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Games of 2012: Luigi's Mansion 2

A spooky second helping of ghostbusting fun...

If you think about it, Luigi's Mansion was Nintendo's first real attempt at survival horror. Sure, it was closer to Rent-a-ghost than Ringu - or Resi, for that matter - on the scare scale, but it wasn't afraid to give youngsters the occasional playful jolt, from dark corridors illuminated by sudden flashes of lightning to suits of armour swinging their sharp weapons down as Luigi nervily edged past.

But more than that, it shared the idea of a lone hero, slightly sluggish in movement and armed with a torch and not much else. Indeed, the idea of using torchlight to weaken enemies before destroying them with another weapon was snaffled for Other Formats thriller Alan Wake - although this HD hack proved much less charming than Mr Green 'Stache.

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NEXT DIMENSIONAL
Coincidentally enough, the GameCube original was also a testing ground for 3D effects, though this idea was nixed for obvious technological reasons. Now we've got a console capable of image depth, perhaps a 3DS sequel was more inevitable than we ever realised. It's in pretty safe hands with Next Level Games, who are quietly becoming a very reliable second-party developer.

Sure, Mario Strikers' cheaty AI made Mario Kart's blue shells look positively sportsmanlike, but otherwise it was a solid bit of sporty nonsense enhanced by some terrific tech. The Canadian studio followed that with 2009's Punch-Out!! reboot, a tough-but-fair challenge and a worthy update. Like Little Mac's return, Luigi's Mansion 2 builds well on the ideas of a slight original. With more than one haunted house to explore, perhaps Luigi's Mansions would have been a more appropriate title than just tacking on a '2'.

The structure is a little different. Professor E. Gadd now sends our jittery hero into each house with a variety of short missions to complete, usually involving defeating a certain ghost. There was always a puzzle element to Luigi's encounters, but it's more prominent this time.

Here, ghosts must be stunned with a strobe flash before they can be sucked up, but some spirits wear sunglasses that protect them from the light. Remove the eyewear and they'll struggle to resist the pull of Luigi's modified Poltergust-5000. Again, Next Level's experience with Punch-Out!! should stand them in good stead - each bout was a pugilistic puzzle, and so it's no surprise each ghost has its own tricks and tells.

Uniquely, this is a handheld game that is heftier than its home console predecessor - even though Luigi's Mansion was over in an afternoon, it knew when it was time to quit, to leave the player wanting more. Can its repetitive ghostbusting mechanics sustain a fatter campaign? Punch-Out!! - that game again - proved that Next Level knows how to make a simple idea sing. And if their past work is anything to go by, this creep through the dark won't be a walk in the park.

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DEEP, DEEP DEPTHS
Visually, it offers a very decent impression of the original - think Pollak doing Walken3 - with the 3D depth among the, um, deepest we've seen so far. You'll be waving your hand behind your 3DS, wondering how such long corridors have been crammed into such a small screen.

The lighting in particular is easily a match for the original, and if the cobwebs look a little less stringy, the curtains less billowy, it's still a heck of a looker. There's a particularly delightful effect when Professor E. Gadd sends Luigi into the mansion, the teleportation process turning our hero into a collection of chunky 3D pixels, which then stack up to rebuild him at the other end.

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