By Nicholas Simonovski
There are a few things in life which make me feel stupid. When a friend makes a joke, as an example, and I don’t get the reference. Another one is Luigi’s Mansion 2.
I can still remember the day I first started playing the original Luigi’s Mansion. I had purchased a Nintendo GameCube with my parents earlier that day as a birthday present and for the next couple of weeks, it was the only game I played. It was good to see a game focusing on the other Mario brother for once, and it was a ton of fun. It’s just that this time around, I don’t quite think I’ve been enjoying it quite as much.
The story of this game takes place in a region called Evershade Valley. One night, King Boo appears and destroys the dark moon (which is the title of the game elsewhere), which up until now, has keep all the nearby ghosts friendly. With the supernatural beings now acting reckless and destructive, Professor E. Gadd once again enlists the help of Luigi to collect the pieces of the dark moon and restore normality to the area. Unlike the original Luigi’s Mansion which took place in the one mansion, Luigi’s Mansion 2 sees our green-capped hero visiting multiple mansions throughout the story, each with their own unique look and set of challenges.
As far as gameplay goes, players of the original Luigi’s Mansion will feel right at home with its sequel. Armed with the new-and-improved Poltergust 5000 and his trusty flashlight, Luigi’ll be moving throughout each of the mansions, room-by-room, corridor-by-corridor, capturing both ghosts and loot (and let me tell you, there’s a lot of loot). Nintendo really have done a great job in bringing everything that made the first title so enjoyable, to the 3DS.
There are some new improvements in Luigi’s Mansion 2 as well. As opposed to having just the one function in Luigi’s Mansion, the flashlight now has two! While Luigi can still shine his torch to stun ghosts and interact with other objects in the game (for example, flashing light into a flower with its petals closed will cause it to open up and often shoot out money and other collectables), it has a dual attachment known as the ‘Dark-Light Device’. As the name suggests, Luigi can use this to shine dark light to discover hidden objects referred to illusions.
Unlike the original, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is broken up into a series of stages. Each mansion has five acts, with a major boss battle at the end. While this generally works fine, a big gripe I had was the fact there were no checkpoints. I remember in the first game, a major factor in maximising your loot and final rating was capturing the big ghosts with as little faults as possible, while losing as little health as possible. Being the perfectionist I am, it was frustrating to know that if I wasn’t impressed with my job for a particular act (whether it be taking too much damage unnecessarily or not capturing the ghosts how I’d preferred), I only had the option of either restarting the entire stage or finishing it off and then replaying it. Why wasn’t there even an option to revert to a checkpoint right before a fight against some of the bigger ghosts?
In addition to this, there is no option to save the game during an act either! This means, if you’ve been playing a level for 30 minutes or so, exploring every nook and cranny for every last coin, and you notice your battery light coming on (and with the 3DS’ horrible battery life, it’s going to happen eventually) or you’ve got something to do, you can either plug it in for charging or close the lid and hope it doesn’t run flat by the time you return. It honestly blows my mind how there are still games today which don’t have on-demand saving as an option. Even if it saves back to the last door I walked through, at least give me the option to pause the game, save my progress and come back to it later!
Another aspect of Luigi’s Mansion 2 that gamers will remember from the first title is puzzle-solving; in this game, it plays a fairly significant role. In order to successfully navigate around the mansions, defeat each of the main ghosts, and maximise the treasures you collect along the way, you’ll really need to have your thinking cap on tight. Luigi’s Mansion 2 is creative in the ways it requires you to use the functionality of both the flashlight and the Poltergust 5000, but there are moments when that creativity goes from being rewarding and enjoyable, to annoying. Now, I’ll admit, I’ve never been a massive fan of puzzle-solving games, but I finished titles like Uncharted 2 and Portal 2 without having to rely on help from online walkthroughs. For some reason, I found myself having to consult friends and YouTube for help on this game multiple times! It’s not like the challenges are overly complex, they were staring at me in the face each time, but for reasons I can’t understand, I just couldn’t nut it out. I’ve spent ten minutes in some areas just figuring out how to move further, and if it wasn’t for video walkthroughs I’d probably still be scratching my head! I’m not sure if it’s a steep difficulty curve or me being thick, but I just thought I’d find this game easier. Either way, refer back to what I said in the first paragraph.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is also a perfect example of why the 3DS NEEDS a second thumb-stick. While the controls aren’t bad, you lose the ability to turn Luigi around while you’re using the Poltergust 500. To make matters worse, you’re also limited to pointing straight, up, or down – you can’t spin around while using either of the two. Since you need to ‘charge’ the flashlight to use it (why Nintendo decided to ditch having it simply on or off like the original, and make it so you have to charge it to increase the light’s intensity), there are times when the controls just feel restrictive.
I’ve really enjoyed the last few Mario games on the 3DS, but for some reason, as solid as Luigi’s Mansion 2 is, I just haven’t been enjoying it as much. It has everything the original game had and more, so the recipe for success is there, but in the past two weeks I’ve been playing, it has been somewhat of a chore at times than a properly fun exercise. There’s more than enough to explore and collect, but when you need to revisit the same rooms over and over again in each act just so you can collect every last coin, note, and gold bar, repetition does start to settle in. With all the niggles I expressed above, along with the fact you only have one chance to die per act before you are made to restart it at the very beginning (the act, not the game), Luigi’s Mansion 2 isn’t quite the bundle of fun and nostalgia I was expecting. The game starts off great, and it’s not even horrible after that, but eventually the frustration and the repetition kicks in, and that’s when my enjoyment in this game really began to fall.
Sorry Luigi, maybe next time.