A fairly decent launch title for GameCube and unfairly criticised because, you feel, it wasn't a 'true' Mario Bros game that gamers wanted to see. It nevertheless picked up enthusiastic critical response - the Nintendo magic still in evidence however short-lived - and earned its place as a enjoyable curiosity and joined a collection of other company oddities, never to be seen again except for retro features.
After a massively enjoyable fifteen minute demo of the sequel no-one saw coming, there's the sense the series came ten years and two platforms early. With the 3DS Luigi's Mansion has finally found its right home.
Retaining the same blueprint of the original - a hoover-carrying Luigi entering a haunted mansion to exorcise ghosts in Nintendo-friendly fashion - the game benefits from the 3D aspect, which emphasises the smaller details of each lovingly crafted room, and from the manner of its consumption; built for built for short bursts, a handheld is the perfect fit for the other Mario brother's adventure. Nintendo also has promised to have corrected It's one of the original's biggest shortcomings, with multiple mansions to explore this time round.
For now, we hightail it to one such spook-filled locale after a brief chat with the returning Professor Gadd, zapping there via a digital-style download, Luigi's broken into pixel form and unceremoniously dumped into the front gardens of a Mansion.
Each operates as semi-dungeon; Zelda by way of Resident Evil. Multiple rooms hide gold, ghosts or door keys in variable numbers, with an increase in room complexity and spook-difficulty as you progress.
The basic gameplay mechanic is hide and seek. Each room has a bunch of spooks that have to be captured, but need to drawn from their hiding places first.
Investigation is mandatory to expose them. But you needn't scour too hard - the spooks like to jump out and give you a scare, though straight after they vanish. They're still wandering the room, and will strike out when close. Tap A to switch on your torch and shine it round until you outline ghosts, then hold the button to charge up a shock attack that'll stun any nearby undead pests stone cold. Once they're in this state you're able to try and suck them in.
It's at this point the game turns into part rodeo, part fishing challenge. Anyone who's tried to land Hyrule's prize fish in Ocarina of Time 3D will be in familiar territory here. Each ghoul has a counter above their head, meaning the meaner the poltergeist the bigger the number. It's a countdown to how long you got to play tug of war with the plasmic terror until its worn down enough to suck into your backpack.
Even without any rumble, you feel battered by the bigger battles; you're soon combating ghosts strong enough to pull you around the room, with any clash against furniture exiting the struggle prematurely. There's a time-based shock to subdue spectres whilst in your grasp, a button prompt flashing on screen, and for later fights proves decisive on whether your hold or lose your prey. After the first entrapment you'll clash with multiple spectres at a time, forcing you to tactically allow yourself to be yanked across the floor to avoid an attack by a free-roaming phantasm.
For a game who's previous twin-stick approach prove essential - one to control Luigi's movements, allowing for pull or give on a grapple, and the other to turn the direction of his dust-turned-ghost buster's suction pipe - the lack of extra stick has been handled admirably well by the inclusion of the hardware's gyro-sensor.
While the shoulder buttons are used turn the machine to blow or suck, you can alter the angle by lifting the 3DS up or down - however, there's the option to use Y and X in its stead. Though these feel less responsive compared to the subtle adjustments of the gyro. And the shifting of the 3DS mirrors your movements in-game, creating a greater sense of feedback in your fights, and a greater sense of reward when you trap a ghost.
B will let you dash, and its becomes natural to do given how Luigi feels surprisingly heavy and slow while walking, and you might feel the need to keep the thumb on the button, but you loose out on seeing seeing how incredibly animated he's walking, as he automatically adopts a cowering stance, fearful sneak and frightened yelp; this may be the most expressive we've seen a character donning the dungarees yet.
In fact, and while we may need to check back with our battered copy of Luigi's Mansion to compare, the whole game really excels visually on the 3DS. We're aware of the perceived increase in graphical quality with games downsized onto the 3DS screen, but that doesn't stop us being impressed with what we see.
The top screen looks amazingly sharp and crisp, and the lighting, be it used to dramatic effect with lightning blasts casting crazy shadows or just the subtle soft use of a candle, renders the detailed hallways or rooms in such stunningly atmospheric fashion that we're given a hint as to what a HD Mario game could look like. The only letdown is the bottom screen, reserved for the usual in-game menu options of overhead map and the like.
The only current issue we can see with the game, aside from the continual problem of 3D blur when moving the console which effects all games, is the variety. Noted, we've only played fifteen minutes of the game so far, but if one were to ignore short bursts for extended play sessions - and who wouldn't? It's a Nintendo title after all - the game could become too repetitive if there's a lack of variety and no break from the ghost-busting on occasion.
But then, as stated, this is Nintendo. The company has a knack for getting the best out of its hardware, and hasn't left us much reason to doubt that seal of quality in its first-party products. We enjoyed our time with Luigi's Mansion 2 immensely. Both facts should hopefully mean our continued faith is rewarded in the end.
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