If we had to bet on what game would never, ever get a sequel, Luigi’s Mansion would be near the top of that list. The GameCube launch title might not have been a blockbuster, but now the green one is getting another shot at a starring role in the 3DS sequel titled Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Out early next year, we recently played over an hour of Dark Moon, and it’s clear the near-final game improves on the original in substantial ways.
The story seems to follow the original’s, namely that oddball Professor E. Gadd needs help rounding up the dozens of formerly friendly ghosts that have gone AWOL in several different mansions. Despite his cowardly nature, Luigi is tasked with catching the specters using a modified vacuum cleaner, though his larger goal is to collect pieces of the shattered Dark Moon, the artifact that must be reformed to get the ghosts to behave once again.
The game is divided into multiple chapters spread over several different haunts, and our demo started in one of the first sections. Luigi had just been given the Poltergust 5000 (aka, the vacuum) and a flashlight--the combo needed to start busting ghosts. Unlike in the first game, simply shining a light on the apparitions doesn’t freeze them. Instead, you have to time flashing them with a strobe effect from your flashlight, an approach that adds a little more skill to ghost hunting.
Aside from the strobe effect, the ghost-catching seems fairly unchanged from the original. After stunning a ghost with your flashlight, you switch on the Poltergust and suck up the ghosts in a whirlwind of excitement. The ornery ghosts will pull Luigi around the room, so the player has to pull in the opposite direction to get the ghost in. And if you can stun more than one ghost in a single strobe flash, you can inhale multiple ones for a bonus, though it’s much tougher for Luigi to pull in two opposing directions.
In exploring the mansion, we searched multiple rooms for ghosts and can say that developer Next Level has certainly captured the feel of the original, at least in the first stages. Each room Luigi enters has new puzzles to interact with and secrets to find, demanding we use every tool at our disposal. And the rooms look great with the added depth of 3D.
Later on, Luigi received a tool that makes its premiere in Dark Moon, the Darklight Device. Once Luigi attaches it to his flashlight, he can shine this specific light spectrum to find items that pesky ghosts have turned invisible. This potentially deepens the game considerably. Before we were checking every item in the room we could see; now, we need to check all the ones we can’t see. This technique came into play in the second stage we explored, a sand-covered clock tower in need of some serious renovation.
Dark Moon looks like it’s going to be a pretty long game once it finally comes to stores early next year. Each chapter has a mission that can take up to 20 minutes, depending on how quickly you can solve the many environmental puzzles. And each stage is meant to be played multiple times so you can seek out all the hidden gems, golden bones, and other collectibles the ghosts have sneakily hidden all over the mansions. We won’t know for sure till we play the final game, but this looks like it could be one of the deepest adventures the 3DS has seen yet.