The paranormal puzzle-fest Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon came out yesterday for the 3DS. Patricia gave the game a good review, and I've spent the past couple of weeks playing it as well. Now that it's out in the wild, I thought I'd gather some tips for those who are just starting out.

Here are some tips to help get you started in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.

Play with the 3D turned up.

You may not love the 3DS' 3D—I don't, and usually leave it off, especially when I'm playing on the go. But Dark Moon demonstrates once again that Nintendo (unsurprisingly) has the firmest grasp of their technology, and the game looks lovely in 3D. The 3D effect works similarly to Super Mario 3D Land, in that it gives the cartoonish characters real depth, and the fixed camera makes you feel like you're peering into a particularly cool dollhouse. The 3D may still not be your thing, but it's worth giving it a shot.

Look for blank walls and empty corners.

The mansions in Dark Moon are covered with hidden treasure, secret rooms, collectible gems, rare ghosts and other secrets. Your dark-light flashlight is the key to finding all of them. At first, it'll be easy to forget that you've got the dark-light, and you'll get stumped by a puzzle before finally remembering that, oh yeah, maybe the door you're looking for is currently invisible. As you play, you'll develop a sort of sixth sense for where hidden furniture might be, but it's good to start honing that instinct early. In part, that's because you'll want to...

Find all the Boos on your first pass.

Every level in Dark Moon contains a hidden Boo (white, classic Mario ghost) who can only be found by using the dark-light. Sometimes, the Boo will be right in your path and impossible to miss, but other times, the Boo will be very well hidden. Each mansion has a bonus level that unlocks once you've caught all the Boos in that mansion. It's a neat bonus idea, but very difficult to unlock—in part because if you miss the Boo in a level, you have to play the entire thing over again. I haven't managed to unlock any of the bonus levels, but I now make it a point to catch the Boo on my first time through, to save myself the trouble of replaying levels.


Don't vacuum the animals!

The mansions in Dark Moon are infested with all manner of vermin, from mice to spiders to bats to birds to little weird winged things that don't seem to have a parallel in the animal kingdom. You can vacuum each of these critters up, and each time you do, they'll get sucked into your vacuum with a satisfying pomp! However, if you zap animals with your flashlight, they'll explode into coins—if you vacuum them, you won't get anything. And if you zap a gold creature, you'll get a whole gold bar. This can really add up over the course of the game, and I shudder to think of the number of creatures I vacuumed in the early goings before I figured this out.


Think outside the room you're in.

Early in the game, you'll probably get stumped at one or two of the locked-room puzzles. Without giving away any solutions, my advice is to keep the house's layout in mind, and remember that the entrance to one room might lie in the room that's above or beside it. You might enter Dark Moon expecting an action game and be surprised to find that more than half the time, it's basically a point-and-click adventure game. It also doesn't hold your hand through the puzzles, and requires you to pay attention to your surroundings and experiment to proceed. I loved this aspect of the game, though I have gotten stuck a few times. Another thing that'll help you get past most problems...

Suck everything.

Just like in real life, almost everything in the environment in Dark Moon can be vacuumed. Often, the solution to a puzzle or location of a hidden treasure-trove can be found simply by sucking, pulling, and cleaning everything in a room. It's also just a lot of fun to blast Luigi's vacuum cleaner all over the room and watch how each object shimmies and shakes.


It's okay to dance to the music.

In Dark Moon, Professor E. Gadd gives Luigi a Nintendo DS to use as a map/communications device. Every time Gadd calls Luigi, this music plays:


While the interruptions might be a bit annoying, at least the music is good. In fact, I've begun to think of it as one of the best video game ringtones I've ever heard… so much so that I went ahead and made it the actual ringtone on my phone. Now, when people call me, I kind of just hang out and listen. Sort of like I do in the game.

Try to charge up your vacuum before zapping a ghost.

Ghostbusting in Luigi's Mansion is a lot like fishing—you stun a ghost, then "hook" it with your Poltergust 5000 ghost-vacuum, then pull against the ghost to weaken it before pulling it in. (It's enough to make me wonder why Egon never figured out how to put a trap in the actual proton pack—that would've made things so much easier! If less cool.) As you pull on an escaping ghost, your vacuum's power-meter charges up, and once it hits a certain point you can hit A and "zap" the ghost.


As you unlock upgrades for your vacuum, your power-meter will get longer, and your zaps will get stronger. It's always a good idea to charge the power-meter as far as possible before zapping the ghost, because doing so will get you more gold. For example: If you bust a ghost without zapping it, you'll get nothing. Zap it from the first phase of the power-bar and you'll get three gold coins. Zap it from the second phase and you'll get a gold bar. Charge your full-powered vacuum to the third phase and you'll get a few gold bars. It's worth taking the time to charge up, but remember to keep an eye on the ghost's health number—if that hits zero while you're wrangling it, Luigi will suck the ghost up and you won't get any gold.

Play multiplayer locally, if possible, and with four people.

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon has some really fun multiplayer. Stephen and I started a demo session and wound up playing for a couple of hours straight, we were having such a good time. That said, the multiplayer challenges are much more doable with three or four people, particularly the time-attack race mode.


Furthermore, we talked on the phone while we played, and when Stephen, Patricia and I played, we did the same. The multiplayer is much more manageable if you're able to talk to the other players. That makes me think that the game would be even more fun if you played it locally with three friends. Four people, four 3DSes, some pizza and some beer, and you've got a recipe for a hell of a fun night. I just tested this theory out yesterday, playing a local game via download-play, and I can confirm that local play is the way to go.

Familiarize yourself with the multiplayer rules on your own.

You can tackle Dark Moon's multiplayer levels solo, and while they get much too difficult for a single player to effectively manage, solo play can be a good way to learn the rules of multiplayer so that you and your friends don't waste any time once you get going. (Multiplayer is pretty unforgiving, and it can be a bummer to have to totally restart a run because you didn't understand some crucial trick.) There are a lot of ins and outs to learn—how the post-level coin-scramble works, the fact that cupboards teleport you from one to the other, how to read the map, what happens if you get cursed, etc.


Prep work can also be good because in my opinion, it's worth it to...

Try multiplayer on hard difficulty.

If you've played a lot of the single-player game, it's definitely worth experimenting with the difficulty levels in multiplayer. On hard difficulty, you'll get to fight a lot more ghosts a lot earlier, and if you've been playing the single-player game, you'll probably be ready for the added challenge. The hard difficulty setting can really live up to its name, but it's also a lot of chaotic fun.


Look up.

Almost every room in Dark Moon has some sort of hidden treasure, and a lot of times that treasure can be found simply by looking up. It's a lesson that the game teaches in the very first room, but it can still be easy to forget. Aim your Poltergust to the ceiling and see what happens—sometimes you'll pull coins from the rafters, but other times you'll trigger a secret doorway and locate a much better prize.


Don't think too hard about how it's not actually Luigi's mansion.

Patricia pointed out last week that when you think about it, the title of this game doesn't make any sense. After all, none of these mansions belong to Luigi. But that's okay. Don't overthink it.

Take your time.

When I started Dark Moon, I was concerned that the game might be too short. Now that I'm about eight hours in and have only just finished the third mansion, that fear has been put to rest. This is a big, generous game, and one that lends itself to a leisurely playthrough. I've found that Dark Moon makes for an excellent "companion game" to the other stuff I've been playing on my TV, and have been really enjoying playing it in 20-minute chunks. So, don't feel compelled to rush through the whole thing; this is a game that rewards methodical investigation and careful examination.


So, there you have 'em—our tips for Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. Grab your Poltergust and get bustin'. "Back off, man, I'm a plumber."