When Luigi’s Mansion was released back in 2001, it was herald of a promise Nintendo made to its fans: starting with the Gamecube, produce small games alongside its ‘big’ franchise releases, acknowledging fan complaints that too few major releases trundle out of the Kyoto giant’s doors per hardware generation.
Since then and with just one sequel in 18 years, a single Kid Icarus release, one each for Pilotwings, F-Zero and Star Fox, no mainline Pikmin since 2013, no Metroid Prime since 2007 and no showing at all for Wave Race… looks like the plan went for a Burton, eh?
With this third iteration of the Luigi’s Mansion franchise, Nintendo have well and truly chucked the ‘bite-sized game’ concept in the bin, and incorporated the adventures of the lesser Mario brother into the main release schedule. At around fourteen hours in length, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an enjoyable but over-long experience, where the nifty puzzles and pleasing ghost capture mechanics jostle constantly up against the ploddy traversal and awkward control scheme.
Much like the original, the game has you wandering around in Luigi’s (quaking) boots, this time investigating shenanigans at a haunted hotel. Your family and friends have all been captured, and it’s up to you and your trusty Poltergust-buster to vacuum up the spooks, the ghouls, the freaks and fools that stand between you and their rescue.
The hotel is spread over 15 floors plus two basement levels, each one stuffed full of rooms, furniture, fixtures, fittings and knick knacks to explore. As with the first game, Luigi’s Mansion 3 feels like a benign version of Resident Evil – moving through a spooky building, solving environmental puzzles and retrieving keys to progress – crossed with the spook-sucking action of the Ghostbusters films.
Our reticent hero has to expose the presence of ethereal enemies using his full spectre-um (groan…) flashlight, which can also stun the unprepared, prior to being sucked-up into Luigi’s Hoover o’ Doom. The wraiths are pretty canny, though, and ‘boss’ enemies in particular will use some nifty tricks to escape capture…
Most of these encounters have the ghosts deploying sunglasses and other objects to block your stun flash, and you have to carefully work out their patterns and the environment to conquer these defences. Combat is, for the most part, more cerebral than it is action-focused and the game struggles most when it requires your avatar to be nimble; Luigi is more lumbering dolt than Usain Bolt.
The left stick moves you around, with the right stick controlling the Poltergust’s nozzle in an independent, pseudo-3D sort of way; movement speed is low and takes time to build. All of the actions at your disposal – suction, blowing, two types of torchlight, plus other skills you acquire later on – have to be deployed against the bosses, and Luigi’s ponderous movements, and the complexity of the tasks required, can make some of the fast-paced boss encounters frustratingly tough.
Another trick you’ll need to conquer this bedeviled B&B is to deploy ‘Gooigi’, your protoplasmic doppelganger. Operating in pretty much the same way as the ‘zapping’ feature in Resident Evil 0, you can create a mirror image of yourself, then switch between the two avatars on the fly. This is essential for puzzles as well as late-game combat and, when the game’s design is at its best, neatly incorporated and adds sophistication.
By the fifteenth floor, I got a little tired of the game if truth be told. Partly it was because although fully two-thirds of the boss encounters are wickedly clever, a third of them expect too much rapid manipulation of the clunky controls and become frustrating. It’s a similar story with the levels, where the majority are good fun but a small number are treacle-slow and repetitive. Dropping these entirely and turning the game into a leaner 8-9 hour experience would have been the smart move here.
I enjoyed my time in the tormented tenement; the silliness means it’s mostly fun, with puzzles on the right side of challenging. Although Luigi’s Mansion is a stunning game to look at, equal to the design of Pixar’s best work at points, and full of lovely bloom and ambient lighting effects, mechanically it can’t quite keep up with its ambitions. Because of this it drops a fair bit short of ‘classic’ status but, though It may not grab you by the ghoulies, Luigi’s Switch escapade should do enough to tickle your spirits.
Review Supplied by @Treble_Alpha