I consider myself to be a huge fan of the platforming genre, from the hammer-dodging, piranha-plant-jumping, side-scrolling days of the original Mario Bros., the hidden secrets of Donkey Kong Country, surrealism of Rayman, and the transition to 3D that for me began with the uncompromisingly difficult Crash Bandicoot before extending into the annoying collect-a-thon hubs of, say, Banjo-Kazooie. But in all my gaming, I keep returning to the sheer perfection of Super Mario World, which dared to not only challenge one’s reflexes but one’s brain: this wasn’t merely about going from the left side of the screen to the right; it was about figuring out how to use enemies and tools to reach otherwise inaccessible secret pipes and alternative exits. It was about finding a key and successfully bringing it to the door that it unlocked. It was about the ghost houses, the glorious puzzle zones that not only expected you to outmaneuver spectral hordes of Boo ghosts, but to outwit them, too. Which is why, perhaps, I have such fond memories of the original 2001 Luigi’s Mansion, which, unlike other Luigi outings like the dismal Mario Is Missing, found a way to mix puzzles and action, as it required players to use the suction (and later elemental) powers of a vacuum cleaner in order to lure out the hiding ghosts, and then to battle them in one-on-one games of tug-of-war. More importantly, it’s why I was so excited to get my hands on Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, a 3DS successor to the original: it’s bigger, better, cleverer, and yet also the victim of some odd design choices.
For one, length isn’t always a blessing. In Luigi’s Mansion, you were limited to exploring one rather large and haunted estate, through which you were given limited direction (a radar) and a minimum of hints. You explored at your leisure, slowly increasing your access through the game’s various locked doors. Continue reading