Luigi’s Mansion 3 (2019)

As a kid, I grew up playing what would become the Gamecube classics. Metroid Prime, Super Smash Bros Melee, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Super Mario Sunshine, and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door were all staples for young me. One game among these landmark series that seems to be forgotten Luigi’s Mansion. This spooky spinoff centered around Luigi had masterful atmosphere and a unique approach to gameplay that set it apart. Unfortunately, the series seemed to be a one-hit-wonder as a mediocre sequel wouldn’t be released until 12 years later on a handheld console. To the surprise of many, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was announced in 2018 as a revival to the series, and it was released a year later in 2019. The question was: would it match the quality of the original Luigi’s Mansion as a proper sequel, or would it be another failed attempt?

The premise of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is that Luigi and pals get invited to stay at a luxurious hotel. As it turns out, this was an elaborate trap by King Boo to capture Luigi as vengeance for all of his ghost-catching antics. The player must travel up the hotel, floor by floor, in order to rescue Luigi’s companions. Of course, Luigi has access to the Poltergust G-00, a vacuum equipped to suck up any ghosts that you happen to come across. To make your way up the hotel, you must acquire elevator buttons which give access to the higher floors. To get these buttons, the player must thoroughly explore each floor, solving puzzles, battling hordes of spectral ghouls, and ultimately defeating a boss ghost.

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To assist Luigi in his ghostbusting endeavor is an improved Poltergust, which has a few new features. As usual, Luigi must stun ghosts by blinding with his flashlight, then he must suck them up using his vacuum. What’s new however, is that Luigi can now slam ghosts caught in the vacuum’s grasp. This addition is natural and feels absolutely phenomenal when battling ghosts. Rather than just slowly draining away at ghost’s health, the slam ability gives the player much more control to deal damage. You can also slam enemies into each other, making for a great crowd-control tool to deal with large groups of ghosts. Another new tool is the plunger, which sticks onto surfaces and allows Luigi to pull on it using the Poltergust. This has limited use in combat, but it is frequently used when exploring rooms and solving puzzles. The plunger synergizes fantastically with the slam ability, as you can slam things that you stick with the plunger. These two additions feel perfect in the environment of Luigi’s Mansion.

The new addition that stands out the most is Gooigi. The Poltergust wields the power to create a Luigi clone out of mysterious goo. Gooigi is a tremendous addition to the game as it enhances puzzles, combat, exploration, and even enables coop play. Gooigi can sink through grates, push himself through bars, or travel through pipes, but dissolves upon touching water. Many instances of the game require clever use of Gooigi to make it through a room that regular old Luigi could not normally traverse. While you can only control one of Luigi or Gooigi at a time, you can use them in unison to tackle obstacles that require the power of two vacuums. While I really enjoyed the addition of Gooigi as well as the plunger and slam, the last new feature felt underutilized: the dark light. It shines a UV light instead of a normal flashlight, and this can reveal hidden things. This feature was alright as it rewarded observant players who noticed when something in a room was missing, but in reality, it was all too easy to just shine the dark light on every surface to see if there were any invisible goodies.

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The bulk of gameplay in Luigi’s Mansion 3 is two things: combat and exploration. As previously mentioned, combat generally consists of stunning ghosts, sucking them up, and repeatedly slamming them until their health is depleted. Its decently fun, but it’s too easy for the majority of the game. The slam move makes Luigi an all-powerful ghost terminator, once you get a single enemy in your grasp, it becomes tremendously simple to clear out the whole room just by slamming ghosts into each other. This isn’t helped by the fact that there is pitiful enemy variety in the game. There are only four main types of basic enemies that you will be frequently fighting. While it was satisfying to wreck these fodder foes, the real enjoyment in combat came through the boss fights. Each floor houses a unique boss which are a lot trickier to defeat than their basic counterparts. The bosses are puzzle-like encounters as the player must deduce how to damage them. Surprisingly, the bosses actually become moderately difficult as you progress through the game. While the basic ghosts are too simple to be engaging, the bosses were a ton of fun.

The other half of gameplay in Luigi’s Mansion 3 is exploration. Running around in each room and sucking up every perceivable object is key to the Luigi’s Mansion 3 experience. The environment is jam-packed with hundreds of objects and destructible pieces of furniture that fly around the room as you clean out the room. The player is rewarded with money as a reward for diligently vacuuming everything in sight. Its strangely addicting to just clean out an entire room and watch as dollar bills and gold coins go flying as you slam desks and chairs and tables into pieces. The visceral satisfaction of turning chaos into order by sucking up debris is paired with the fulfilling sound of collecting coins. There are secrets and puzzles hidden that only an observant player could spot. People who are paying attention will be greeted with fat stacks of cash or collectible gems. As someone who likes to search every nook and cranny, I appreciate the effort to make the game dense with collectibles.

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With all of the time spent just examining each room for details and secrets, it’s a blessing that Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks so good. The Nintendo Switch is not a powerhouse console by any stretch of the imagination, but Luigi’s Mansion 3 is in the running for the best-looking game on the Switch. Even with flurries of items flying about the room, the framerate never dips and visual fidelity is kept constant. Proper lighting and shading are integral in representing in dark and dangerous hotel. The details on even the most minute objects is superb. Luigi is animated with supreme fluidity as he shivers and tip-toes past his supernatural foes.  Moreover, each floor in Luigi’s Mansion 3 fits some sort of overarching theme. Some themes make sense in the context of the hotel, such as a shopping floor, a floor filled guest suites, or the basement filled with plumbing. Others feel like portals to different dimensions, like visiting and Egyptian tomb or a pirate ship. Nevertheless, the variety in environments keeps the game from ever feeling too repetitive.

One of my key complaints with Luigi’s Mansion 3 is even though the game is ripe with opportunities to uncover secrets, it often feels pointless to do so. The player is showered with coins for doing anything and everything. While there are six gems per floor to find, that is essentially the extent of exploration. Money feels virtually worthless because you get so much of it, and there is basically nothing to spend it on. There literally three things that can be purchased with in game money: extra lives, boo trackers, and gem trackers. Extra lives are nice for beginner players, but I suspect the game is already pretty easy for most players, so they won’t need extra lives. The boo trackers are worthless as boos can easily be found since the controller rumbles when one is nearby. The only worthwhile purchase is the gem tracker, which I admit is a great feature. It shows the player the room that a random gem is hidden in, without disclosing its exact location. This is great as it lets the player track down the last few gems that they are missing without sacrificing the experience of actually finding and uncovering the gem. Ultimately, even with me purchasing a decent amount of gem trackers, I still had a ridiculous surplus of cash.

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I often found myself wondering why I was cleaning out rooms and searching for secrets. That immediate satisfaction of collecting stacks of cash or gold bars was often followed by the question of purpose. There has to be some sort of goal that the player can work toward, not just some nebulous number increasing by the thousands. Giving upgrades to the player’s health or vacuuming capabilities could have been an interesting money sink. Even purely cosmetic options such as alternative costumes for Luigi or different colors for Gooigi could have served as an acceptable way to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the game rains upon you.

While Luigi’s Mansion 3 certainly has fluid animations, actually controlling Luigi is far less crisp. General movement is alright, Luigi is pretty slow and cannot jump. This is a solid contrast to the more acrobatic Mario. The main issue lies in how aiming the Poltergust works. Because the camera is at a fixed perspective, aiming feels inconsistent and awkward. This is not always a problem, since sucking things up with the vacuum has a large area of effect, so accuracy is not necessary. But in certain instances, you will be required to precisely aim the plunger, light, or vacuum. It can get moderately frustrating on some of the late bosses when you have a small window to attack, and you waste loads of time futzing with where your vacuum is pointing.

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My last gripe with Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a more subjective problem and it ultimately a matter of preference. When comparing this game to the original, its clear that there is a distinct deviation in design. The original Luigi’s Mansion was darker, grittier, and generally felt more unsettling. Sure, it was still a Nintendo game and as such had children as its primary audience, so it was not scary or horrifying. But as a kid I do remember being genuinely anxious about exploring the mansion, and I think this is due to a few things. First, the visual styles of the games are subtly different. The original game was darker and colors were muted. In Luigi’s Mansion 3, the game is brighter and colors are more vibrant, giving the game a more cartoonish look.

Moreover, the tone of the original game felt a bit more serious. Maybe I am misremembering, but it felt like the ghosts in that game were genuinely out to get you. In Luigi’s Mansion 3, the tone of the game is far more light-hearted and comedic. This makes the game more family friendly, especially as there is a coop mode, but it lacks that unsettling feeling that the original game embodied. This is also mirrored in the level and world design. The game is much more linear than the original, both in individual levels and throughout the entire map. Every floor plays out similarly: you arrive at the floor, traverse through some rooms, solve some puzzles, fight some ghosts, defeat the boss, and then move onto the next floor. Floors are rarely interconnected. The game felt like a series of individual levels rather than a sprawling labyrinth of hallways and rooms.

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Overall, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a return to form, but with some hiccups. Having a full-fledged Luigi’s Mansion game on the Switch is a blessing, but it makes me nostalgic for the original. Perhaps I am just wearing rose-tinted glasses, but this game’s atmosphere and level design pale in comparison to the original game. Each room in Luigi’s Mansion 3 is brimming with objects to vacuum, furniture to destroy, and puzzles to be uncovered, this is all helped by the gorgeous visual design. Moreover, the combat in this game is the best in the series and the plethora of unique bosses highlight how fun it can be. It is for these reasons that I give Luigi’s Mansion 3 a 7/10. Despite its flaws, Luigi’s Mansion 3 satisfies a primitive urge to shift chaos into order by vacuuming up every object in sight.

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