Luigi would make a great addition to the Ghostbusters team.
Sure, he gets scared at the slightest sounds and panics before being sent on another ghost-hunting mission against his will, but he's dedicated to the task at hand. In "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" for the 3DS -- the sequel to the charming GameCube launch title -- you'll help Mario's brother bust hundreds of ghosts who have gone crazy after the Dark Moon mysteriously shatters. The goofy Professor E. Gadd helps Luigi track down the pieces in the safety of his own bunker.
Luigi's weapon of choice is the trusty Poltergust 5000, an upgrade from the 3000 model. Along with a flashlight, you'll be doing a lot of supercharged flash shots to stun ghosts, followed by sucking them up with the vacuum. Pulling back on the circle pad during the struggle to capture them will charge up a meter to catch them faster.
Ghosts come in all sizes, with most of the variety coming from green ones that equip items, making them harder to catch. Skinny blue ones hide in cabinets and desks while big yellow ones spit muck at you. Each level features a hidden Boo that can be caught using the black-light accessory.
Each of the five locations you'll explore are filled with secrets that'll have you vacuuming everything in sight. Currency is hidden everywhere from holes in the walls to inside invisible treasure chests. Collectors will enjoy searching every nook and cranny for colorful gems, and using the Poltergust to suck up drapes, clothes and rugs has its charm. The controls take a little to get used to. You can use the 3DS' gyroscope function to look up and down, but I found using the face buttons much easier.
The five locations are separated into different missions, so once you complete one E. Gadd will transport you out. This results in walking through the same areas. Missions become a little repetitive later in the game, like having to chase a ghost dog around or escorting Toads back to the bunker. Some feel forced, though, like when Luigi finally tracks down an item to advance the story, but the ghost dog appears out of nowhere to steal it. You can look at it as a ploy to extend gameplay or Luigi is the kind of person to have such dumb luck.
Each mission takes around 20 to 30 minutes to complete, depending on how much you love exploring. I clocked in just under 14 hours to finish the story, which included lots of hunting for collectible gems and hidden Boos. Unfortunately, the game lacks checkpoints, so once you start a mission you have to finish it to save your data. Mission rankings and stats encourage replayability. The main campaign isn't hard, but the difficulty ramps up during the last several missions to the point of frustration. The boss fights really stand out and are the strongest part of the game.
The ScareScraper, aka online multiplayer, includes modes like Hunter, where up to four players team up to capture ghosts, and Polterpup, where players must track down and capture those cute ghost dogs. While not too in depth, they are a nice distraction.
The graphics in "Dark Moon" look great, and the 3D effect (if you're into using it) looks cool in certain spots. The eerie music sets the scene wonderfully, so much that even Luigi will start humming to it. Character animations are another strong point. Spying on ghosts is funny, seeing them doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Luigi has variety of spooked-out reactions that flow in well with the gameplay.
While there are numerous Nintendo games out there with Mario in the starring role, it's nice to see Luigi enter the spotlight -- even if it results in us taking joy in his torment. "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" is a worthy addition to anyone's 3DS collection.
3 stars out of 4
A downloadable code for "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" was supplied by Nintendo for this review.
Jeff Hoard writes about video games for The Oakland Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHoard921. His blog is www.yay4videogames.blogspot.com.