Luigi's Mansion 2 Review: Is 2013 Really The Year Of Luigi?

Ah Luigi, you poor, terrified B-list video game icon. How we love you - and how we pity you.

Mario's taller, thinner, more cowardly brother has had a relatively rough ride over the years.

Initially little more than a palette swap for his older twin (see below), he has since been variously risen up - but more usually cast down into the depths - like a lime-green emergent service worker in constant thrall to Mario's elite-status ego.

For where Mario's name has appeared in almost every game starring the two plumbers since time began, Luigi's moments in the spotlight have been brief, and uneven.

First there was Mario Is Missing, a 1991 geography-based game in which Luigi took a starring turn - but in a dreaded 'educational' setting. For a generation or more his name was enshrined in connection to that terrible thing: the video game designed to teach you something.

Above: Mario and Luigi weren't so different in the beginning...

Indeed, it wasn't until Luigi's Mansion for the Nintendo GameCube that the green brother took a true step up to the big time. And even then, while the game was an entertaining puzzler and a clever, if short, take on cartoon haunted mansions, Luigi himself didn't come across all that well.

For as he crept through that mansion, carefully sucking up ghosts with a Hoover, it was impossible not to imagine how Mario would deal with the same situation - a quick jump on the poltergeist's head, swallowing a few mushrooms and launching out of the window onto a suspended flag pole. Job done.

The result? While the title was warmly received, it ensured that Luigi would forever more not only be a second-rate Nintendo icon, he would also be a coward.

But that might be over. For not only has Nintendo just released the excellent Luigi's Mansion 2 it has also named 2013 "the year of Luigi", with more titles set to follow including "New Super Luigi U" DLC for the well-received Mario launch platformer.

So will 2013 really be the year that Luigi steps out of Mario's shadow, and stands side-by-side his brother as a true Nintendo A-lister?

On the evidence of Luigi's Mansion 2, it might.

Like the first game, Nintendo has come up with a hugely enjoyable and thoughtful puzzle-platformer in Luigi's Mansion 2, which extends many of the best ideas from the original - and crucially makes the whole game a lot longer, and more challenging.

The goal, as before, is to creep through various mansions (more than one this time), looking for clues to solve various puzzles and reconstruct the 'Dark Moon' to return sanity (although not life, oddly) to the ghosts inhabiting the estate.

A lot of thought and time has gone into making each puzzle unique and unexpected, and while the game occasionally signposts the solution a little to clearly, it's a taxing experience overall.

In addition, the whole experience is lovingly made to a Disney standard, with wonderfully animated ghosts, rippling environments and a stunning use of the 3DS's third dimension. Controls are intuitive, and the puzzles and combat are fun without being too easy for experienced gamers. The tone is also spot on - creepy in a Scooby Doo sort of way, and never scary for young gamers.

Multiplayer also plays a part, with timed-exploration the focus for up to four players either online or locally. And while those modes aren't as polished as the single-player campaign, they are welcome and a unique take on similar ideas.

So what does the future hold for Luigi?

As for Luigi's future games, we'll have to wait and see - though more of the brilliant New Super Mario U in his upcoming DLC can only be a good thing. We'll also get to play Fore!, a new Luigi-themed golf game.

But perhaps the true moment of glory for Luigi is still to come, in the recently announced Mario & Luigi: Dream Team.

This new instalment in the RPG series not only stars Luigi - and has his name in the title - but actually takes place inside Luigi's sleeping brain where, instead of a scaredy-cat, he is instead a "powerful, brave hero".

Finally, we might get to see a Luigi who isn't a coward but a match for his alpha male brother.

And if we do? Well that would truly make it the year of Luigi after all.