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Game Review

You may be cool, collected and wear your little green hat with just the right dash of panache. But if you're the brother of a video game plumber named Mario, well, second fiddle is bound to be your lot in life. On the other hand, if the Goomba-thumping Mario is in need of some rescuing, then there ain't another Italian-accented brother around who can take care of-a business like-a Luigi!

When Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon starts off, we don't yet know that Mario has been locked away in a magical painting somewhere. All we've learned is that Professor E. Gadd was deep in the middle of some spectral studies when things suddenly got a lot more scary and poltergeisty than he had planned.

It turns out that an evil baddie named King Boo sneaked into the ghost-ridden Evershade Valley and broke the cobwebbed community's dark moon into chunks—scattered the pieces in a group of foreboding haunted mansions. Without that moon, all the ghosty inhabitants of the valley went from happy and cheery to howling and eerie.

Luigi the Ghostbuster
Who ya gonna call? Well, Luigi, of course. The kooky prof beams Luigi in with his super-duper Pixelator and equips him with a fancy little backpack vacuum called the PolterGust 5000. So while lightning flashes and bare-limbed trees shake, Luigi heads off into the creaking old houses to find moon chunks, suck up the hundreds of errant shadow-creepers, battle big glowing ghost bosses … and set things right.

What do those "battles" amount to? Nothing too intense or scary. There are glowing-eyed ghosts, bats, frogs and spiders to deal with, though, and even spooky/silly things like a haunted train set and a giant spectrally animated suit of armor. But there's no typical swing-your-sword combat to worry about on your small 3-D screen this time around. Luigi loses life points when he's bonked from time to time. But his "weapon" of choice as he goes about his heroic deeds is merely a flashlight that stuns the shadowy critters long enough for that trusty PolterGust 5000 to suck them up and store them away in a big container the professor whipped up for everyone's safety.

From there, it's simply a case of making your way through the many rooms of the Disneyland-like haunted mansions. Gamers discover bits of treasure and search out all the hidden levers, behind-the-paintings objects and stashed-in-the-potted-plants keys that it takes to solve the environmental puzzles on hand.

Whatcha Say, Luigi?
I've already tried to hint at the (very) low levels of violence found here. And as might be expected with an E-rated game like this, language concerns are nearly nonexistent. A printed out "criminy!" and "blasted!" are the worst words to be found. Luigi himself is happy with his limited vocabulary of little exclamations like "Whoa!" "Nice" and "Ciao!"

Too bad he can't say "midlevel save point," because if you're caught off guard by an unexpected onslaught of baddies, and Luigi is temporarily knocked out cold, you have to go all the way back to the beginning of the level to start over. That may not seem like a big deal, but repeating a half hour of play over and over thanks to a particularly tough boss can leave a frustrated kid (or adult!) gritting his teeth and calling for help.

Still, pretty much the only thing parents will want or need to have a brief chat about when it comes to Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is the already mentioned haunted mansions, ghostly ghoulies and, yes, the magical dark moon. Because in the end, Mario is set free, the cartoony baddies go back to being comical goodies, and the day is saved. Oh, and Luigi at long last gets the slap-on-the-back credit he's been deserving.

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March 24, 2013

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Bob Hoose

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