2001’s Luigi’s Mansion was sort of a controversial title. Launching on the Nintendo GameCube with a Luigi title instead of a Mario one met with mixed reception. Despite that, the spooky atmosphere, emphasis on exploration and oodles of charm endeared many. Which is why it’s surprising that 18 years later there’s another sequel (besides the 3DS one six years ago). With its charming aesthetics and improved gameplay, it was definitely worth the wait for Luigi’s Mansion 3.
Luigi and his Mushroom Kingdom colleagues are going to “The Last Resort” hotel for some R&R. The luxurious vacation spot might be glamorous on the outside, but deep inside, a bevy of specters haunt it. Shortly after they check in, Mario, Peach and their entourage of Toads disappear without a trace. The hotel sheds its glossy sheen for a murkier, darker tone, as our scared hero finds himself in yet another spooky establishment. With the help of Professor E. Gadd, Luigi must use the new and improved Poltergust G-00 to suck up ghosts and save his friends.
While the plot is simple, it’s all the little nuances that add to its charm. Moving over from a traditional mansion to a hotel means rooms can be unique. Not only does each guest have their own luggage, but different suites have unique themes. While one floor can seem ordinary, another can have a medieval motif with suits of armor and turnstiles.
Luigi himself has never been so delightful and expressive before. The animation team did a stellar job capturing the meek and cowardly movements of the green-clad plumber. Whenever Luigi freaks out from a ghost or even a tiny mouse, he will shiver in fear. The fidelity in every small detail from Luigi himself to the many ghostly foes he encounters is simply outstanding. The game looks crisp and lush, even during its dimmest moments, and it might be the prettiest Mario series game ever made.
As this is an adventure game, Luigi doesn’t leap over huge chasms or scale high platforms. Instead our hero trudges through the various floors using the upgraded Poltergust. Using this ghost vacuum to capture specters is the main appeal of the series. In a way, it functions like reeling in a fish. First, the ghost must be startled in some way. Just stun them with the flashlight and assume suction.
When ghosts try to escape, pressing on the opposite direction on the analog will fill up the capture meter. As the meter fills up, Luigi can perform a powerful slam attack. It doesn’t only inflict massive damage, but he can also slam unassuming additional enemies as well. Not only is it a spectacle to watch, but a perfect strategy for dealing with crowds. This was a bigger issue with previous installments. Some enemies will also have shields or glasses that would block certain attacks, so combat never stays dull as each one has their own weakness.
The professor also installed a couple of key upgrades that will assist Luigi in his adventure. First, Luigi can shoot a plunger that can stick to various surfaces. In addition, the plunger has a little rope dangling from it, which has an important use as well. Luigi can use the suction power of the Poltergust on the rope to move heavy objects or pull shields from enemies.
By far, the star of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is none other than Gooigi. The green, slimy doppelgänger is essentially a second Luigi. Gooigi has similar abilities to his fleshy counterpart, making him have familiar controls. Unlike the real Luigi, Gooigi can squeeze through small gaps such grates or air vents. However, Gooigi cannot survive the touch of water, causing him to melt away and return to his host.
The majority of the puzzles revolve around using both characters’ abilities. The player can only control one character at a time, as the other will remain in place. What makes the dynamic more interesting is how one character can perform an action while being dormant. For example, there are heavy objects that require both characters to lift and smash out of the way.
The only issue I have had with the game is with its aiming system. Since the camera is fixed, it’s difficult to aim the Poltergust at the right target, especially while shooting a plunger. There’s a cursor that shows up if an object is currently in the Poltergust’s nozzle, but it’s faint and hard to pinpoint. The strobe light used to uncover hidden elements can also be finicky at times, but it doesn’t get in the way of the game much.
In addition of completing the main objectives, Luigi can also go off the beaten path and collect gems. Each floor has six hidden gems. Having a clear objective encourages exploring far more than any of the previous titles. Boos are also back to once again cause havoc, and they are far trickier to spot than the ordinary ghosts. Relying on the rumble is a neat touch, and once they show up, they prove to be a greater challenge to suck up as well.
Of course collecting money is also back, and now it’s possible to use it to purchase items. Though, granted, those items aren’t anything special, such as a Boo tracker that can help find one Boo at a time. Going back to the lab and purchasing items is as easy as opening a menu and teleporting to E. Gadd right away. This leads to far less backtracking and thus the game feel less bloated.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 also has surprisingly robust multiplayer offerings, though not all hit the mark. “ScreamPark” is the local multiplayer mode, allowing up to eight players play on a single Switch, dividing into a team of four Luigis and four Gooigis. All three mini-games within this mode take place on a single screen map. The best one by far is Ghost Hunt, in which the team that captures the most ghosts wins.
The other two aren’t as compelling. Coin Floating is a mad dash to collect the most money while riding on a rubber float. The problem is that this mode feels more like a Mario Party mini game than a Luigi’s Mansion experience. It just doesn’t take advantage of the unique mechanics introduced in the main adventure. Cannon Blaster fairs a tad better, pitting teams against each other in order to see who can break more targets and win more points. While it looks deceptively easy at first with the cannon balls around the map, ghosts later interfere to spice up the action.
For those who are looking for a more traditional ghost busting experience, “ScareScraper” might fill the void. Four Luigis must explore a haunted mansion while completing several tasks within the allotted time. Those include capturing a certain amount of ghosts or collecting as much treasure as possible. At the end there might be a boss encounter that all players must take down. This mode is fun, especially with friends, but it does become derivative after a few playthroughs. This is especially due to the mansion’s layout not changing a whole lot aesthetically.
It’s not often we get to play a new Luigi’s Mansion title, but this proves we simply need more. The new game looks terrific, oozes charm, controls well and is expertly designed. It even has a multiplayer mode that can provide fun besides the main adventure. Luigi always lived in the shadow of his big brother, but even if he’s a bit scared of this shadow, there is nothing scary about playing Luigi’s Mansion 3.