You’ve got to feel for Luigi, he really is in the shadow of his famous brother, the natural born leader. It’s a stark reminder every time our nervous, all-too-often sidekick calls into the darkness, gently pleading for help and direction. Mario’s shadow looms large…
In the mansion series however, the skinny, tall and quiet plumber gets his chance to shine and honestly, you couldn’t imagine Mario in this leading role. He’s simply too full of himself for an adventure like this.
So once again, we embody the quaking green boots of our favourite Italian sissy. This world would barely spook a snowflake six-year-old, but through Luigi’s innocent dread lies a sweet charm that encapsulates the feel of the game – a Scooby Doo style adventure, wholly Nintendo appropriate.
This time the “mansion” isn’t a large haunted house but hotel and, as you progress up it’s floors, becomes so in name only – as the levels take on a scale and complexity that makes them far more akin to the free form creativity that defines differing ‘worlds’ in your average Super Mario title.
Starting off though, we are introduced to a fairly typical scenario. The usual gang, (the plumbers, Peach and a couple of Toads) turn up at what seems to be a rather elegant country resort in a classic Art Deco style that would be familiar to anyone who’s visited the Hollywood Tower of Terror at Disneyland. Thinking they’ve been invited as honoured guests to enjoy the rich surroundings the charm soon turns dark and before we know it, all but Luigi have been mysteriously kidnapped by a gang of ghosts, led by a maniacal mistress with a fabulous 60s beehive.
Armed only with a vacuum-cleaner-cum-ghost-catcher strapped to his back, Luigi must once again make his way from floor to floor, tentatively searching for his lost friends – who have been creepily frozen in enchanted picture frames.
every floor brings with it a bigger and more elaborate set piece for Luigi to explore
The gameplay employs that age-old trick – easy to learn, hard to master. Or maybe it’s easy to learn, moderate to master, in this case. The difficulty isn’t high, it’s not the central point of the game. Atmosphere, adventure and casual puzzle-solving all play a key role in addition to the core mechanics.
You’ll travel from room to room, hoovering up everything in sight – which, for some reason, involves vast amounts of cash billowing out of virtually every surface – slowly piecing together a picture of the floor you’re on, with the aim of a regaining a precious elevator button. Buttons that had been purposely removed by our excellent hair-do ghost girl a little earlier.
These buttons are invariably in the possession of a comically characterful ghost – the level boss – who you’ll learn bits about as you traverse the corridors of the floor you’re exploring, occasionally encountering the more minor ghosts which for the most part are extremely tame and rather amusing. Think Slimer from Ghostbusters, just cuter and even stupider.
The ghosts do sometimes present a challenge, sealing off a confined space with magical barriers across any exits to force a sense of tension – but being a Nintendo family adventure the battles to suck these ghouls into your Poltergust G-00 rarely get difficult, let alone scary. The animations are hilarious though, and great fun to play with as you thrash your departed victims against every surface.
In fact, animation work is superb throughout, with Luigi’s ever expressive physicality lending the game an animated movie level of quality.
There’s a trickle of upgrades to your equipment that come your way courtesy of Professor E Gadd – a plucky little scientist obsessed with ghost hunting, inventor of your ghost sucking kit and another victim of the hotels malevolent scheme to lure and imprison it’s guests (for some reason).
Once you’ve released said scientist (who looks like Mr. Magoo’s grandfather) from his picture frame tomb you’ll get access to his lab in the basement, which acts as a hub of operations for game progression. The Professor offers handy tips on fighting specific ghosts and even a cheesy shopping channel to buy a couple of useful items such as golden dog bones – extra lives that are gifted in the form of the Polterpup, a cute dog ghost who is the only good guy in ghoulish form, popping up (and out of surfaces, quite literally) to help Luigi from time to time.
He even equips you with the excellently named Virtual Boo – a VR headset providing you with an interactive map and sometimes-useful hotline to the Professor himself, should you get stuck and need a few tips.
As you ascend each level of the hotel it becomes obvious that Nintendo lost interest in being constrained by the rigid footprint and layout of an actual hotel building, as you enter more and more elaborate play areas that are far more akin to different worlds from other Mario Bros. games, as mentioned earlier.
A medieval jousting arena, a natural history museum, classic film studio, even ancient Egyptian tombs – every floor brings with it a bigger and more elaborate set piece for Luigi to explore. An almost free-form canvas, in fact.
And with each floor comes greater levels of complexity, aided by one of the game’s key features, your malleable dopple-ganger, Gooigi. Facilitated by another E Gadd vacuum cleaner upgrade, Gooigi acts both as a second player enabling co-op play, but as a different character who has his own advantages and drawbacks. On the plus side, he can squeeze through railings and around other solid objects due to his gooey nature, allowing access to areas previously unexplorable. On the downside, if he comes into contact with water he will literally melt in front of your eyes and need to be respawned. Once you have Gooigi the game obtains a welcome extra dimension to its puzzle solving.
Another key tool in your ghost hunting arsenal is the dark light lamp that you use to shine on suspect areas, revealing hidden treasures and blocked paths should you find yourself stuck at any point. It’ll also help you find Boos – the classic type of ghost from Mario games – hidden in various nooks and crannies around each level. Again, there’s nothing too complex here, but the puzzle-solving does take a bit of thought and experimentation at times, so is satisfying, nonetheless.
Although the gameplay is mostly linear, you are able to hang around and explore each level in search of collectable gems – a little added extra that extends the gameplay experience that bit further. Back in the lab you’ll find the odd extra also. Such as a gallery to view which ghost types you’ve collected along with a vinyl jukebox to listen through the game’s excellent soundtrack.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an excellent game to pick up and play in a casual way. Despite the general lack of difficulty and leanness to the experience off the beaten track, the game oozes charm and atmosphere – with our star character shining as bright as his nervously directed hand torch. If you love Nintendo games and fancy a satisfying interactive animated adventure with highly imaginative levels and some basic combat and a dabble of puzzle solving, this game is definitely for you.