Luigi has come a long way from his status as a simple Player 2 color swap back on the NES. Although his inaugural outing as the star in Luigi’s Mansion for the GameCube launch was a bit rocky (no traditional Mario game to push the system and a short overall experience), there’s no denying the game was filled with all sorts of clever ideas and showed off some really neat graphical effects that played to the GameCube’s strengths. The original title introduced us to different degrees of just how terrified Luigi was of dark rooms and spectral forces, but it wasn’t until Next Level Games developed the sequel on the 3DS that the game reached a wider audience and became a big hit. Now they’re back to show off what they can do with the increased power of the Switch, and wow can they ever do a lot!
Luigi’s Mansion 3 begins with Luigi and friends on a bus on their way to the Last Resort hotel for a much-needed vacation. He has won a free stay at this out of the way location, but all is not as it seems. At first glance the towering hotel looks nice enough. As you check in alongside Mario, Princess Peach, and a few Toads things immediately start to become suspicious. The front desk person, and in fact all of the hotel staff, have blue skin and appear to be wearing human masks. Hmm… Almost immediately after arriving at his room, Luigi pulls out a book and instantly falls asleep. When he wakes up the hotel has lost its beautiful sheen and has become a dark and dreary place. It won’t take long for him to discover that everyone else in his party has been kidnapped – frozen into picture frames – and that it’ll be up to him to rescue them. I’d think twice next time before going on a vacation, because Super Mario Sunshine didn’t work out that great for them either.
Visually Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the best-looking Nintendo game on the Switch. Not only is the hotel filled to the brim with little details and absolutely stacked from floor to ceiling with objects for Luigi to interact with, but also Luigi himself looks like he’s been ripped right out of a Pixar movie. I know that’s been said before about games, but I’m serious here – it really does look like you’re playing an interactive cartoon. It’s crazy just how animated he his and how many different ways he can react to jump scares. As you move Luigi around the various environments his legs will begin to shake as he becomes more nervous about what lurks around the next corner. His expressions are hilarious and over exaggerated and are sure to bring a smile to even the most jaded gamer’s face.
It’s not just Luigi that animated beautifully; it’s everything else as well! Each room in the hotel has been masterfully crafted to sell the idea that the place is haunted. An open window has a slight breeze blowing through, moving the long curtains back and forth. The eerie glow of some candles and jack-o-lanterns in the main hall give it the perfect Halloween vibe. What’s most impressive though is that these aren’t some pre-rendered static images, nearly everything in the game can be interacted with. Some objects, like toilets, sinks, closets, and trash bins can be used by Luigi, which will often result in hidden treasures, like gold coins, dollar bills, and whatnot.
But the real fun in comes when you turn on your super-powered vacuum, the Poltergust G-00. Nearly everything can be manipulated or sucked up with this amazing gadget, and the end result is a gameplay mechanic that never grows tiring. You can aim it anything and hold down the ZR trigger and go to town. Most of the time sucking up things like couch cushions will reveal more secret stashes of cash that you can then add to your bank. Other things, such as curtains and tablecloths, can be partially sucked up, but then you must back away until a circular meter fills up and then press A to yank the cloth down, often revealing a new secret, which usually leads to more coin in the bank. Nearly every room is filled to the brim with hidden money of some sort, and there are other secrets to discover, like hidden passages, secret levers, and all sorts of small puzzle-like elements that are fun to solve throughout the game.
As much fun as it is to explore each room of this mammoth hotel, it’s equally entertaining to take on the various ghosts. The developers have truly outdone themselves in this regard, creating not only very memorable ghost bosses, but also plenty of lower level baddies to battle, each with a mischievous personality that’s fun to watch. Just like all other areas of the game, the animations of the spectral foes are intricately detailed – so much so that at times I’d just sit back for a few moments to watch them do their thing. Oftentimes you’ll come across a crack or hole in the wall that you can peek through and on the other side you can see what the ghosts are up to. On one occasion both of my young nieces were sitting next to me and we came upon a ghost in the bathroom humming a tune and brushing his teeth. They giggled at the sight, but then he took his toothbrush and rubbed it on his butt, which got an even heftier laugh from both of them. These small touches are peppered throughout the game and I can’t remember any other title that has this amount of care and though put into each of its enemies.
The boss ghosts are especially impressive – each has its own personality. A couple of them I almost felt guilty defeating because they were just trying to live their own lives and weren’t really hurting anyone. Each has its own attack patterns that must be learned. Actually, one of the things that I had to learn early on was that the bosses in this game can be tough to figure out if you go into battle “guns blazing”. In other words, many times you have to let the boss cycle through several rounds of attacks before they’ll reveal their weak points. If you attack before that sequence is ready, you won’t get anywhere and may become frustrated. Growing up in the NES era of having to quickly defeat bosses, this wait and see approach got the best of me in several battles. Slow and steady wins the race!
Combat in Luigi’s Mansion 3 will be familiar to anyone who has played a previous game in the series. In most cases you have to stun the ghost with your flashlight first, which will freeze them in mid-air. Then you can suck them up with your vacuum, but they’ll usually put up a fight and start pulling away from you. Much like a fishing game, you’ll have to pull the analog stick in the opposite direction to reel the ghost in. Once its health meter reaches zero you’ll add another entity to your backpack. This time around you have a slam move, which makes the game more fun to play than prior installments. By pulling back on the stick you’ll fill up a circular ring meter, and once it’s full you can then press the A button to slam the ghost(s) to the ground. If you can manage to hit other ghosts they’ll take damage and also become stunned, so you can easily move onto them next. You can also destroy certain objects by slamming the ghosts into them, which often reveals more loot.
Not all of the enemies are so easily defeated, but Luigi has even more moves at his disposal. The first one is the Suction Shot, which allows him to shoot out a plunger with a small piece of rope attached to the handle. Some ghosts might have a shield or some other object that needs to be pulled away before trying to stun them with your flashlight. All you have to do is shoot the plunger onto the object and then go and suck and pull the object off of the ghost. At that point you can stun them and then capture them. Those feisty spirits come up with all sorts of ways to try and thwart Luigi’s attempts, and one of those is to don a pair of sunglasses to negate the flashlight! Luckily Luigi can get up close and use his Burst move to blow them right off their faces. Pressing both triggers at the same time will unleash a blast of air, which will lift Luigi and any nearby objects right off the ground. This is good for jumping over certain ground attacks as well!
Introduced in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, the Dark Light makes a return. This allows Luigi to shine a special light in the environment to reveal invisible objects. If you find yourself stuck in a room not knowing what to do next, this can often reveal a secret area or door to put you back on track. There are also special paintings that you’ll see with coins and money and if you shine your Dark Light on them you’ll be handsomely rewarded. Oh, and you need this to save all of your friends from frozen animation inside their picture frames too.
As I mentioned earlier, there are tons of small puzzles to solve all across the hotel. Some of them are more intricate than others, and the really fun ones often involve Gooigi. No, that’s not a typo. Gooigi is a new invention from Professor E. Gadd and sort of looks like a green Jell-O version of Luigi. Basically he has the same moveset as well as some extra abilities. Since he’s made out of goo, he can easily slide through metal bars and is impervious to sharp objects like spikes and arrows. As such he can fit into tight spaces, like pipes and drains and reach rooms that Luigi can’t. Some puzzles will require you to use both characters at the same time to solve, which is easily done by alternating between the two or you can hand a controller to a friend and play two-player simultaneous co-op. Gooigi is honestly pretty awesome and a fun character to play, but he can’t get wet or he’ll melt and die. Luckily he has unlimited lives so really the only cost is a few seconds of downtime. He’s a great addition to the cast of characters and hopefully will make a return for upcoming installments.
As mentioned earlier, the attention to detail in this game is second to none and that’s equally true of this game’s sound design. Not only are the sound effects spectacular throughout, with plenty of awesome voice work with Luigi as well as the ghosts and other characters, but also the music is simply to die for (yep, I went there). The score is hauntingly beautiful throughout and the way the music weaves in and out of the main theme is great. Each floor of the hotel features a unique, and often fantastical, environment to explore and the music match the themes perfectly. The “Mario” button returns from the first game, so you can press the d-pad certain directions and Luigi will yell out for his brother. One little bonus I didn’t discover until late in the game is that if you leave Luigi stand still on the elevator for awhile he’ll begin to hum along to the elevator music that’s playing – again a throwback to the first game. From beginning to end the music plays an essential role in setting the mood and tone of the game and the composers completely nailed it.
Up to this point my review has been pretty glowing of Luigi’s Mansion 3, but unfortunately there are some issues that can really drag the game down for some players. The biggest issue I encountered right from the beginning is the control setup doesn’t accommodate players like me who are used to inverted aiming in games. Sure, we might not make up the majority of players out there, but a good chunk of people invert the right analog stick to aim and that’s simply not an option here. It was very difficult for me to wrap my head around vertically aiming the vacuum and for the first few hours of the game I really struggled with the controls. There are some options that can be toggled on or off that may or may not help some players come to grips with the way Luigi moves and vacuums, but in the end I felt the default setup worked the best. Adding to the confusion (at least for me) is that motion controls were backward from stick controls. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but when you press forward on the right analog stick, Luigi aims the vacuum up. If you lean your controller forward, however, Luigi points it down. Now, in my mind the motion controls make perfect sense, since pointing the controller forward/down would lower the vacuum, but pressing the stick in the same manner pointed up and for some reason my mind took a lot of getting used to this. Now, some of you may have no issue whatsoever with this, but I wanted to point out that it really threw me for a loop for a good 1/3 of the game.
The other glaring issue has less to do with the controls and more to do with the design of the game. Even though I never grew tired of sucking up all the stuff in every room, I think a big opportunity was missed by not diversifying what you find for exploring. In nearly every case if you find something of value it’s going to be money of some sort. The first couple of hours of gameplay were fine in this regard, but by the time I hit the ten hour mark there was very little incentive to keep on exploring because I knew the only thing I’d find was more money. What does money do? Well, you can buy some add-ons from Professor E. Gadd, like a gold bone that will bring you back to life or some tracking items that will let you know if you’re close to a secret Boo or one of the jewels hidden on each floor. In other words, money is never an obstacle and I had a ton of it by the end of the game. It would have been nice to discover other secrets by vacuuming everything up other than money. This gameplay mechanic didn’t hold up through the entire game and several other people I’ve talked to agree that this is the one part of the game that became boring. Having said that, for some reason I felt compelled to still suck up everything in sight right up to the end.
In addition to the aforementioned two-player co-op mode, you can also get your multiplayer fix with some of the competitive modes as well. ScreamPark allows up to 8 players on a single Switch to compete in three different mini-game battles. Ghost Hunt has you exploring a graveyard in an attempt to capture as many ghosts as you can within a given time limit. Cannon Barrage was my favorite of the bunch. Two teams battle it out to destroy ghosts to get the cannonball they’re holding. Then you must take it and load it into the cannon where it can then be shot at moving targets. The team with the most points at the end wins, but it can get pretty tricky as the players fight over the cannonballs. It’s heartbreaking to fight so hard over the ball and win, only to load it up and miss a target! Finally there is Coin Floating where you hop on an inflatable tube and move around a pool to collect the most coins. Mines will appear and you can push your opponents into them to pop their tube and collect their coins. The team with the most at the end wins.
Making a return from the last game is the ScareScraper, which is up to 8 players online or locally (the latter allows up to 2 players per Switch – so if you want to play 8 players locally you need 4 Switches and 4 copies of the game). This is a fully co-op experience where all 8 players try to capture all the ghosts and find all the Toads in a given time limit. This is a real blast and I had a great deal of fun in this mode. It’s a little more fun locally because you can easily talk to each other and communicate where to go next, but the cost requirements are high.
I’ve always felt that the Luigi’s Mansion games have sort of fallen into Nintendo’s B-Tier franchises, but Luigi’s Mansion 3 is by far the best of the bunch and has a lot to offer. The main quest took me about 20 hours, but keep in mind I’m a completionist and really take my time to explore every nook and cranny. Those in a rush or who grow tired of simply collecting money over and over again could probably easily shave off 5 hours or so. Although the game’s presentation may seem to target younger audiences, there are some decent challenges throughout and the last few bosses are especially tough to figure out. Once you do discover the secret to beating each enemy the game isn’t too overly difficult, but sometimes it can take a little while to figure out the tricks to doing so. If ever there was a game designed to show off the power of the Switch, this is it! Control issues and a lacking reward system for sucking up every item in sight are the only blemishes on an otherwise stellar game.
Luigi's Mansion 3 Review
- Graphics - 10/1010/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Luigi’s Mansion 3 features stellar graphics and amazing music, creating a charmingly spooky experience that’s dying to be explored. Each floor features unique environments and stylish ghosts that are fun to interact with. Awkward controls that may take some getting used to and weak rewards for solving puzzles (money that serves little purpose) drag down what is otherwise an excellent candidate for Switch game of the year.