Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon review — Bustin’ makes me feel good

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I’m really enjoying Luigi’s Mansion, despite the game’s attempts to dissuade me.

If there’s one thing Nintendo games have in spades, it’s charm. I challenge you not to be bemused when a fourth wall-breaking Luigi nervously hums the background music for his own game whist searching for ghosts. And you’ll find yourself chuckling rather than getting frustrated at having to escort a Toad with “an irrational fear of clocks and gears” through a clock tower level filled with nothing but.

On the other hand, the gameplay in Dark Moon is an evolution of the original Luigi’s Mansion in every way, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Exploring the mansion, looking for hidden treasure is a blast, and trapping ghosts with the Poltergust 5000 is as fun as ever. It’s still the game fun formula from the GameCube predecessor: zap a ghost with your flashlight, the vacuum it until it’s captured. But this ghost hunt seems to emphasize quantity over quality. Many of the early ghost battles are more like miniature puzzles than battles; the emphasis is on finding the exact sequence needed to make the specters vulnerable. These ghost battles, particularly an early fight with a giant spider, are a delight.

But later fights put you up against gauntlets of ghosts, attacking five or more at a time, with new ones rising to take the place of those defeated. Some bosses are nothing but ghost gauntlets themselves. While trying to vacuum one spook, you’ll be dragged into another, hurting you and forcing you to start the process over again. And that leads us to the draconian, old-fashioned approach to a death penalty.

The game is broken up into missions, each of which take around 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Quitting a mission early will force you to lose any progress you’ve made on a mission, a truly mind-boggling choice for a portable game. I had to put my 3DS into sleep mode for extended periods of time just to avoid losing my progress.

When you die, a similar problem presents itself. While you can find a single “retry” token in each mission, if you don’t find any such item and manage to lose all your life, which you are likely to do during a boss fight, you can kiss all that time spent and treasure found goodbye. This might have flown back in the heyday of Nintendo, but as a modern game it’s pretty unusual. Losing like this multiple times makes you seriously doubt another go.

Despite an uneven difficulty slope and a weirdly stingy save system, Luigi’s Mansion manages to be a great experience.

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