E3 2011: Luigi's Mansion 2 hands-on preview

When Nintendo’s E3 press conference entered the 3DS section of new game announcements, a sequel to a mostly forgotten GameCube launch game was pretty low on our list of possibilities. A new F-Zero? Maybe. Another Wave Race? Conceivable. Even another Earthbound seemed more likely than Luigi’s Mansion 2. Yet there it was and just a couple days later we got our hands on the unexpected sequel and were pretty impressed.

The format of our 20 minute long demo was fairly similar to the almost decade old classic. After scaredy-cat Luigi ends up in a haunted mansion, he meets up with Professor E. Gadd, and the odd inventor gives Luigi his repurposed vacuum cleaner, this time the upgraded Poltergust 5000. It’s specially made for sucking up ghosts, which is good because Luigi needs to explore a series of ghost-filled mansions and catch ‘em all, but in a spookier way than Pokemon.

Luigi teleports between Gadd’s lab and the haunting houses using surveillance cameras that digitize and transport Weegee as if he were in Tron. As we took our first steps toward the dimly lit abode, we appreciated how well the team animated Luigi, as each tentative, shaky step communicated how filled with fear the unlikely hero is. When the camera zooms in on Luigi opening a new door, you clearly see a surprising amount of detail in his cartoony design, with graphics easily comparable to the GC original, though that may not sound like much ofa complement.

After finding the first of two doors locked, we headed into the open room and tested out the Poltergust’s abilities as the lights flickered. We sucked up coins that were hiding in every nook and cranny of the room, occasionally finding dollar bills as well (we couldn’t get any clarification on what was the functional difference between those two currencies, but you wanted to collect all you can of both). After sucking up and tearing off a sheet covering a treasure chest, we found the all-important key. Just as we thought we’d leave the room safely, surprise, surprise, our first ghost appears on the scene.

After closing off the door, the ghost chased us around while we found our bearings. Soon we recalled that first the offending specter needed to be stunned by the flashlight, so we switched on the strobe with the A button. Once the ghoul was dazed, we turned on the vacuum, inhaling the ghost in a whirlwind. As it struggled, LM2 basically became a fishing game, with Luigi being pulled around by the ghost and us pushing the thumb stick in the opposite direction. After whittling down the ghost’s initial HP of 10 down to zero, we totally engulfed him in the Poltergust 5000, effectively clearing the room.

As we moved through the initial areas it dawned on us just what a good fit Luigi’s Mansion is for Nintendo’s 3D portable. Every room in LM2 is designed for a static camera to pan across the frame as Luigi searches a room. By keeping the camera in place, the 3D can be used to deepen the room and enhance the visuals, which is a less gimmicky approach to the feature. It helps the rooms feel unique as you search every item and surface to find another secret. Speaking of 3DS features, you control where Luigi points the Poltergust while in suck mode by subtly titling the system, and it was one of the better uses of that control scheme that we've seen, mostly thanks to little you have to move the handheld.

After an exhilarating race down a hallway full of haunted armor, we hit a few more rooms and ran into some tougher ghosts. One used pots and pans to block our flashlight, while other ghosts were simply tougher with more HP and took more stunning and inhaling to finish off. Soon enough we reached the demo’s boss, a brainy ghost, and by brainy, we mean he had a giant ghost head.

Like much of the combat in the demo, the final battle came down to timing and figuring out a simple visual puzzle, this time trapping the intermittently-invisible ghost by whichever stack of books he was reading. After a lengthy skirmish involving the lily-livered Luigi getting pulled around the room a half dozen times, the apparition was caught and the demo complete, though we’d have happily continued. Playing through it reminded us of why we enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion in the first place: it has its own distinct flavor within the Mario series, interesting puzzles, cute easter eggs scattered about, and a fun collection of G-rated scares. When Luigi’s Mansion 2 hits 3DS next year, maybe the green one will at last have a marquee franchise of his very own.

Jun 10, 2011

Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.