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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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Avatar image for grant4152

This game was just unenjoyable for me in all honesty. It starts off well, the spooky atmosphere and animations are good, and has a promising start. But the game just drags on a lot longer than it should have, it's just so repetitive. I was occasionally wondering when this game was actually going to end, it got so tedious. It was unnecessary to have 5 mansions to explore in the game, as just 1 mansion would have been much better, and this made the game too long. I never played the original, so I can't judge, and I never ended up beating this game because it just got so bad. For example, towards the end of the game, on the mission "Paranormal Chaos." You have to go from room to room to defeat all of these ghosts within a time limit, which I never even realized until I was notified with 3 minutes left. I don't mind that since it's a challenge, but I wish that checkpoints were handled better in this game, as said in this review. Because in case if you die or can't finish it in time, then you have to start the mission all over again, absolutely annoying and frustrating. Once you defeat them, you must go back to the terrace to face EVEN MORE GHOSTS. Wave after wave of them. Again, checkpoints would have been nice. I ended up dying for the lack of health that it gives, so I had to start over, which I'm not doing ever again because of that bullshit. And, this is towards the end of the game, why would I have to get through this after everything I've done beforehand? It doesn't make any sense. Another was when you're about to open a door with a key, a dog steals it from you and then you have to go on an adventure to get it back from him. This is fine the first 2 times, but the 3rd time when entering the 5th mansion is just so pointless and predictable. Same as when ghosts steal parts to a door or a gate, then you have to find and defeat them to get it back. Like I said before, just repetitive in almost every way, especially for some of the puzzles and a couple of annoying boss fights. I'm giving this game a 4/10 because of those reasons.

Avatar image for jelome1989

Where are the comments?

Avatar image for elheber

@jelome1989: I just got here... I think the reason was the backlash @*carolynmitchell got for the review. Evidence points to there being a point where she reasoned that the game was getting inflated scores by other publications, possibly within the comment section of this review. I'm guessing there was a major shitstorm here.

I wasn't here to witness this. This is just what I can gather from news.

Avatar image for jelome1989

@elheber: Yeah that's what I thought too. And probably we're right. I was not also able to see that. A while back when I visited this page it says there are around 1300 comments but I can't seem to browse them, so I first thought then it was a site bug or glitch, but I sure have been wrong.

Thanks for the link, btw.

Avatar image for FriendlyCrono

This game is AT LEAST a 7.5 or an 8. The creativity and visuals alone give it that.

Avatar image for Maxxgold

i just got this game and it's awesome. I decided to check the reviews and saw that Gamespot gave this game a 6.5 , wow. Carolyn do us a favor and please stop reviewing games. I don't often read bad reviews but when I do how come it's always someone from Gamespot ? If Kevin and Carolyn had a baby you would have one huge ball of negative energy.

Avatar image for mister_f15

I think the reviewer takes the bad points too hard. The strobulb mechanic isn't that bad, and frustration doesn't reduce a game to a mere 6.5. At least this review also covers the good points, unlike DKC Tropical Freeze's review.

Avatar image for mister_f15

I think the reviewer makes the negative points too big. Just frustration isn't enough to reduce a game to a 6.5! And about the Strobulb mechanic: I never felt it was hard to control. At least this review also names the good points of the game, unlike DKC Tropical Freeze's review.

Avatar image for katta2010

"One key combat sequence is a frustrating challenge, not a rewarding one". When I first started playing I moved my joystick towards the ghosts when I was trying to capture them, instead of moving it away from them. I felt like capturing ghosts was boring and lame, since I kept failing for some reason. About 30 minutes into the game I realized that I had been doing it wrong all along, and capturing ghosts suddenly got a lot easier and a lot more fun. Maybe she made the same mistake? That's the only way I can justify the sentence above.

Avatar image for 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!!

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for disneyskate

Gaming elitists are so annoying. If every game was hard again like the 80's and 90's, there would be only a hardcore audience. That's completely unfair. You're obviously stuck in this stupid mindset that games are about being challenged. That's not true. Games are about having fun, first and foremost, and just because I don't like a game to be so frustrating I don't want to play it doesn't mean I shouldn't play games. They give me an escape from reality. It's an indulgence, true, but it's fun. Casual gamers have every right to play games. I have played them for all of my life and have never stopped sucking at them. Experience doesn't help. I agree that more companies should try to appeal to a more hardcore audience, but that doesn't mean everyone should.

Avatar image for disneyskate

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for at129907

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

Avatar image for 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

Avatar image for GOGOHeadray

Seems like a low score given the review.

Avatar image for gameroutlawzz

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

Avatar image for 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!

Avatar image for mullenbeast

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Avatar image for Shadowdanc3r

What is that?

Avatar image for Lash540

@Shadowdanc3r Picard face palm.

Avatar image for vampyren

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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

Avatar image for gameroutlawzz

@CleanPlayer TAKE MY MONEY!!!!!!!

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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!

Avatar image for captainwonton

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

Avatar image for objection12

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for ianlone

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for modestmouse44

@12Mario6464SMRB Yes. Exactly. This. I have a buddy who was going on and on about Last of Us, and a few days later mentioned he beat it. Great! Done with that then. The Halo generation could never handle Contra or Ghouls and Ghosts.

Avatar image for 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).

Avatar image for Halloll

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

Avatar image for TheWindWaker333

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

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for 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 .

Avatar image for drekula2


Zombi U , a 9/10? You lose all credibility.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for anthony7648

@AlexF_AT Luigi's Mansion > GS Review of this> Xbox ONE!!

Avatar image for Starsailor_IT

@anthony7648 @AlexF_AT ZombiU didnt deserve a 9.0 but for sure not a 4.5 either.

Avatar image for Ezioprez9709

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

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon More Info

  • First Released Mar 24, 2013
    • 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.
    Average Rating318 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
    Developed by:
    Next Level Games
    Published by:
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Crude Humor, Mild Cartoon Violence