E3 2011: Luigi's Mansion 2 Hands-On

In the just-announced Luigi's Mansion 2, we sample the lesser Mario brother's 3D return to ghostbusting.

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At Nintendo's E3 press briefing, we welcomed the announcement of Luigi's Mansion 2, which is the sequel to the 2001 GameCube game and part of Nintendo's strong second wave of first-party 3DS titles. A brief hands-on didn't disappoint: At first blush, this is a good-looking, fun-feeling sequel that is true to the spirit (sorry) of the ghostbusting original, with spooky visuals that pop nicely with the addition of stereoscopic 3D.

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In Luigi's Mansion 2, kooky inventor-scientist Professor E. Gadd returns to ghost research, once more dispatching the taller Mario brother to investigate haunted houses. As Luigi, we snuck into a classically creepy manor armed with the essential flashlight and vacuum cleaner. Ghost catching is a matter of flashing the target poltergeist with an especially bright burst from the flashlight--stunning the spook in place--and then vacuuming it up. For the purpose of ghost wrangling, Luigi has an electrical, lightning-type attack. When Luigi's spectral quarry struggles against the stream of suction, a button prompt indicates that he can zap the ghost to maintain the vacuum's grip.

Exploring the mansion's network of rooms and halls, we also vacuumed up cash, coins (some hidden high in the rafters), spiderwebs, and fat spiders, the latter of which dropped from the ceiling on silk strands. We revealed treasure chests by sucking up the dust sheets that hid them and sought out keys to open the mansion's various locked doors. At one point, when a tricky staircase turned into a slide midclimb, we had to do battle with two ghosts at once, trying to capture one while avoiding the other's attacks, before we could progress to the next floor.

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The old-timey haunted house looked great and was decked out with cobwebbed furniture and oversized suits of armor. The armor lined a long corridor and would also take sword swipes at Luigi as he scampered past. The smart, simple controls handled nicely, with the circle pad for movement, the right bumper to switch the vacuum cleaner on, and the upper and lower face buttons for angling the vacuum stream up or down. With 3DS no-brainers Super Mario 3D and Mario Kart 3D also being shown off at this year's E3, this Luigi-fronted game might well be overshadowed, but it's a charming and promising game that deserves the same kind of attention. Look for plenty more on it ahead of release in 2012.

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