Luigi's Mansion 2 E3 2011 Hands-On Preview -- Ghost Hunting Crosses Into a New DimensionBy Matt Cabral - Posted Jun 17, 2011
Released alongside the GameCube in 2001, Luigi’s Mansion was unprecedented in that it was a Nintendo console launch title starring the “other” brother. It wasn’t exactly the Mario-like system-seller the big N had hoped for, but its undeniable charm and addictive ghost-busting gameplay gained it a cult following over the years. Those who’ve come to appreciate Mario’s sibling’s starring turn got a nice surprise last week with the no-one-saw-it-coming reveal of Luigi’s Mansion 2 for the 3DS.
As a longtime fan of the original, I happily bypassed the lengthy E3 lines snaking from more spotlight-stealing titles Super Mario 3D and Starfox 3D to get my mitts on Luigi’s latest specter-slaying romp. The brief demo featured a haunted mansion, not unlike the one from the original title, and a quaking-in-his-overalls Luigi. While the setting and sights were certainly familiar, the sequel’s been spruced up significantly over its decade-old predecessor. Buoyed by detail-drenched environments--including one that could be mistaken for Disneyland‘s Haunted Mansion dining room--nuanced character animations, and an appropriately spooky vibe, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is easily one of the best looking titles to grace the 3DS’s dual displays thus far.
While it sports an almost Pixar-like presentation in 2D, it also utilizes the much-buzzed about third dimension to an effect that‘s more game-changing than gimmicky. This was especially apparent when Luigi was exploring the haunted house’s many stretching hallways; the impressive sense of distance and depth from one corridor end to the other had me cranking the 3D slider to its limits. This was definitely the coolest trick on display, but other elements--winding staircases, sword-swinging suits of armor, smart placement of foreground and background items--also had me marveling at the added dimension. When coupled with some slick effects, such as lightening flashes briefly illuminating darkened rooms, Luigi’s Mansion 2 makes a legitimate case for the 3DS’s console-rivaling visual quality.
Almost as impressive as the engaging presentation, was the game’s solid controls. Like its predecessor, the sequel sees Luigi stunning ghosts with a bright light, then sucking them up with his Proton Pack-like vacuum cleaner, dubbed the Poltergust 5000. The system’s shoulder buttons control the deadly Dustbutser, with the right trigger sucking and the left blowing. Some minor tweaks, such as a button prompt encouraging quicker capture and the light working more like a flashbang than traditional beam, refine the classic controls while also tailoring them to the 3DS. The single analog pad means you can’t move Luigi and the vacuum independently, but this didn’t seem to detract from the intuitiveness during my brief time at the controls.
In fact, there’s actually a satisfying bit of back-and-forth tension that plays out when trying to reel in a resistant ghost; watching the spooky suckers’ health counters tick away, while attempting to tame them provides a surprising thrill. You can immerse yourself further in the ghost-wrangling by following the action with gyroscope functionality, but as other stomach-sickening titles have taught us, this probably isn’t optimal if playing in 3D. As far as touch-screen functionality, I’m sure they’re still being tweaked, but the current map and HUD layout on the lower screen seems like an ideal fit.
My demo packed in a few different paranormal menaces, including low level green spooks, slightly bigger red specters, and a bookworm boss baddie that required a bit more strategy to take down. These transparent haunts, as well as a dining room-dwelling poltergeist that donned protective pots and pans, hinted at the variety of scares Luigi will encounter on his goose pimple-inducing quest. When not thwarting beyond-the-grave threats, players can search their surroundings for collectibles, such as coins and greenbacks, hunt for keys, and suck up wallpaper, drapes, sheets, and other fabric-y materials (a super cool effect, by the way) with their pimped Dirt Devil. Nintendo’s also promising plenty of puzzle-solving gameplay and multiple mansions to explore in the final version.
The power of Nintendo’s new portable, combined with Punch-Out!! developer Next Level Games’ proven pedigree, could see Luigi finally earning the respect that escaped him the first time around. While I only got a teasing taste of its potential, the nostalgic vibe--Professor E. Gadd is back!--intuitive controls, eye-popping visuals and, of course, the irresistible charm that seems to follow the Mario Bros. everywhere, has me eager to battle more “boo”-ing bad guys. I look forward to wielding the Poltergust 5000 again when Luigi’s Mansion 2 arrives like a bump in the night next year.