Third ghost’s a charm, eh?
Luigi’s Mansion 3
is an oddity in the Nintendo Switch
stable. On the one hand, it represents a follow-on from a series that has shown its puzzle credentials and technological advancements against more commercially viable ilk in The Legend of Zelda
, Super Mario
and Super Smash Bros
. On the other it stands as a standalone
entry in an otherwise differential series which may be best described as “outlier” or “testbed”, where much of the aforementioned is concerned. So does it share a technological progressive foundation where the Switch’s future first-party games are concerned, or does it stand on its own two Gooigi
feet, coupled alongside the ever-forgotten brother Luigi’s, in terms of franchise longevity?
First up, let’s attack the bad. It’s not the norm where reviews are concerned (this early in), but there’s a system in play within Luigi’s Mansion 3 that keeps you keeping
on: hearts. Nintendo
games have been notoriously ‘kiddy’ since the Wii
, and what we get with Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a game that, while challenging in parts, makes sure the heart keeps ticking. Losing life against a ghost? Nevermind, that one towel in the vicinity -- when you suck it up with your trusty all-in-one ghost and money-grabbing vacuum, it'll will gift you a heart (or hearts). No ghost around? Well, now you just get gold to give Professor E. Gadd
so he can give you Gold Bones so that Polterpup
can lick you back to life. You’re almost never out of the fight, no matter how scared
Luigi is. Even though this is his third (official) ghost rodeo.
"Luigi’s Mansion 3 has as little context and bait possible: those superstar saps mentioned above -- they’ve been entrapped in paintings in a hotel with 18 floors..."
Of course, applying context and realism to a game where you’ve visited a giant hotel with a ghost dog friend, a princess incapable of locking her door, Toads who don’t know they’re just pawns in a silly game of redundant back and forth and a brother who just wont let be
, was never going to end in simplicity. Although, it kind of does. Luigi’s Mansion 3 has as little context and bait possible: those superstar saps mentioned above -- they’ve been entrapped in paintings in a hotel with 18 floors. The elevator buttons for each floor have been stolen by bosses, and each floor is themed (read: puzzled), giving fruit to Nintendo-style gameplay design and a platform for the company’s penchant for cuteness. It’s as classic a Nintendo game as we’ve seen in some time; gameplay throwbacks partnered with some of the most progressive tech ever seen in a Big N
game. Hell, it even has in-game Achievements
-- something I’ve spoken about Ninty needing
From a level-design and puzzle perspective, this game is the
shit. The ‘Medieval Times’ level is benchmark stuff. And now it’s presented in spectacular visual fashion. The most impressive side though, is the small, individual moving parts -- some destructible, others just imbued with their own weight, whether wholly interactive or not. The game’s controls let this down a bit, especially without the option to invert your up and down or left and right (I’m not a heathen, up and down only for me), and button placements often mean you’re attempting to control Luigi or his ectoplasmic pal, Gooigi, with two hands on one side of the controller. But this is quietly offset by the fixed ‘side-scrolling’ camera position (largely dynamic and often shifting based on positional context within the game-world).
And really, that’s as far as the bad goes: some awkward controls and a game that simply feeds you life so you’re never
out of the fight. There’s an economy tied to the latter part of the game, that also feeds to the item collector and secret-hunter in all of us -- dollarydoos
. Everything from gold bars to coins to actual paper-money; Luigi’s Mansion 3 just gives you cash. And gems. In fact each floor has six hidden gems all tied to puzzles and discovery. Some won’t be able to be found until you gain a stronger vacuum later in the game, and the game’s ‘story’ will force you at times to revisit levels, in part to just mix up the floor-to-floor progression, but also to remind us that there are other goodies still hidden in paths already trodden. As mentioned earlier, this is truly Nintendo in game-design.
Refreshingly, there’s also multiplayer and co-op. I’ve mucked around a bit in both with my seven year-old who loves the game. And these are fun modes for a bit of couch fun and banter, but the meat truly is single-player. I finally tackled old King Boo
after just over 22 hours of gameplay, which is a decent feat. Unfortunately once you decide to take on the final boss the game closes its various floors to you, so completionists will want to head back down the elevator after beating the game’s second last boss in Hellen Gravely
. Mostly this is for either bragging rights, or to fill the in-game Achievement list, but it is fun to knock over the various secrets on each floor with armed knowledge of how to find them -- mirror secrets, cheeky wall-curtains, rugs that can be moved and rolled up to reveal grates for new old-mate, Gooigi, to sink through… all of it is there and ripe for the discovering.
"He can be dismissed and called upon in single button presses and a handful of puzzles will require both Luigi and Gooigi combining to complete a task..."
Speaking of, the most touted new feature is said newcomer Gooigi. Essentially he has all of your abilities: vacuum, reverse vacuum, flashlight, spectral flashlight (to find hidden items and restore them in the world), and a kind of “force jump”. How he differs though is that he can move through grates and ignore dangers like arrows and spears. However, he is susceptible to water. Naturally, most of the game’s puzzles are designed around all of this, and you’ll use him more often than not. He can be dismissed and called upon in single button presses and a handful of puzzles will require both Luigi and Gooigi combining to complete a task, or open up a new section of a floor. He’s cute and fits the game-world perfectly.
And finally, combat. The game retains the suck-the-ghosts-up gameplay of previous entries. Once you’ve flashed a ghost and stunned them (there are combat variants around how to do this throughout), you apply your vacuum, then get an A-Button prompt to smash them about the place. This is good because they have an AOE while you’re smashing them around, so you can use ghosts against ghosts, and a hit ghost also becomes stunned, so this can be strung together for clever players. The tech I harped on about earlier plays into this in that smashing stunned ghosts about the place will also destroy the place, sometimes revealing hidden secrets. But really, there’s just something satisfying in trapping an obnoxious ghost and wailing on him.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is marred only by its ease-of-play and its controls (or lack of variant control options), but is still more-than-playable. It is easily the most progressively designed game Nintendo has made from a tech perspective, while its visual design, comedic writing and overall charm scream “classic Nintendo”. Multiplayer and co-op add value, but the true goo
here is in the game’s ever-enjoyable single-player campaign that will keep you checking, checking and checking again under that bed, for that hidden ghost, or that hidden treasure.