Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon Review

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon has no shortage of charm, but difficulty spikes and a lack of checkpoints weigh heavily on the experience.

Poor Luigi. His biggest claim to fame is that he's constantly overshadowed by the exploits of his brother. It's not often that Luigi gets a chance to stop following in Mario's trailblazing footsteps and prove his mettle on his own terms, but Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon gives him the opportunity. And at first, this ghostbusting adventure seems like a success for gaming's most well-known second fiddle. Luigi is an endearing hero; fantastic animations provide some great moments of physical comedy; and exploring the game's haunted mansions is a spooky delight. But alas, before all is said and done, things take a turn for the grim that casts a pall on Dark Moon's lively charm.

Luigi has no respect for the privacy of poltergeists.

Dark Moon's greatest asset is its atmosphere. The game perfectly captures the sort of genteel spookiness typified by Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction. The five mansions you explore are the sorts of shadowy places children (and young-at-heart adults) can venture into and conquer, feeling all the braver for it, not the sorts that are going to cause any nightmares. Creaky old suits of armor covered in cobwebs line stately hallways. Flashes of lightning cast huge shadows on the walls. Contraptions that look like the work of mad scientists clutter old laboratories. Luigi may be afraid to discover what's behind each new door, but you'll be eager to uncover each mansion's mysteries.

Luigi is a reluctant hero, more or less forced into once again taking up the mantle of ghost wrangler by professor E. Gadd. The kooky professor's docile spectral assistants turn hostile when the magical dark moon vanishes from the sky over Evershade Valley, and old Elvin Gadd conscripts Luigi into service, sending him into the valley's creepy old domiciles to retrieve the artifact's scattered pieces. The professor's idea of humor is so groan-worthy that it may elicit a few reluctant chuckles--in a self-proclaimed moment of genius, for instance, he decides to start referring to the modified DS he gives Luigi as the Dual Scream--but for the most part, the game's humor comes not from its writing, but from its animation. You observe ghosts getting up to all sorts of amusing mischief, and Luigi's encounters with traps often result in him getting knocked about in ways that Buster Keaton might have approved of. The sound design supports the game's silly spookiness, as Luigi often inexplicably hums along with the gently foreboding music.

Great animations lend sweetness to Luigi's interactions with other characters.

Making your way through the mansions is enjoyable not just because of the expertly crafted atmosphere, but also because of the wealth of objects you can interact with. Often, nudging an object or manipulating it with the force of your PolterGust 5000 vacuum cleaner/ghost-catching machine has no effect, but opening that dusty nightstand or making that rickety old merry-go-round spin rewards you often enough with coins, cash, and gold bars that you feel compelled to leave no stone unturned. Even when your reward is just a visual gag--vacuuming up a painting of a cheese circle to reveal a painting of a partially consumed cheese circle, for instance--you feel like your time interacting with anything and everything is time well spent.

With the aid of his not-so-trusty pixelator device, E. Gadd transports Luigi into the game's mansions, always with a specific goal or set of goals to accomplish. Whether these goals involve recovering pieces of a machine ghosts have made off with or rescuing one of E. Gadd's familiar-looking assistants, accomplishing your task always involves a combination of solving puzzles and catching ghosts. Any lever, painting, fountain, plant, or other object might be crucial to your progress, so solving puzzles often requires both careful observation and the use of your darklight, which can reveal objects that pesky ghosts have turned invisible, as well as do things like illuminate the paw prints of playful ghost pooches, called polterpups. The layouts of the mansions can make it tricky to figure out how to get from where you are to where you need to be, and working out the solution often brings with it a pleasant "aha!" moment as things click into place.

Of course, your explorations are frequently interrupted by ghosts, requiring Luigi to take up the PolterGust 5000 and vacuum up the specters for incarceration in E. Gadd's custom-made storage facility. Capturing ghosts involves first stunning them with a flash of your flashlight, and then reeling them in like fish with the suction of the PolterGust as they squirm and struggle, often dragging Luigi hither and yon in the process.

First ya stuns 'em, then ya sucks 'em up!

Each type of ghost--the small greenies, the hefty slammers, the slender hiders, and so on--have consistent behaviors you can learn, so you get better at dealing with them over time. However, these encounters don't grow stagnant or predictable. Just as the treasure you collect from missions increases the power of the PolterGust, the ghosts you encounter get stronger, and they employ new tactics, too. Greenies, for instance, start wearing sunglasses you need to vacuum off of their faces before you can stun them, or wearing buckets on their heads and only briefly peeking out from under them once in a while.

The controls for catching ghosts are a little stiff, which works fine for the majority of encounters. You can't rotate around while charging up your flashlight, for instance, so rather than nimbly moving about, you need to anticipate the movements of ghosts if you hope to catch several of them at once in your stunning flashlight blast. However, at one point, you face a massive onslaught of ghosts, and here, the combination of the sheer number of enemies you face and your limited mobility results in a challenge that the game ill-equips you to handle. In the chaos of these battles involving numerous ghosts at once, it's often hard to see when an enemy is winding up to attack you, much less respond in time to evade the attack.

Making this already frustrating situation worse is that there are no midlevel checkpoints. This is annoying throughout the game. Solving puzzles the first time is satisfying; going through the motions of completing puzzles you've already solved is just tedious. And should you fall on the final stretch of a boss battle with 12 sections (yes, there is one of these), you certainly won't relish having to fight through the first 11 sections of it again. But in this particular onslaught of ghosts you must face, the lack of checkpoints can go from a source of frustration to a source of rage. The battle drags on as it is; to near the end of it, lose, and realize you must do the entire thing over again is maddening enough to obliterate much of the goodwill the game's better aspects have worked so hard to earn.

Luigi is sort of like those people who ain't afraid of no ghost, except he's the exact opposite.

On the bright side, Dark Moon also includes an enjoyable multiplayer option called the ScareScraper. This tower of terrors allows you and up to three other players--each cast as a Luigi of a different color--to stick together or to split up as you explore its floors, hunting ghosts, racing to the exit, or pursuing polterpups, depending on the mode you choose. You can visit the ScareScraper in both local and online play, and you can explore it with friends who don't have a copy of Dark Moon, via the download play option.

Ultimately, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is a mostly pleasant game marred by the possibility of moments so frustrating, they threaten to overshadow the entire experience. These missteps are all the more disappointing because the better elements of the game are so charming. You may still want to take up the PolterGust 5000 and explore these haunted houses, but be warned: the things lurking in these dark places aren't likely to scare you, but they may well have you seeing red.

The Good
Atmospheric haunted mansions are a pleasure to explore
Satisfying environmental puzzles
Terrific, often-humorous animations
The Bad
Absence of checkpoints can lead to repeating lengthy stretches
One key combat sequence is a frustrating challenge, not a rewarding one
6.5
Fair
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1569 comments
mr_gibberish
mr_gibberish

I love my Nintendo 3DS but I so can not stand Nintendo fanboys, I really can not. Well, I can not stand silly fanboy's full stop. Most of these comments here are just trying to find some excuse or some reason as to why this got the score it got. Trying to make up reason, blame the review (even to the point of rude insult). All it is is just a review which is 1 persons opinion they are allowed to have. People think everything Nintendo has to have like AMAZING scores because it has either, Mario, Luigi or Link otherwise there just has to be something wrong with the reviewer or they are to blame. Oh no I got it, the reviewer was sick that day and and gave it a lower review not fully knowing. Disgusting disgusting reviewer!!

disneyskate
disneyskate

Lol at "difficulty spikes". More like "these puzzles are too hard for me". This game is brilliant.

ekolite
ekolite

Well you can agree with Carolyn, but two of Gamespot's staff put this game on their top 10 of the year staff lists.  So even Gamespot's other staff sees this as an essential game.

at129907
at129907

I really think you are just trolling for hits by being the lowest score on metacriti. 

at129907
at129907

Carolyn the only thing more disturbing than your appearance is the score you give to games.  You realize people don't by good games based on your scores. They pass them over because of your terrible opinion. I played this game and it deserves at least an 8.5

GOGOHeadray
GOGOHeadray

Seems like a low score given the review.

gameroutlawzz
gameroutlawzz

Nintendo games at its best,charming,fun,unique and challenging. Sadly the man-bear-pig reviewed it.

93ChevyNut
93ChevyNut

An otherwise good review, marred only because it's difficult?  I think someone's just trying to drum up comments or something.  Everything I read makes this game sounds like a "good" or even "great" game but it only got a "fair" rating.  I guess Carolyn should not review the Demon/Dark Souls games.  She would probably give them a 1.0!

mullenbeast
mullenbeast

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vampyren
vampyren

Great Review, i love to know these frustration about checkpoints and such.

GladChimer
GladChimer

Thank you for the review!

I have to disagree with some points and put more emphasis on others. I thought the difficulty curve was well, but I think the game was overall much too easy and lacked any sort of tension excluding two particular boss fights ( I would guess that those are the same you referred to throughout this review ). I would have wanted the ghosts to be more aggressive, but I suppose that would not work well with how the game is set up.

Much worse for me was the fact that the game's mansions were divided into levels. This really broke the game for me, as exploration often felt unrewarding but forced, and backtracking was the name of the game. After the second or third level of a mansion, I was already bored of it and wanted to move on to the next because I felt like I had seen everything. If these levels were connected into one big one, this game would have a similar appeal as the Metroidvania games, where you slowly progress through the area and have every room checked by the end of it. 

Getting every hidden Boo in the game is a terrible challenge if you decide not to play with a guide. It is frustrating to revisit every single room again just to find the Boo in that particular level. I love exploration in games, but this game did not work for me.

CleanPlayer
CleanPlayer

I hope the Wii U makes a Luigi's Mansion game with Luigi and Mario being pretty much ghostbusters as the whole Mushroom kingdom becomes possessed by zombies

brolls69
brolls69

This is a horrible review. This game is not that hard that you die enough that it becomes annoying. If you die at all, I would expect 2 or 3 deaths throughout the game, and if you got the golden bone from the mission, then that's basically like a checkpoint and it revives you immediately. And you make the third boss sound like the hardest fight ever, but it's not. It sounds like you're saying it's 12 phases of a BOSS, but it's not. It's 12 phases of fighting regular ghosts. And just to say, I made an account JUST to say this.

Sandpiper121PP
Sandpiper121PP

I also have to really disagree with this review.  It is almost written like it was barely played thru, kinda written on the "Judging a book by it's cover" aspect.  I personally feel this is a must have title for any 3DS owner and find it to be one of the best games Nintendo has produced in quite some time.  The gameplay is simply fantastic, the graphics are really impressive and the overall game is well worth the price for it at $39.99.  1500+ users can't be wrong!

captainwonton
captainwonton

I almost never comment, but this is seriously an awful review I had to do it

objection12
objection12

Horrible review. I created an account just so that I could voice this

Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

10 out of 10. One of the freshest and most charming games I've played this year and the second best 3ds game I've played. With so many stale games out there, on all platforms, games of this quality and innovation really should get the credit they deserve. 


ianlone
ianlone

mmm i play this game this week, is a 8.5 game not a 6.5 !! bad review gamespot!!    0.0

dariusq
dariusq

I'm all for reviewer's opinions but the write up simply does not reflect the score given. This kind of mismatch is not the work of a professional journalist. Personally I give this game a score of 8/10 because of its surprisingly addictive multiplayer options and replay value.

modestmouse44
modestmouse44

I nearly missed out on this great game because of this review. When you google "Luigi's mansion 3ds review," the first review that pops up is gamespot's. I saw the 6.5 back several months ago and thought "oh, it's probably just a cheap cash-in on the mario name." Playing it for the first time just yesterday on a whim, holy cow was I wrong. And to think of the countless people like me who skipped out on this because of a cursory google search.


Basically this reviewer should be fired. No excuse for backhanding a game with such obvious style and care placed into it. Granted, reviews are partly subjective, but I can't imagine any serious game site would allow Luigi's Mansion for 3ds to go unloved. It stands right alongside Fire Emblem as one of the best games for the system and one of the best games I've played in the past few years.

bibowski
bibowski

I couldn't disagree with this review more. It's easily the best 3DS game I've played yet and it's long as hell (which for a dad of 2 kids isn't something I like, but I know everyone else does :-P).

Halloll
Halloll

anyone else think Tom Mcshea would've been a more suitable reviewer for this game?

TheWindWaker333
TheWindWaker333

And the fact that this game is actually challenging at times is a real pleasure. 

TheWindWaker333
TheWindWaker333

Just beat the first boss and I loved it. This game exceeded my expectations. There is a lot of backtracking which would probably upset some people but I am fine with backtracking through environments as atmospheric and filled with secrets as the mansions in this game.

SirSka
SirSka

I disagree with the review(like many others, though not as ferociously so). The level of difficulty is just right to me, the bosses are fun, and when I figure out a puzzle that I was stuck on, I have this "duh" realization cause the answer was there in front of me. The graphics are better than I expected, the script is good, great physical comedy, and enemy variety is varied through the game. It should have received at least two number grades higher, but that's just my opinion.

charlyk88
charlyk88

It's incredible, but the pixelated images of the game (and all the games for 3ds) that gamespot shows on the reviews can make some boys to think that the game looks like sh*t and is not true. Believe me, if you had a 3ds you will note the big diference.

pitblyh
pitblyh

This game has incredible production value and sharp controls. Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation even likes Luigi's Mansion 2: Dark Moon for christ sake. If you liked Luigi's Mansion or just Nintendo games, then buy it! 

P.S. I have actually played the game on my 3DS XL.

AlexF_AT
AlexF_AT

More and more reviews of Gamespot make me believe that there simply are just idiots left here .... This game is a clear 9.0 , as ZombiU is a clear 9.0 too if not better ... Go and play your retarded Iphone games u bunch of morons or watch your future in a movie , called Idiocracy .

PS : A 85 metascore says it all .

Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

Is it me or does Gamespot have no respect for Nintendo games?

DoomSky
DoomSky

My 12 year old Nephew loved this game but he wished it was longer but I got him covered as I just found out Fatal Frame 2 for the Xbox is backward compatible with his 360. Plenty more ghost hunting fun for him there. 

albertalien
albertalien

I just beat the game and honestly dont understand such low score. Hasn't anyone else on the gamespot team played the game to give some reasonable input on the final score? Please be more professional guys! I only died 2 or 3 times during the whole game, and from the design perspective, that is why the "golden bone" exist, to reward your exploration in case you die! For me the game deserves a 8.7. 

klaisn
klaisn

I just finished this game. To each their own but I have to say, I NEVER saw these so called "difficulty spikes". For me it was never too hard. Hard enough, but never too hard. Great game, you should play it if you enjoy fun and challenging games that makes you think in order to get through them.

Sharwulf32
Sharwulf32

6.5 because this game is hard? What a terrible review...

SNESNOSTALGIA2
SNESNOSTALGIA2

This game is at least an 8.5...at least. When you knock a score down this low because you suck at the game and/or get frustrated by its inherent difficulty - well thats a glaring sign to me that you shouldnt write reviews for this site. You should be fired for this review Carolyn. Every f***ing review I read from this woman pisses me off to no end. Go over to IGN and read Keza McDonald's review - she scored it a 9.3 btw - you can feel her inherent joy for it in her writing and I appreciate that she didnt let a bad experience affect her overall score. You need to stop being so negatively subjective because it reflects poorly in your reviews and it shows I'm sorry to say. I'm still shocked that you had the balls to give a game this good and polished a 6.5 - its not opinion - it's unprofessional and judging from the comments below me I'm putting this nicely and I don't expect to see any reviews from you in future.

oni-z
oni-z

This has GOT to be one of the WORST reviews I have read in my entire life... I knew there was a reason why I stopped visiting Gamepot and it's because of retarded reviews like this.

I've just completed the game and I can honestly say it's one of the BEST games I've ever played in recent years, so fresh and original, every puzzle is as inventive as the first and the entire game just oozes charm!

Gamespot, you guys are a freaking disgrace... This site has been doing nothing but going downhill over the past 7 years and what have you done to improve it? Hire people like this Carolyn who immediately declare a masterful game "fair" at best just because they find the game a little to difficult? While a game like Dark Souls, NOTORIOUS for it's xxxtreme difficulty from the get go gets a 9.5... Absolute disgrace... 

I only returned to this site after a 7 year hiatus to post this comment and I will never return... You guys should just rename yourselves:

GAMETROLL.

mamotte
mamotte

Let me see if I get this right. Nintendo is critized for being too casual, they make a -relatively- difficult game, and that's bad too? And "no checkpoints" is a problem in a videogame played by short episodes? The longest ones are 15 minutes at i's best, so..  really, did we play the same game?

Horrible review.

GiddyPrincess
GiddyPrincess

I agree with every comment made by Carolyn.  Her review is very thorough, honest and spot on!  

Do I agree with the score?  I'll let you know if I can ever finish the game!  

 Checkpoints are definitely needed throughout this 12 wave battle, at the very least a midlevel one and one at the start so you don't have to repeat the intro cut scenes and collecting all the treasure over and over and then another cut scene before the battle begins. I am stuck at the exact spot she mentions because of a huge difficulty spike and a severe lack of checkpoints and no extra life (bone) being available for this battle. I honestly don't know whether I will be able to progress past this point and get to experience the rest of the game, it is very disheartening and frustrating to say the least.   

The game also needs a single checkpoint just before every boss in every level.  It is ludicrous that you have to repeat the whole level again and lose all your hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars worth of collecting after falling in a boss battle.  This defeats the purpose of the game as it just makes you want to rush through levels without collecting and exploring thoroughly, as honestly, what is the point, when you lose all your treasure collected and progress made throughout the level after dying.  (Also, those who die in a battle probably need the cash for upgrqades more than those who don't die, but no, you lose it all).   

Checkpoints would make absolutely NO difference to those players who boast they can breeze through the game without dying, BUT they would make the game much less frustrating and much more enjoyable to those players who need them.   If only Nintendo had included this simple feature they could have made an utterly gorgeous, perhaps even perfect, game that catered to all levels of players, both those with perfect hand-eye co-ordination and the rest of us mere mortals, without changing the actual gameplay experience.  Instead they made a game only suited to those highly coordinated gamers or those who enjoy an absolute tortuous time of repetition.    

Nintendo overlooking such a simple feature that could easily have made it one of the all-time favourite handheld games to another one that goes in the too-hard basket, really is a great shame and a serious oversight, when the ability to cater to every level of player (more sales!), was so easily within their grasp.  

frenchisms64
frenchisms64

@mr_gibberish  have you played this game at all, like seriously because more then half of people that have played it liked it, giving this this game a bad score because she sucked is not logical, if you cant see that then i feel bad for you. A game should be rated without any biased, and just because she sucked and could not get used to it giving this game a bad score is stupid, look at donkey kong tropcal freeze that game just got a bad score as well when almost every other reviewer gave it an 8-9. I dont care if games get bad scores its normal but giving it a bad score for difficulty spikes and cause she could not beat the 3rd boss(who is not even a boss more like mini boss) its stupid.

lazarius12
lazarius12

They honestly don't exist to everyone. I'm just about done with the game and I never even knew this was an issue to people out there, nor do I understand how to even encounter it.

kilaude
kilaude

@DoomSky did you just say your 12 year old nephew is going to play Fatal Frame 2? When he craps his pants, or when he can't sleep at night who's going to babysit him?

AlexF_AT
AlexF_AT

@SNESNOSTALGIA2 maybe this dumb bitch is too dumb  to play serious games ... IPHONE IPHONE IPHONE . Goats ... thats what most people like her are today ... BURGER KING gogogo make them to Big Goat XXL .

GiddyPrincess
GiddyPrincess

@Citan22 Yeesh,..... what an incredibly immature attitude shines through your comment!

JonathanL
JonathanL

@GiddyPrincess Just wanted to say that as someone who is playing the game with a child, replaying sections over and over again due to lack of save points, and the way some of the boss battles play out, can be very frustrating. It can be fairly challenging at times. I think it's fantastic that some players enjoyed the challenge spikes, but checkpoints would have been nice all the same. Not everyone enjoys replaying sections of game over and over again, and not everyone has the time. This macho "I did it perfect and you suck at games" response is what's wrong with gaming culture.

objection12
objection12

@GiddyPrincess What do you mean the rest of us mere mortals? I'm sorry but youre the minority here. This game was not very difficult for most people.

AlexF_AT
AlexF_AT

@GiddyPrincess Then you are just as dumb ... Yeah make checkpoints after every single trash mob so that idiots cant fail CHEEEEEEEEEERS .... WTF

hangman3745
hangman3745

@GiddyPrincess I never knew what the bone was used for until after I beat the game, that's how fucking easy it was. -_-

vampyren
vampyren

@drekula2 @AlexF_AT I havent played this game but i agree Zombi U is not more than 6/10. I seriously did not find it fun and any good. But maybe i give this game a shot after reading so many people disagreeing with the review.

ddolgov
ddolgov

@JonathanL @GiddyPrincess @objection12 Another mere mortal here. That 12 wave battle is super annoying. Randomness, number of enemies, movement restriction (sand and burning clock arms) and time limit. Had to restart a level only 2 times up to this point otherwise. Tried this battle 5 times now, last time did not flash the last single remaining armored greenie in time, and died to the next batch. I am sure I will beat it, but its not fun anymore. There is no good reason for them not to implement boss battle retry after fail, should be trivial to program, probably just few extra lines of code.

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

  • 3DS
Luigi's Mansion 2 is the sequel to the original GameCube title where Luigi is on a mission to remove a bunch of stubborn ghosts from some spooky mansions while only being armed with his trusty Poltergust ghost-sucking vacuum cleaner.
ESRB
Everyone
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon Wiki on Giantbomb.com