Why Mario's lesser brother may well have the greater game.
There are quite a lot of major, impressive 3DS games on display here at E3. Kid Icarus Uprising is sensational. Mario Kart rocks. The new Super Mario -- totally solid. But I'm stepping up right now to tell you that Luigi's Mansion 2 blows them all away in the area that may just matter most. 3D.
Now, others will have different opinions. You'll read about how the stereoscopic depth brings the landscapes of Kid Icarus to life, or how Mario Kart's tracks have never looked better. And those things are true. But Luigi's Mansion 2, with its slow pace of exploration, its indoor environments and its comparatively intimate focus, draws you into the 3D experience in a way the faster action games just can't hope to achieve. It just looks brilliant. Like staring into a living, breathing diorama where Luigi's tip-toeing around and getting freaking out by spooks at every turn. The architecture of the mansion is wonderfully detailed, with each piece of furniture, each wall-hanging decoration and each wispy, wafting cobweb all helping weave together the incredibly deep experience.
Oh, and the game's pretty fun to play too.
Anyone who's had a turn with the GameCube original Luigi's Mansion will pick up the basic concept here right away, as it's essentially the same design -- Luigi is armed with a combination flashlight/vacuum cleaner and he must first scare the mansion-dwelling ghosts with a blast of light, then suck them up into his Poltergust canister. He also comes across lots of scattered coins and dollar bills to collect along the way, and he has to solve simple puzzles and clear certain rooms entirely of ghosts to earn keys and move forward through locked doors to get deeper into the mansion.
This 3DS sequel adds a few tweaks to the formula, though. Luigi's got a new, electricity-based zap attack that he can trigger when a ghost tries to escape from his vacuum stream -- an A Button icon will flash above his head, and then hitting A with proper timing will send out a yellow bolt of lightning to shock the spook back into submission, defeating their attempt to break away from being sucked up. Then there's simultaneous ghost streaming, which awards you for stunning and then capturing more than one ghost at once. Nintendo's rep in attendance told me they've got the game system supporting as many as three ghosts getting sucked at once right now, and they're pushing for even more in the final product. Four, five, six ghosts at once? Who knows. The 3DS system's built-in gyroscope also comes into play, as tilting your system up, down and side-to-side lets Luigi aim his vacuum and/or flashlight above and below him -- in the demo, extra coins were hiding in the rafters of a room and couldn't be collected without the tilt.
And then there are the new additions that, again, just serve to reinforce this game's great sense of depth -- like turning the flashlight around and pointing it straight out of the screen. At your face. Luigi has no qualms about blinding the player controlling him, and the lighting flare effect that results from trying to flash yourself is a whole lot of fun -- reminiscent of that great first time in Metroid Prime when you saw Samus' eyes reflect against the inside of her visor. Now, Luigi's Mansion 2 isn't going to have the name recognition of Nintendo's other titles. It's probably not going to get as much attention as them, as E3 goes forward. It may not win as many awards. But no matter how anyone else reacts, I'm telling you the truth right here -- Luigi's Mansion 2 is a winner, it's absolutely worth getting hyped for and it's proving that there's more and more potential to tap with the 3DS system's signature stereoscopic screen.