Release date: March 24 (North America), March 28 (Europe)
Available on: 3DS
Developer: Next Level Games
Like Luigi himself, GameCube launch title Luigi's Mansion is a bit of a fan-favourite. Carefully searching through a haunted mansion and sucking up ghosts with a vacuum-cleaner was a huge departure from Mario's crowd-pleasing adventures, and while its short length didn't do it any favours with early adopters, over time it's been recognised as a Nintendo cult classic.
Moving away from a single mansion to several thematically-unique ones in this 3DS sequel gives the initial worry that Luigi's Mansion 2 might have lost the original's trademark of slowly rummaging through rooms at the expense of making a less-dense but longer adventure.
But thankfully that's far from the case. Practically every room in this expansive follow-up feels lovingly handcrafted and crammed full of things to tinker with, filled with playful animations and spoils to discover.
Rolling up carpets or rotating ceiling fans rewards you with coins or door keys, but even just pointing your hoover-like ghost catcher at walls sees doors shudder on their hinges, clock hands whir round and curtains flutter, making the world feel reactive and alive.
The room-by-room navigation and the device's 3D effect gives the feeling of playing with a diorama; a little toy box that begs you to play with everything.
Combined with a delightful suite of sound effects and carefully-implemented lighting that gives a dark edge to Nintendo's trademark art style, rummaging through cupboards and drawers never grows old.
- Practically every room in this expansive follow-up feels lovingly handcrafted and crammed full of things to tinker with, filled with playful animations and spoils to discover.
At times it verges on Metroidvania, with elements of gear gating and objectives that simply inform you of the destination, letting you find the route and the keys - often via cleverly hidden routes - yourself.
But objectives play out in individual acts, and once you've found the part you need, it yanks you out of the world to an obtrusive high score and ranking screen, before plunging you back in again.
While it's initially jarring and interruptive - especially in its opening stages where it stops you every few minutes to teach you the basics - it allows the adventure to drop you into different parts of the mansion without the need for laborious backtracking.
Compared to the original, combat feels a lot more simplified. Here, after surprising a ghost with a flashlight, you attempt to suck it in while tugging the Circle Pad in the opposite direction to whittle down its resistance.
As each one takes just seconds to capture, each burst of combat is a quick but exhilarating experience that breaks up exploration.
While capturing is straightforward, the challenge comes in what you do before you engage ghosts. While some require you to remove sunglasses or piece of armour before hand, the most interesting scenarios simply pit you against multiple ghosts.
Since the more you capture in a single attempt, the more cash bonuses you receive - which help towards more powerful upgrades to your flashlight and ghost catcher - there's always the incentive to push that little bit harder, challenging yourself to get two, three or four ghosts in one go.
While combat is less complicated but wholly enjoyable, the game's real priority lies in exploration and puzzles.
There's a flair of Mario inventiveness to Luigi's Mansion 2, with the campaign rarely repeating its tricks, and constantly forcing you to approach existing mechanics or tools in its many puzzle rooms from a new angle.
A small but particularly treasured thing is that solutions to puzzles aren't always immediate. While lesser games drop heavy hints of what to do, Luigi's Mansion 2 insists you experiment with your toolset - from the hidden-object finding dark light to flashing your light on suspicious objects - until you figure it out. And when you do, it's incredibly rewarding.
Its constant surprises and puzzle ideas makes a deceptively long game superbly paced. Hidden collectables and bonus Boo encounters are deviously tucked away for those that want to find them, but can turn the pleasurable exploration into a bit of a pixel hunt to find the last secrets.
While the campaign's exploration is taxing but ultimately fairly subdued in pace, multiplayer feels far more frantic and combat-orientated.
- While combat is less complicated but wholly enjoyable, the game's real priority lies in exploration and puzzles.
While we preferred taking our time exploring the campaign's mansions to quickly running between randomly-generated rooms, there's a real and unique challenge here compared to what you see in the single player.
Perhaps our only real complaint with Luigi's Mansion 2 is the controls. Pointing up and down are logically mapped to the top and bottom face buttons, but when you need to use the dark light - positioned on another face button - then you have to awkwardly spread your thumb to press them both together
You soon realise that tilting the handheld gives the same result, so it's a quirk that occasionally catches you out but rarely hinders play.
Luigi's Mansion 2 is the perfect start to Nintendo's Year of the Luigi, and alongside the excellent, five star-rated Fire Emblem: Awakening out next month and the likes of Pokemon X and Y and Animal Crossing: New Leaf to come later this year, it also marks an incredibly promising 2013 for the 3DS.
While the system has been blessed with multiple must-have Mario adventures, it's a delight to say there's now an essential one from his often overlooked sibling too.