LUIGI’S MANSION made quite a splash on the playground when it hit my hometown suburbs of Torrance back in second grade. The game was an obvious candidate for holiday grabbags from parents intending to keep things E for Everyone, but whether it was the fact that it starred the brother (and still one of the lamer Smash characters, fight me) of the little red plumber we had spent so much time with, or the fact that it was a game that carried at least some small promise of being “scary,” LUIGI’S MANSION always had a special aura to it. An anomaly in the greater Mario canon (making Luigi’s big step into the light a ghost collecting game is truly something only Miyamoto’s Magic Mushrooms could have cooked up), the game took conceptual and creative risks from the very beginning, bolstered by a not-so-surprising prominence in various assorted creepypastas and urban legends in the years following (who among us hasn’t heard of the supposed shadow of a dead and hanging Luigi that was from a “beta” of the game?). Always a curiosity at absolute worst, 18 years later, LUIGI’S MANSION 3 firmly establishes the IP as one of Nintendo’s most reliable underdogs, finally making a case for it to ditch cult status and join the ranks of Nintendo heavy-hitters.
LM3 sees Luigi, Mario, Princess Peach, and her consort of Toads accept an all-expenses-paid invitation to the not-at-all-suspiciously named Last Resort hotel, operated by one Hellen Gravely. After Luigi settles down with his Polterpup (by far the cutest video game character conceived in at least half a decade), he awakens in the night to Peach’s scream, finding himself in an entirely more sinister high-rise than he entered. Gravely reveals that this has all been in the service of a trap laid by King Boo, who has escaped his imprisonment and wants to end things between him and Luigi once and for all. Revealing that he’s trapped all of Luigi’s friends in portraits scattered about the hotel, Luigi narrowly avoids a similar fate and joins forces with Polterpup to free his friends and stop the evil machinations of Gravely and King Boo.
Well, he appreciates fine art at least
Right off the bat, while yes, the action doesn’t specifically take place in a mansion, the high-rise hotel concept is a fun way of adding further depth to the concept while also inherently gamifying the progression. It soon comes about that the buttons to each level of the hotel’s elevator are missing, having all found their way into the possession of various specters haunting the establishment. While the premise doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does let the game flex some creativity muscles as far as differentiating each level from the last, allowing a wide variety of playstyles to come to light. Some floors see you participating in one extended boss fight that can take upwards of half-an-hour if you’re not quick to pick up the attack patterns, while others are mostly extended puzzles that force you to get creative with the various tools located at your disposal. Add to the mix some fresh ideas and gimmicks (one boss fight ends with a mouse nabbing the elevator button after the ghost is defeated, leading to a madcap dash to retrieve it) and some goofy inventiveness as far as the bosses in question are concerned (a paranormal film director and a brash spectral DJ, for example), and LUIGI’S MANSION 3 manages to never feel like a retread despite its levels making use of the same general toolbox.
On that note, Luigi’s suped-up Poltergust G-00 deserves specific commendation for keeping things fresh. Armed with a veritable Swiss Army Knife of modifications and enhancements, it’s more often than not a plain and simple blast to lay absolute waste to the virtually destructible hotel environment with a lightning-fast array of sucking, blowing, slamming, strobing, lighting, bursting, and plunging capabilities. Er… perhaps worth rewording, but the notion still stands: Luigi’s a goddamn menace! LUIGI’S MANSION 3 truly shows its full potential in the combat. 2019 has few greater thrills than stunning a ghost, vacuuming it into the Poltergust G-00 and swinging it around like a shot-put: ghosts get demolished, a cavalcade of coins blast from all directions, and the room comes tumbling down around you in a way to make Samson jealous.
Honestly, don’t Google any of the adjectives used in the above paragraph combined with “Luigi”
But that’s not even mentioning who I know you all want to hear about… Gooigi. Given to Luigi by Professor E. Gadd, an old friend you happen across trapped in one of King Boo’s paintings as well, Gooigi is an ooey, gooey clone of Luigi that can traverse small spaces, dangerous areas, and act as a second force for solving puzzles and fighting bosses. Admittedly, Gooigi is probably introduced a little earlier than necessary. The scenarios where he’s useful are few and far between for awhile, and the incessant clues E. Gadd offers up are so blaringly obvious, that I began to fear that Gooigi was an inclusion with only memetic intentions in mind. Thankfully, upon reaching the King MacFrights level, Gooigi firmly earns his keep moving forward, and the genuinely challenging puzzles that get thrown at the player with progressively consistent frequency demand challenging ways of how best to utilize the dynamic duo in order to move forward. 2019 held many disappointments, but Gooigi was certainly not one of them, and his inevitable inclusion in future Smash installments will be a treat almost as delicious as his gelatinous rendering… I just wanna put him in a bowl with some whipped cream and slurp him up.
There’s really not all that many notable critiques to be had with LUIGI’S MANSION 3 that aren’t at least somewhat tied to the clearly stated ethos of Nintendo to skew more family-friendly and accessible. As one of the worst gamers around when it comes to the actual mechanics of combat and puzzle-solving, it’s not exactly a triumphant fact that I didn’t even come close to dying or getting stumped until about the halfway point of the game. The difficulty does thankfully ramp up right around the aforementioned MacFrights level, with at least one puzzle that’ll have the vast majority of gamers calling in the Google reserves, but for at least an hour or two the main attraction is seeing just how much of the hotel you can destroy, which while scratching a base urge, can begin to err on the side of monotonous. I suppose if I were really gunning for it, I could also bring up the less-than-paper-thin narrative or the fact that Gravely feels like a bit player in what’s supposed to be her big moment, but coming after Nintendo for story and story alone doesn’t feel like a worthwhile pursuit.
I want what they have T . T
With an engaging animation style that immediately pops to colorful life on your screen, a wide swath of more multiplayer-minded modes and games, and Polterpup (I would die for him), LUIGI’S MANSION 3 manages to strike a pitch-perfect tone of spooky delight that’s the perfect palate cleanser between all of the year’s other high-octane virtual thrills. Though perhaps best experienced in segmented bursts as opposed to a long night of binging, LUIGI’S MANSION 3 brings the property roaring back with vitality and is a highly recommended play over the impending holidays.