Hands On: Luigi’s Mansion 2!

After playing the demo of Luigi’s Mansion 2 on the Nintendo Unleashed stand at MCM Expo this October, it is clear that with all the buzz around Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land onNintendo’s 3DS, we may be overlooking a title that in a lot of ways was more impressive and effective in the short time the demo lasted than its more popular cousins.

Of course, this will come as no surprise to anyone who played the original Luigi’s Mansion and demanded more. It’s been a long time coming but after Nintendo‘s surprise announcement at this year’s E3, it looks like Mario’s brother is set to star in an essential 3DS title for 2012.

We start the demo outside the titular abode as a thunderstorm crashes around us, controlling Luigi with some perfectly balanced handling thanks to the analogue pad. The atmosphere is immediately immersive and cinematic with echoes of Resident Evil about the moon-soaked front walkway. The detail in the design and architecture is really beautiful. It’s as if developers Next Level Games have been influenced by Tim Burton and the Grimm brothers. We walk over the small, stony bridge towards the mansion which invites us in with a combination of terrifying menace and excitable intrigue all at once. We open the front door nervously and step inside…

The entrance hallway is grand but you get the sense that no-one has stepped inside for a long time. Cobwebs gently blow in the breeze and an eerie sense that we’re being watched begins to set in. Don’t worry though, this game won’t have you reaching for the cushions. This is Nintendo with its foot firmly in parody and it is endless outlandish innovation. What strikes you when you step inside is how good it looks in 3D. It just works and you start to forget that it could exist without it. The lighting and camera placement in the diorama-esque playing format conveys a sense of depth that would have James Cameron furiously reworking Avatar. And all this in stereoscopic 3D so need for glasses. One part where we hurry through a hallway with huge Medieval suits of armour slicing downwards with their swords as we go by is a perfect example of the 3D mastery on display.

Luigi is armed with his familiar torch and his vacuum powered Poltergust backpack – Ghostbusters on a spring cleaning frenzy – and as our shivering hero turns to face us, the beam from the torch picks up trails of dust as the light reaches out to us, causing lens flare as if we were in an episode of The X-Files. The flashlight has been given a couple of new powers in this game and they are introduced to us by our trusty, eccentric mentor, Professor E. Gadd, as we encounter our first spectral entity. The first is called a strobe and starts off the ghost-catching process. It’s basically a pulse of light which stuns the spook so you can power up your vacuum stream and draw him in. The ghosts will try and escape however and as you are dragged in a slapstick manner around the rooms the second upgrade comes in to play. By tapping the A button at the right time as an icon appears on the screen you emit a charged stream which shocks the ghost, letting you keep him close and deplete his strength from ten to zero at which point he’s sucked in to the Poltergust pack with a puff of green smoke. Job done.

The idea is to clear each room of ghosts in order to obtain keys and other items which allow you to progress through the game. Boxes, wardrobes, crates and all manner of objects can be opened and cobwebs can be cleared away to reveal coins and stacks of notes. The gyro-tech in the 3DS comes in to play here as you tilt the console to point towards those hard to get places (in the demo we find coins in the rafters) and it’s another example of the simple but effective enjoyment of the game. Another change from the original is the ability to lock on to multiple ghosts with your vacuum. Inevitably this reaps rewards for the player. 

Games with a creepy atmosphere rarely go for a breakneck pace and Luigi’s Mansion 2 is no exception. The effect on the player is infinitely heightened as we are drawn into the game, sensing the apprehension in Luigi’s nervous footsteps. The game handles some of the best visuals on the console with ease and the animation is expressive and comical. 

After playing the demo, I was left hungry for more and assured that Luigi will make a well deserved return in this brilliant game. But if you want to slake your ghostbusting thirst then get yourself some dungarees, put a Dyson on your back and enjoy Halloween this evening by trying to capture some Trick Or Treaters!*

Luigi’s Mansion 2 will be released in 2012 and you can see the trailer which was shown at the Tokyo Game Show here.

*Not advised…

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