I loved the original Luigi’s Mansion. I believe it’s the only game I’ve played to completion three times. It was such a unique lighthearted horror game with some interesting mechanics, and while initial news about the sequel had me worried the game had changed too much, my fears were soon settled (aside from the fear you’re supposed to be feeling that is!).
The unsettling news was that there were no ‘Portrait Ghosts’ like the original, and that the game was broken up into a mission-based structure rather than the open mansion of the first game. Portrait Ghosts were the ghosts you had to catch in order to progress the plot, with more fleshed out backstories than the ‘grunt’ ghosts who tried to hinder your progress. Some of them were really creepy, and ‘fighting’ the actual inhabitants of the mansion was definitely a positive of the game.
So do these changes have a big effect on the game? I don’t think the game feels worse, that’s for sure. While I would definitely prefer the old ways, the ghosts manage to have some personality still (I saw them pretending to drive cars and painting each other in silly poses) and the mission structure seems totally pointless in how little it actually affects the flow of the game (more on that later). While in the last game you’d catch a series of Portrait Ghosts, finishing with a Boss Ghost, and then head back to Professor E. Gadd to empty your ghost-catching vacuum and find out where to go next. In Luigi’s Mansion 2 you’re doing this much more frequently. Each mansion has a set of ‘missions’ you complete, each bringing you back to E. Gadd’s hideout.
You see, E. Gadd got run out of his lab after a familiar foe corrupted an artefact known as the Dark Moon (hence the game’s US subtitle), which subdues ghosts and makes them friendly. The ghosts who were helping E. Gadd with his research went beserk and ran him out of his mansion, and so he calls out to his old accquaintance Luigi for help (though the game subtley implies Luigi wasn’t the first person sent in!). E. Gadd uses a device to suck Luigi into the TV, where he faces his shadow self and discovers the power of Persona. Wait, no, scratch that last bit. Luigi does travel to different mansions through that method though, getting sucked through TV’s and cameras via an experimental and untested device.
Once you’re in the mansion, you’ll set about on whatever your assigned mission is. The first is to find E. Gadd’s lost Poltergust 5000 in the mansion and its flashlight upgrading module which is used to catch ghosts. While on a mission you’re still free to wander around any unlocked areas, finding hidden treasure by experimenting with the environment, sucking up ghosts and solving puzzles to find keys to unlock doors and progress. But as soon as you finish your mission, you’re sent back to E. Gadd.
It makes you head back to E. Gadd for no real reason other than because it can, for example the second mission is to recover some gears stolen by ghosts, which fit into a machine that opens the next area of the mansion, but on doing so E. Gadd says the gears are bent and calls you back to his hideout to fix them, before sending you off again to a new area. All it does is give an illusion of linearity, because it serves the exact same purpose as finding a key in the last visited room, and using it to progress, but making you feel as if the game is doing it for you. So it’s not as frustrating as it seems because it serves the exact same purpose as it did in the last game, but it happening more frequently makes it feel like the mansions aren’t as big and open. It just seems like a silly change when they could just have tied all the missions for a particular mansion, it would have flowed just like the original game.
The gameplay is reminiscent of that of the original, albeit without the dual sticks. X and B raise and lower your ‘aim’, with Y and A handling your darklight and flashlight, respectively. The flashlight stuns ghosts, activates mechanisms and (obviously) lights your way, while the dark light reveals hidden objects and ghosts. You combat ghosts much like you did in the original, using your Poltergust 5000 vacuum to suck them up after stunning them with your flashlight. Their ‘health’ continually drops as long as the Poltergust is sucking them up, and if you can build enough tension by pulling in the opposite direction to the ghosts you can press A to deal a large amount of ‘damage’, making capturing a lot easier.
The ghosts aren’t the only things you can suck up though, the environment can be interacted with to solve puzzles, find treasure or to just mess around. Rugs can be rolled up to reveal switches, fans can be spun around to make items fall down, wallpaper can be tore off to reveal secret rooms, and of course you can toy around in pointless ways like sucking up clothes off of racks or ripping pages out of books. There’s plenty of treasure to be found like in the original, but it serves a purpose this time- unlocking upgrades for your equipment. However, in my limited time with the game I didn’t get to see what these were.
The game maintains the surprisingly eerie atmosphere of the original. I was playing without headphones in the evening but it still felt spooky. It’s hard to describe, but the design of the game just makes it have a spooky feel, without being explicitly scary like Silent Hill or similar games. Ghost dogs float past windows, suits of armour spring to life, swinging a sword at you, and of course there’s the general eerieness of the mansion, with the sounds and lighting it sports. It’s very reminiscent of the original, down to the catchy theme and Luigi’s gadgets. The Poltergust returns with some improvements, and the GameBoy Horror has been replaced by the more modern ‘Dual Scream’.
I got to try out a bit of the multiplayer mode too, which manages to remain faithful to the singleplayer. We went hands-on with ‘Hunter’ mode, in which 2-4 players team up to catch all the ghosts on a floor before time runs out, moving to the next if successful. When all ghosts have been caught, 4 red coins appear on the floor, which players have to collect in a short period of time. If they’re all collected, they act as a raffle ticket of sorts, with one player getting picked to get a bonus for the next floor, such as Dark Goggles that make invisible objects instantly visible, or a stronger Poltergust. The game plays just like the singleplayer, but with more players, who can help each other suck up ghosts, or revive fallen teammates.
You’ll be splitting up to find ghosts and keys to progress but if you’re like me you’ll get sidetracked looking for all the hidden treasure and goodies. This isn’t a waste of time though (I tell myself at least…) because like in singleplayer you earn upgrades for the group when your money total reaches certain milestones. The game can get really hectic on higher floors, as you get swamped by tougher ghosts, and you’ll have to work together to take them out quickly. We did encounter one problem though, in which we seemed to have cleared a room of ghosts, but the key inside never appeared, meaning time ran out and we lost. We weren’t sure whether there was something we were supposed to do to make the key appear or not, but we couldn’t find it hidden anywhere either.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is looking to be a worthy successor to the original. It’s made some pretty significant changes, but the feel and gameplay retain what was great about the original. With a fun multiplayer mode attached, this should be a good purchase.