to charge up a wide-radius burst. Backing into a corner with a full charge and blasting a group of hidden ghosts is satisfying, and the subsequent vacuum wrangling still requires players to tug against the ghost like a hooked marlin. Luigi’s vacuum builds up a powerful charge as he wrestles ghosts, which can be triggered to knock big chunks off their health. Players aim the vacuum and flashlight up and down using the face buttons, which may sound clunky but works well in practice. These tweaks to the controls make busting ghosts snappy and rewarding.
When you’re not capturing ghosts, you’re solving Dark Moon’s diverse mix of engaging environmental puzzles. Most involve using the flashlight or vacuum, but occasionally call for Luigi to shine his black light to reveal hidden doors or items. Oddities like doormats in front of blank walls offer subtle hints, so perceptive players shouldn’t hit too many progress roadblocks. My favorite puzzles require tactics like using the vacuum to drag spider webs toward a torch to clear a passage. Sometimes battling ghosts becomes a puzzle in itself, like luring a mummy into an open flame to reveal the ghost beneath. Another requires clever use of the vacuum to clear a room of flashlight-diffusing steam. No single puzzle is groundbreaking, but the steady drip of “aha!” moments kept me hooked.
The variety of mansions also keeps things fresh. Unlike the first game’s singular haunted house, players explore exotic estates with snowy mountain ski lifts, Egyptian tombs, and overgrown greenhouses. Backtracking through familiar rooms is frequently required, but themed rooms and the eccentric Professor E. Gadd’s teleporter help prevent environment fatigue. Still, trekking through the same locations across five or so missions in a single mansion gets old.
Revisiting previously explored areas isn’t the only repetition that holds Luigi’s new adventure back. The first time you have to chase down a ghost dog to retrieve a stolen key is endearing, but the mutt’s following appearances become predictable. Did you just get a shiny new quest item? Get ready for that dumb dog to steal it. Did E. Gadd mention a Toad assistant? Prepare for another escort mission. Tracking phantom paw prints or launching Toad across a pit can be enjoyable, but the unabashed objective recycling disrupts the flow.
If you do need to take a break from the campaign, a four-player cooperative mode lets players hunt ghosts together. The game modes, playable locally or online, take place in a multi-level ScareScraper. Combining vacuum power with friends to weaken ghosts is a good time, and opens up a layer of strategy. Two players can synchronize flashlight blasts to stun a huge swath of ghosts, and then jointly suck them up. I chuckled at adorable co-op situations, like pulling a vase off a friend’s head or tugging the corner of a rug to free someone tangled up in it. Co-op isn’t a must-play feature, but it’s an entertaining distraction if you love the combat.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is an endearing sequel that refines the original game’s formula in the best ways. Even the occasional déjà vu moments can’t hold the experience back entirely. The rich presentation (especially on the 3DS XL) and contained mission structure make it a perfect addition to the 3DS library. Whether you played the GameCube original or not, this Nintendo game is worth a look.
Watch us play through the entire first Luigi's Mansion on Super Replay.