Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)

8 Overall Score

Stunning visuals / continuously engaging gameplay / fun multiplayer

No in-level checkpoints / multiplayer ideally balanced for four players

luigi2With Nintendo proclaiming 2013 to be the “Year of Luigi”, there’s been no shortage of Luigi-themed games coming down the line—and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is just one of these many projects. The game was developed as a 3DS title to follow up the original GameCube classic of Luigi’s Mansion (arguably Luigi’s definitive title until this year).

What’s the end result of a handheld game sequel to a console classic? Fun, silliness, and a whole lot more.

For this review, we’re actually going to do things a little differently. Because two of your Nintendo Fire writers played this game recently and enjoyed it, we’re going to both present our thoughts on the game. Why? Maybe the biggest reason is that our gameplay styles—and game preferences—occasionally differ in significant ways, and I think this was somewhat apparent when it game to initial impressions and approaches to the game.

Micah’s Thoughts:

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is another in a line of Nintendo products that do a lot with not much. The things that Luigi has in his ghost-busting arsenal are a darklight flashlight and a vacuum. That’s it. Yet through the five worlds you’re not left bored by doing the same things in the same ways over and over again.

Nintendo developers appear to be masters at giving you a couple tools and then finding every possible way to use them. That flashlight when used as a ‘darklight’ will cause hidden objects or doors to phase into existence, releasing balls of, well, something to catch. When you’ve done that, yet another thing to look at, door to go through or treasure to suck up will pop into existance. You’re given the new light early in the game, and I was continuously amazed at the number of hidden and tricky items in every stage. To find all of the money and gems in the game will require an incredibly dedicated player with more than a few creative uses of your tools. Often I noticed something in the corner of a room or out of the way and thought ‘What if I did this?’, not thinking that what I was trying would be possible. Often enough it was, and a bright shiny gem was my reward.

The game makes you keep thinking about what you’re doing so you’re never on auto-pilot, getting bored flashing rooms and sucking up ghosts. Which now that I wrote that sentence, doesn’t seem like something that would quickly get boring. It doesn’t.

Game mechanics are something that I love to play around with, and the game gives you more in the multiplayer. It’s balanced for a full team of four players though, and asks you if you’re really sure you want to continue with any less than that. Be sure you’re playing with some experienced catchers if you take on ‘hard’ though, I wasn’t and it ended poorly for our lowly Luigis. The co-op with scoring is a great way to do things, as you need to work together to beat the floors and continue on up the ‘Scarescraper’, but after every floor you know who’s in the lead.

Maybe it’s me, but knowing I’m contributing the most gives my smile just a bit of extra curl at the edges. Though there are only three game types, it will give your group a decent amount of extra ghost busting content. My major problem with it, was that I wanted more. As much fun as the single player was, the multiplayer really opened up the game. The action was less suspenseful and scary, more frantic and goofy. And when you’re playing with friends, that’s where the fun is.



Faith’s Thoughts:

It’s clear that a lot went into the development of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. The game is visually stunning—one of the best looking games I’ve seen to date on the system. It’s worth playing with the 3D on, even if you don’t usually go that route. The rooms are highly detailed, full of plays on light and shadow, and the physics actually make sense. And the animation? Fantastic!

The plot is simple, but we’re not playing this game for storytelling, right? Basically, Professor E. Gadd has “volun-told” Luigi that he’s in charge of ridding various mansions and areas of spooky ghosts. Naturally, Luigi is terrified… but the intriguing part of this is that it means Luigi gets to showcase a lot of emotion that his brother doesn’t typically have the opportunity for.

The single-player game is fun, but challenging. The “levels” are divided into stages inside of various haunted locations, and while I’ve heard numbers thrown around like “ten to fifteen minute levels”, personally, I found each level to take around forty-five minutes.

The 3DS’s second screen displays a map for each level, where you’re able to see which areas of the house or location are open to Luigi and which are still locked. As a result, it’s almost impossible to get lost or to stand around wondering where to go next. If the next area isn’t open, it means you’ve missed something and need to go back.

While each area presents new challenges—and different ghosts are easier or harder to vacuum up, or require a different strategy—perhaps the most frustrating thing for me was the lack of save locations. While Luigi has a good amount of health to start with, I misunderstood how to use the vacuum at the beginning of the game, and found myself replaying the same level over and over. From the beginning. Because there aren’t check points or save points throughout the level, if Luigi dies, you return to the start of the level. Even if you’re almost at the boss. Even if you’re fighting the boss!

This can be frustrating for the casual player with limited play time. As someone who tries to maximize their game time, to play the same area over and over until I figure it out is actually a detrimental experience that takes away from the game’s enjoyment. That said, most players are probably not going to spend 45 minutes on a level (what can I say, I like to vacuum *everything* in case there are coins!), so it may not present as much of a challenge for faster players.

That said, while there aren’t many tool to work with inside the game itself, the game never gets boring because the challenges do keep on coming. For an even greater challenge—and more fun—the multiplayer aspect presents a few new game modes. The suspense of the single-player gives way to a silly, competitive feeling, though as a less experienced player I found it quite challenging. I tend to move around slooooowly with Luigi in single-player… running around quickly in multiplayer was a different take on things, but it provided plenty of laughs, fist-shaking, and overall entertainment.


Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is so visually stunning, and so much fun, that it should perhaps be considered one of the best titles for the 3DS this year. With only minor details that could be improved—such as a feature that pulls you out of gameplay too often to tell you what you should be doing even though you’re probably already doing it—the game certainly elevates the “other Mario brother” to hero status, and presents us with a well-rounded, emotive character who holds his own.

The gameplay in bother single-player and multi-player is worth the time spent, and while in-level save points would be a huge help for less experienced (or more careful, time-spendy) players, the enjoyment factor of the game overall helps to lessen the aggravation of potential replayed levels.

And while both Faith and Micah disagreed on the game’s final score by just one point, in the end we did have to factor in this title’s reliance on the original game. But only slightly.

That said, our only question at this point is… how come we don’t have a version to play on the Wii U?


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Author: Faith View all posts by
Faith likes games and books and cake and writing and Lara Croft, not necessarily in that order. She also thinks a Skylanders cartoon show is a really, REALLY good idea...

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