Do you sometimes long to have the Gamecube back? Those days were the best, the games, emphasis on multiplayer and just overall fun in that lunchbox of a console really was Nintendo all over. Thankfully, this mentality is back, and so is the Luigi’s Mansion series. Now, I haven’t played since that original game released years ago, where I played it basically as a “Resident Evil: Junior”. I’m happy to report, Luigi is back, in a big way, not just a supporting role.
The premise of this latest adventure is Luigi and his friends have been invited to stay at a luxury hotel, ominously called “The Last Resort”. It’s an incredibly charming start to the adventure, especially seeing Toad’s erratic driving like he is behind the wheel of a Ford Focus, not a minibus full of his closest friends. Of course, everything is not what it seems, and the hotel is haunted. Haunted beyond belief, spoilers. Luigi is separated from the group and must save his friends using a plethora of abilities, all of which are given to you within the first couple of hours.
There is some selective voice acting in here, perhaps calling it voice acting is a little generous considering there aren’t too many lines, but it is really cute to hear Luigi tremble as he says “hellooooooo?” when opening a door to a new room. The “Mario” button also returns from the original game, allowing you to call out for your brother at any point in the game, there is no practical function to this, but it is again, charming.
This charm oozes from every pore of Luigi’s Mansion 3, from every stitch that holds the title together. Luigi even has a ghost dog called Polterpup and I love him. Seriously, look at this dude!
It is all so adorable, and hearing Luigi talk gibberish, only to be able to make out “good boy” at the end when talking to him is just brilliant.
It looks anything but scary
This is one of the best looking games on Switch at the moment, in particular when looking at the lighting, it is fantastic. You would expect that with a game that has a combat system centring around using a flashlight, but it really can’t be overstated how great the shadows look as they crawl along the walls of The Last Resort hotel. This is another example of how a great art style trumps graphical fidelity. I don’t care how good the new Assassin’s Creed games look, there is no way they have as much heart as this. Obviously, it is best if these two are married together, but the Switch just isn’t that powerful, and that is fine.
The little touches also add to this personality in spades, the way Gooigi wobbles around as you walk around him, the way Luigi’s hat flutters as you slurp around the environment, the way Luigi’s face animates and his run cycle constantly changes depending on the situation. I’m going to say it again, it is charming as hell. I would love to see this in a full animated movie, at times, that is what this truly feels like, maybe if Lumination get the rights to more Nintendo stuff, that could possibly come to pass.
Tools for survival
The set-up of the abilities is done very early on, meaning that if you can’t complete a puzzle or find an item, it is on you. This makes it even more tempting to stick around each of the wonderfully themed hotel floors and scour every nook and cranny for goodies, knowing that you definitely have everything at your disposal needed to obtain everything. This is a design decision Nintendo seem to be adopting more often considering the success of Breath of the Wild. Give fewer items and abilities with more applications, it provides a far more rewarding experience than being unsure if you even have what is needed to progress. This usually stops the hunt for collectibles until the post-game, however, as I mentioned, Luigi’s Mansion nails this.
Your basic repertoire of abilities spans from your Poltergust (the backpack mounted Henry hoover), armed with this you can suck up any loose change around the hotel and those pesky ghosts. You also have access to two different types of flashlight, one light, one black. Lastly, you can summon Gooigi, a jelly embodiment of all Luigi’s past mistakes and deepest regrets. I’ll get onto him more later, but this is the crux of the co-op gameplay.
There is one ability given to you later in the adventure, but from what I can see it is only used once, in a single room, so don’t worry about it.
Brick by spectral brick
The setting of the hotel allows for such a wide variety of levels throughout the 12-15 hour campaign. You can go from being in a plant infested tower to fighting skeletal dinosaurs within just a couple of hours. Each floor has its own specific theme and set of gimmicks, meaning that they never outstay their welcome and keep the whole thing feeling fresh, even when the core of the gameplay remains consistent.
There are however, two instances of clear padding in the game, with forced backtracking, which feels slow. Leading to multiple repeated boss fights, I don’t mind my game being 45 minutes shorter if it means I get to have more fun with it. One of the main joys of this campaign is the constant forward momentum and exploring new floors, forcing you to go back, slowly, seems like it turns Luigi’s Mansion 3 on its head, and not in a good way.
The puzzles and combat are both fun, however, the battles with the regular ghosts are more of a power trip than the tug of war I remember from the Gamecube days. Now Luigi can slam ghosts after a few seconds which deals massive damage to surrounding ghosts and scenery, it looks spectacular. However, it does make regular encounters a little trivial. This is helped by the ghosts dressing to match the theme of the floor, wearing glasses, holding shields, etc. This helps keep it a little more interesting, however, it’s all about; suck, slam, repeat. There is also a bit of ludonarrative dissonance here, with Luigi being terrified of the ghosts when they approach, only for the dragon within to be awoken and crush them in seconds.
Don’t worry though, these simpler combat encounters are more than made up for with the bosses.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
The bosses are so much fun to encounter, featuring mostly easy to read movements and fun gimmicks. Some of the bosses cross the line between tricky and frustrating however, for me at least. But considering there are well over 15 in here, you are more than likely due a few duds. As with the floors themselves, the bosses all carry their respective themes, whether it is a spectral security guard watching over his mall, or a mechanic who uses his own plumbing against you, or even some other mad stuff which I won’t I don’t want to spoil here. The point is, they’re all at least visually interesting and serve as a nice punctuation point at the end of each level. This also helps the pacing of the game, with each level building to the boss encounter, having a fun fight, then having access to the next level, just teasing you to go around that loop once more.
Of course, there are some less-interesting bosses amongst the usually stellar line-up. One of these in particular relies heavily on luck to work out whether you can win or not, it is a 1/3 chance so not the end of the world, but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. This is just bad design, and I feel like a total stiff for writing that.
The puzzles don’t suck
With a mechanic such as the Poltergust, it would be easy for these puzzles to be nothing more than “find the hidden object by sucking up everything in the room”. Thankfully, Nintendo were not this lazy. The puzzles, both mandatory and optional followed a near-perfect difficulty curve, becoming more complex as you ascend the hotel. It also does a fantastic job of teasing you with gems and collectibles just out of reach. These are placed in such a way that you can still be seen through some clever camera work and cracks that Luigi can peak through. All of this leads to many “ahaaaa” moments as you uncover the many hidden doors, traps and hatches, making this hotel feel real and lived in.
To me, to goo, to me, to goo
I played the whole game in co-op which becomes available an hour or so into the game when you can use Gooigi. The whole game works in either single player or in co-op, but playing with a friend is always more fun, no matter the game, except maybe Portal. Bustin’ up the hotel with a partner is a lot of fun and initially I was sceptical as to how much Nintendo would commit to the multiplayer campaign, but it turns out they did, entirely. It was also a worry of mine that the second player wouldn’t be deemed as important as OG Luigi, this was also quickly dispelled. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, and not one really feels more important than the other, discounting the fact only Luigi can open doors to new areas. This two-sided style of play and puzzle solving meant that both myself and my partner were essential to besting the dastardly ghouls running rampant around the halls. The controls can be a little finnicky given the smaller Switch Joycons, but if you have an extra pad, you should have no trouble at all. (Don’t use your Gamecube pad though, it is missing a ZL button, which is essential to completing some puzzles).
Imprecise controls are the scariest thing about this game
As previously mentioned, Luigi has a ton of moves and abilities at his disposal, despite being the brother of Mario however, jumping is not one of them. Some of these require you to shoot sucked up objects at specific things in the map, it is in these moments where the fixed camera perspective begins to haunt the gameplay. This is rarely an issue when exploring the hotel, you can leisurely move at your own pace, probing each vase or candelabra if you wish. However, when you are in a high-pressure boss situation, with a backpack full of screaming bombs and you have to shoot something very specific, the imprecision of these controls really comes through. It is a shame, and certainly not something which will dampen the experience for you, there is far too much charm here to be spooked so easily.
Overall, it is the scream of the crop
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a fantastic addition to any Switch owner’s collection. The co-op is surprisingly robust, the adventure is varied, lengthy and most of all, fun. It is so great to feel like it is 2004 again, with Luigi back in the saddle, busting ghosts and proving once again than he is more than capable of stepping out of his brother’s shadow. I just hope we don’t have to wait this long again for a Luigi’s Mansion 4. Also, where is my Polterpup plushie?
*Edit: Polterpup plushies do exist, they are not as cute as I’d hoped.