The wait for Luigi's Mansion 2 has been quite a long one, with it being touted as one of the Nintendo 3DS' big titles early on in the system's life, but getting pushed further and further down the release line. Therefore, with quite a hefty time in development, those that have been following the game may be expecting great things. What a pleasure it is, then, to discover that Luigi's Mansion 2 delivers on almost all levels, and can most definitely be added to the list of "must have" titles on Nintendo 3DS.
Luigi's Mansion 2 sees the return of the loveable younger brother of Mario in a plot that is not that far removed from the first game, which may come as little of a surprise. In keeping with the timely gap between the first and second game, it has been a while since Luigi ventured into that spooky mansion, vacuum on back, and sucked up those cheeky Boos. Professor Elvin Gadd now lives alongside ghosts and continues his research on them, but of course, for peculiar reasons, the Dark Moon shatters and turns the spooks evil, leaving the Professor little choice but to recall the one man who knows best how to deal with them.
Instead of the one large mansion to tackle, this time around sees players venturing through multiple smaller manors, split up into bite-sized missions. On each occasion that Professor E. Gadd sends Luigi out to the current mansion, he is usually tasked with locating a particular item or key, needing to defeat particular ghosts to obtain them and clear a variety of puzzles. The majority of missions don't normally last much longer than 20 to 30 minutes, which has surely been designed with the game's portable nature in mind. For those with a bit of time on their hands that would rather explore the whole of a mansion in one sitting, the going back and forth between mansion and E. Gadd's base of operations might become a slight annoyance. That said, the mission-based formula has been worked into the game very well, and keeps track of players' high scores and the gems and ghosts captured upon completion, allowing for the chance to replay them and achieve the best ranks possible. There is never really a moment of down time, nor at any point does the game become boring, so the mission-based gameplay and varying themes of the mansions definitely prevent that from happening.
The puzzle element of Luigi's Mansion 2 seems greater than its predecessor, but the game itself is more linear up until the last couple of mansions, which require a little more dashing between rooms and floors. E. Gadd's constant communicating with Luigi, which breaks up gameplay, also could be a bit off-putting for some. A solution could have been to let players have the option to call E. Gadd themselves if they needed a hint. However, the majority of players really won't have much difficulty getting through the game, so it would have been great to have a few more challenging puzzles like those that really only seemed to crop up in the latter stages. Anyone that does lose all of Luigi's life has to restart the whole mission over again, which can prove to be rather frustrating. However, since it doesn't take long to redo everything and that the chances of dying don't happen very often, this doesn't become much of a problem.
Worth a positive mention are the bosses waiting at the end of each mansion. Some of these battles are very clever and diverse affairs, which are a refreshing change of pace from the regular ghost-vacuuming players are made to do throughout the rest of the game. A bonus that the mission format brings here is the option of then re-fighting each boss to relive those moments and finish in a quicker time.
Luigi's Mansion 2 does not support the Circle Pad Pro attachment, but this actually rarely becomes a problem. Luigi's Mansion players may find instances where wanting to swivel around using an invisible C-Stick comes into play, but it quickly becomes second nature in how to adapt. Pointing the vacuum up and down is achieved with the X and B buttons, but by charging the flashlight, Luigi can emit strong blinding flashes that stun ghosts anywhere in front of him, meaning the need to point up and down a lot isn't necessary. Anyone accustomed to the GameCube controller may have doubts, but the 3DS set-up works remarkably well and, for the most part, is quite comfortable.
Luigi has established a personality quite different to that of his daring brother Mario's, which kicked off primarily in his GameCube debut. Luigi's Mansion 2 takes advantage of his humorous character traits and goes even further to portray his frightened antics in a more hilarious light. From his honest shakes of the head when E. Gadd asks him if he's ready to enter the mansion, to his wonderful animations and laugh-out-loud vocal expressions, Luigi makes it hard not to fall in love with his character. It is easy to see why he has gained such a huge following over the years - one which will only grow bigger with this game. It doesn't stop with Luigi, either. In fact, the cheeky ghosts that players will be able to spy on throughout the course of the adventure throw in many funny moments, delivering a massive amount of charm and many smiles.
Animations are enhanced greatly through the stereoscopic 3D feature of the 3DS, and the overall game is much better because of it. The greater sense of depth and distance does help certain situations, but also becomes more engaging and attractive - particularly in the snowy mansion. Crosstalk problems do sadly crop up on occasions, unfortunately, but is less noticeable during gameplay.
Luigi's Mansion 2 isn't too far off from the GameCube game visually, and it is certainly full of colour and impressive lighting effects. However, the game never actually feels "scary" at any point. There aren't ever any rooms where everything is so dark that only the light coming from Luigi's flashlight is enough to see what's ahead. Luigi's Mansion on the GameCube managed to give off a spooky vibe to unexplored areas, but the sequel seems to be a lot brighter, which reduces the fright factor. No one's asking for the Silent Hill treatment here, but that eerie feeling from the original is absent.
Local and online multiplayer is introduced this time around - something Nintendo wanted to achieve in the first game, but never managed to in the end. It may seem a bit tacked on for the sake of it, but it can actually be a fun deviation from the main quest in short bursts. Working in a group of up to four players, there are different gameplay modes to choose from, with each taking place in a tower of varying numbers of floors and difficulty, which can be chosen by the host. These include simply hunting ghosts in Hunter mode, locating the hatches in Rush, and searching out the pooch ghosts in Polterpup. Combining as a team, players clear each floor one by one and fight a boss at the end. Key shout-outs are assigned to the D-pad to communicate with one another, which work well enough - voice chat isn't really needed and would likely ruin the experience. The competitive element is there, too, with extra rewards for the more efficient players that collect more coins or catch the most ghosts. Multiplayer is necessary for players looking to complete the full ghost collection, since certain types can only be found in the harder difficulties, but it is a rather fun addition that adds on a few extra hours to the play time.