Goofs and ghosts galore
Light-hearted and spook-filled fun for the casual gamer
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Developed by Next Level Games
Published by Nintendo
Available on Nintendo Switch
Luigi, Mario, Princess Peach, and the Toads start in high spirits as they journey toward the Last Resort Hotel. Invited as VIP guests, this story sets up with a nice change of pace from the normal line of Mario gang adventures. However, things go awry, as they always tend to do, and we find ourselves with Luigi left alone, his friends trapped, and a multitude of mad ghosts. With no other choice, it’s up to Luigi to free his friends and save the day. The Luigi’s Mansion series has always offered a neat detour from the gameplay and story players might expect from the Mario franchise, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 expands upon this in even more new and fun ways. The game starts with extremely high energy and offers colorful characters and settings throughout. Unfortunately, this initial energy falls off fairly quickly, and some of the gameplay and mechanics fall short as a result.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 pulls as much as possible from its focus on Luigi, the lesser known Mario brother. The player finds themselves in the shoes of a character who is a protagonist by circumstance, not by choice. Luigi is constantly peeking over his shoulder, hesitating to open doors, or running in fear. The emotions of our reluctant hero are always crystal clear thanks to lively character models and animations. Right off the bat, it is hard not to root for Luigi’s success.
Of course, Luigi is not the only character in the story. From a visual standpoint, the friends and foes that the player meets along the way have equal attention to detail. When first introduced to the generic ghost enemy, they roll up their non-existent sleeves and holler to their buddies, in preparation for the tumble with Luigi. Every floor of the hotel offers a unique ghost boss with a quirky intro and thematic outro. Take Amadeus Wolfgeist for example, who offers a classy bow to the crowd before his defeat.
However, this degree of detail in the character models and animations leaves a little to be desired in terms of depth. Longtime fans of the series will remember how the original Luigi’s Mansion provided backstories for each boss and formed connections between them. In this latest installment, bosses serve no other purpose than an obstacle to progression. Each floor’s theme, setting, and boss is independent of the last. So even though the story is linear, it feels awkwardly disjointed at times as the game prioritizes zaniness over continuity. There is no real reason for a floor to contain a literal ocean, but there is no denying that it looks neat.
With so much attention directed to visuals, the gameplay also suffers a bit. Luigi’s main defense against the ghosts is the Poltergust G-00, a super-powerful vacuum that can suck up ghosts, gold, and everything in between. While each floor offers a unique boss ghost to fight against, there are only about five types of ghost mobs to meet along the way to the boss of each floor. It can become quite repetitive to fight the same enemy over and over. On a larger scale, the game falls into a tiresome gameplay loop. The player traverses a floor, defeats the ghost boss, gets a key to the next floor, and repeats. At one point, the cycle is broken when an unexpected boss appears to steal the key, but the player is forced to chase the boss through old floors in a drawn-out fight sequence. And to make matters worse, this boss reappears later in the game, in the exact same fashion, with the exact same fight sequence. The gameplay can start to feel secondary to the cutscenes and settings.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 also introduces the Gooigi mechanic, in which Luigi can summon a goo version of himself to help with puzzles or combat. Novel for the first few floors, the game quickly runs out of unique ways to make use of Gooigi. Overall, the bulk of the excitement is thrown at the player at the start of the game and starts to fade along the way. Late in the game, Luigi is sent on a mission to pick up a new part for his Poltergust G-00 in order to unlock a new ability. I was eager for this new ability to be used occasionally throughout the rest of the game, but it was used exactly once and then never seen again. This sort of situation is fairly representative of the game, wherein the effort required to figure out a solution or progress forward is not worth the effort.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 starts big and grand: the situation is dire, there are many new mechanics to master, and the puzzles are fun and fresh. Unfortunately, the gameplay diversity is expended fairly quickly, and players find themselves in a familiar situation with a new skin all too often. That being said, the theming and visuals are incredibly strong throughout and do their best to help engage the player. Put together with the focus on the often unacknowledged character Luigi, Luigi’s Mansion 3 has the potential to offer a frighteningly fun time.