The cult hit Luigi’s Mansion released alongside the Nintendo Gamecube console in North America, November of 2001. The Gamecube release was the first Nintendo console to not see a mainline, Mario-led game in the plumber’s universe. Instead, Nintendoites got a stark deviation from the Mushroom Kingdom’s previous titles, finding a dedicated fan base amongst lovers of the horrifying (though oddly endearing) macabre. Nearly twelve years would pass before our younger brother ghost hunter and his faithfully lazy companion E. Gadd would return to their ghastly games in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the Nintendo 3DS. This small but ever engaging series because a staple in my family; in fact, my wife counts it in her top 3 video game series ever. Though I don’t share the sheer degree of her enthusiasm, we were both overjoyed with the announcement of the newest sequel to Luigi’s side job, and are even more pleased to admit that Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the Nintendo Switch is the most polished and, dare I say, best supernatural Luigi escapade to date.
Title: Luigi’s Mansion 3
Developer: Next Level Games
Available On: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On:Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 31, 2019
Game Purchased for the Purpose of This Review
Luigi, loveable and harmless, perpetually player two, finds himself center stage once again as his companions are abducted by ghosts and transformed into paintings at the onset of a family vacation. Explanation is neither given nor needed for you to explore the numbered floors of your resort with the occasional assistance of brilliant paranormal researcher Elvin Gadd and your new spooky canine comrade, Polterpup. Armed with a Ghostbusters-style vacuum sporting a host of new features, Luigi makes his way about the hotel in search of his party members, all the while discovering collectibles, solving puzzles, whizzing up ghosts and shivering uncontrollably.
Prior to his holiday excursion, Luigi has had to explore large, abandoned mansions (hence the series title) while doing his dire deeds, and though this may be the most inaptly named of Luigi’s games (Do hotels technically count as mansions?) the overall flow of the game remains unchanged. The hotel has sixteen total floors, the completion of each awards you access to the next. Most floors are dominated by a central theme – Egyptian tomb, boiler room, and indoor gardens, for example – each with unique puzzles, collectibles, and bosses to conquer. The very weirdness of the hotel leads to a lot of variety in scenery and gameplay, with no floor being excessively brief nor overstaying its welcome.
Spectres and spirits abound throughout the hotel, but feel notably sparse compared to the first two games. Luigi’s Mansion 3 marks a greater shift towards puzzle-based progression, improving on the favorable portions of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon while ridding itself of the stage-based design that many gamers were critical of. You are more free to explore the hotel at your desire, and each of the unique environments is genuinely fun to sift carefully through in search of hidden haunts. Strangely, with the exception of just a handful of floors, the “spooky” setting of Luigi’s first two outings is largely lost. Fewer ghosts, less cobwebs, and an entirely different decor were the sacrifice to providing a much more varied world. The frights are missed, but this change may have been exactly what was needed to prevent this sequel from feeling like a rehash of the previous two.
Oddly enough, the soundtrack remains the one portion of the game that maintains the horrorish vibe. Composed by Chad York and Darren Radtke, Luigi’s Mansion 3’s OST sounds similar to the prior two games’, with sustained strings and minor chords aplenty that western media has long associated with terror, and fills a void left by the two haunted mansions. The music is largely atmospheric, providing a backdrop that reminds you of the otherworldly stakes at hand.
Overall improved lighting and a heightened color palette make this “mansion” feel much more vibrant than Luigi is accustomed to. Pictures don’t fall randomly and pianos don’t plink notes as you walk by, but there is an increase in charm to be had thanks to the improved graphical quality of the Nintendo Switch hardware. Luigi can interact with nearly every item in the hotel, and most loose items can be vacuumed up. Larger items can be used as impromptu cannon balls to fire at hard to reach targets. Since almost anything can be moved or interacted with, you’re destined to find a lot more money in an abandoned hotel than you might initially expect. If you (like me) feel the need to collect every coin, bill, and gold bar you see, you’ll spend a healthy dose of your time vacuuming the ground littered in loot and will soon be flush with cash (and very little to spend it on). The physics of certain items are exceptionally peculiar, and the endless cash-grab can become tiresome, but my natural treasure hunter spirit kept me pushing ever onwards.
Stand out amongst the upgraded graphics are the animations of the ghosts you’ll encounter, specifically the bosses of each floor. Defeating each boss is almost a puzzle in itself, and each battle will challenge your wits to discover the exact recipe to success. These fights are almost universally a blast, some of which could be named amongst the most fun boss battles in the entire Mario canon. Finally depleting their health meter to zero to watch them fling and flail into the hollowed bags on your back is funny and rewarding. Each boss uniquely enters the vacuum, and the hilarity of their final motions quickly became my favorite moments of the adventure.
Armed with a vacuum selflessly upgraded by Gadd and aptly named the “Polter-G00”, Luigi hosts an arsenal of moves and maneuvers to bring his colleagues back into the world of the living. In addition to blowing and sucking (as any typical vacuum is anticipated to do), as well as a black light that reveals hidden furniture and the occasional spectral splattering, the Polter-G00 packs plungers for projecting at and destroying applicable pieces, an airblast effect to quickly clear your immediate vicinity, and, most importantly, your new best friend and part-time co-op consort, Gooigi. Gooigi shares your likeness in every way, but is made of an amorphous sludge that grants him the ability to pass through bars and grates in addition to his usual Polter-G00 faculties. Many of the puzzles barring Luigi’s progression require a creative combination of Luigi and Gooigi, and is the best addition to the series we’ve yet experienced.
Unfortunately, this increase in power did not accompany an improvement in control scheme. Previous criticisms of the Luigi’s Mansion franchise included dreaded “tank” controls, as a single fixed camera for each room forces you to maneuver about the room in a way that in modern gaming feels dated. Luigi’s vacuum, aimable in three dimensions, requires precise inputs, as do his black light and plungers. Two control schemes are available, allowing either strafing or turning from the dual analog sticks. Strafing means you’ll frequently have to realign yourself to your target, and turning is woefully imprecise. You’ll struggle regularly to accurately aim your appendages, easy enough to correct but frustrating enough to be a constant reminder of why this particularly control scheme is no longer in style.
If you can overcome (or somehow master) the imperfect controls of Luigi’s Mansion 3, you will be presented with the best Luigi’s Mansion experience available. The entire game is brimming with charisma, through the soundtrack, set pieces, and cinematic moments of grandeur. I have felt comfortable combing through each floor at a leisurely pace, my four-year-old excitedly watching over my shoulder every step of the way. Fans of the series shouldn’t be dismayed by the sixty dollar price tag, either. This game is both lengthier and meatier than either of its counterparts, and there is plenty to do and see for casual players and completionists alike. As much as I like Mario and company, I wouldn’t mind them getting kidnapped by ghosts a little more frequently than three times in eighteen years.