It’s been a long time since a 12-year old me played the original Luigi’s Mansion on the GameCube, and while I don’t remember much about my time with the game, I do wonder whether it quietly instigated my slightly obsessive cleanliness. I vacuum at least two or three times a week, picking up every last bit of dirt or dust in an effort to leave my home spotless. That’s an addiction which has most definitely carried over into Luigi’s Mansion 3 – I’ve spent 15 hours obsessively vacuuming up everything in sight, from bed sheets, to plants, to spectral baddies. I bloody love the Poltergust G-00 – if only I could buy one in real life.
Much like previous entries in the series, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is about solving puzzles, stunning ghosts with your torch, and vacuuming them into oblivion. Strictly speaking, there’s no mansion this time as such, with events instead transpiring inside a huge hotel which Luigi and his compatriots have been lured to under false pretenses. Once things start to go south, Luigi must travel through the hotels 15 floors one at a time in a bid to save his friends and defeat King Boo. It’s pretty straightforward stuff as you would imagine, with the story and setting merely serving as a vehicle to guide you through the various levels and puzzles which Next Level Games has designed.
Although the game would like you to think that it’s quite open, in reality it is rather strictly linear. You must travel through the hotel, one floor at a time, defeating each floors bizarre and brilliant boss to acquire the elevator button for the next floor up. While the first few floors are distinctly hotel-looking, they get considerably less hotel-ish as you go further and further up. Each floor becomes incredibly unique and not in-keeping with the hotel theme at all; there’s a gym, a dance hall, a medieval castle, an ancient tomb, a movie set. Each different floor is jam-packed with enemies to defeat and puzzles to solve, and all of them feel different thanks to Next Level Games tremendous level design. This is gaming in its simplest form and it’s executed brilliantly – each floor is essentially a themed level; complete floor, defeat boss, proceed to the next level. So on and so forth.
To defeat the enemies and solve the puzzles which inhabit each floor, you’ll need to utilize all of the tools at Luigi’s disposal. His torch can be used to stun ghosts before sucking them into his Poltergust G-00, and he can also use dark light to reveal hidden secrets. If necessary, Luigi can also reverse the air-flow of his vacuum and blow air out to push enemies away, or maybe even to turn a tap or a lever to solve a puzzle. In true plumber style, Luigi can also use his plunger and Poltergust to perform a sucker shot, allowing him to destroy items of furniture or move objects. It’s a pretty limited arsenal of abilities, but each one is utilized to its maximum potential throughout the story, with none of them feeling neglected or somewhat useless.
If a puzzle can’t be solved using one of the tools at Luigi’s disposal, then perhaps Gooigi will be of use. Gooigi is a gooified (is that a word?) version of Luigi who can be summoned to help you solve puzzles, perhaps in cases where you need two pairs of hands or where you need to get through a grate which would otherwise be impassable by anybody other than Gooigi or the T-1000. His addition adds another depth to puzzle-solving and also acts as the way in which you can play the game in two-player co-op, with the second player taking permanent control of the congealed clone. He’s a fantastic addition who is equally utilized in both single-player and two-player.
The bulk of your time will be spent making use of the Poltergust G-00 though, which is insanely satisfying to use. I was honestly vacuuming up absolutely everything in sight. Again, this may just be my OCD talking, but I felt a need to check every nook and cranny, to explore every inch of the hotel, to find every puzzle that I could. Secrets and puzzles are hidden away in all areas of the game, with every inch of space carefully crafted and bursting with reasons to be explored and…well…vacuumed. You’ll vacuum up an insane amount of money while you ransack each room—honestly, if money was half as easy to come by in real life as it is in Luigi’s Mansion 3 then I’d be filthy rich—which I find strangely addictive, possibly because I’m so damn poor in real life. The money situation does also serve as a negative though, but I’ll come back to that later.
The game is also fantastically animated. The petrified Luigi moves with reluctance and apprehension, and every sudden movement is met with a twitch of fright or a gasp of terror. He talks in jibber-jabber with the odd bit of clear English thrown in, but it’s done so well that you still always know what he’s thinking. This brilliant sound design combined with the near-flawless animation gives the game a brilliant sense of humour and a wonderful charm which can be enjoyed by people of all ages, the kind of charm that is synonymous with Nintendo. That’s something that I kept thinking when playing Luigi’s Mansion 3, that it is such a distinctly Nintendo game. There’s no reliance on violence, gore, or adrenaline-fueled action, because Nintendo doesn’t need it. All that Nintendo needs are charming characters, fantastic level design, and incredible polish and attention to detail. Luigi’s Mansion 3 ticks all of those boxes.
That doesn’t mean it’s perfect though, because it isn’t. Remember when I told you that you’ll grab an insane amount of money while you vacuum everything in sight? (you should do, it was two paragraphs ago), well you do get a lot of money, but there really isn’t all that much to spend it on. There’s an in-game shop which will let you purchase three items: Gold Bone’s, which essentially keep you alive and restore your health to full should you happen to die; Boo Finder’s, which help you find collectible Boo’s; and Gem Finders, which help you find collectible Gems. And that’s it. These also cost absolute peanuts in relation to how much money you pick up, so you’ll never be left deciding whether to make a purchase or not, and you’ll never have to go in hunt of money to be able to afford something. Eventually, and with a significant amount of time to spare, you’ll be able to afford absolutely everything in the shop with a ridiculous amount left over, which suddenly renders money effectively useless. This is obviously no deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more that you can spend your money on which forced some kind of decision making from the player. I don’t know what that could be mind you, but that isn’t my job.
The game is also too easy. You’ll defeat all types of enemies with relative ease and speed, and you’ll very rarely feel like you’re being overwhelmed and in danger of being defeated. If you do get near to zero health then the game will start throwing hearts at you, and if you still happen to lose all of your health then you’ll have the aforementioned Gold Bones to fall back on, effectively granting you numerous extra lives which you’ll never be in any danger of losing, which takes away any sense of tension brought on by the prospect of dying. The game tries to instill tension in you with a ridiculously loud, annoying, pulsing sound that plays when you’re close to zero health, but this really does only serve as a source of frustration rather than any kind of anxiety. I had to turn my speakers down on a couple of occasions because it was driving me mad.
Puzzles are a little too easy as well. Although puzzles are jammed in every corner of the hotel, a lot of them have similar solutions – sucker shot this, shine your dark light on that, blow air on this to raise water levels etc etc. Solving these will usually just boil down to a process of elimination, using each ability until one of them works. If you are stuck on a certain puzzle then you won’t be for long, because Professor E. Gadd will pop up and practically tell you the solution within a minute of you not solving it. The puzzles are still pretty fun and satisfying to solve, but they aren’t at the level of those found in, say, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, where you really have to stop for a minute and think about what abilities could work or what you need to do next. It’s easy to get stuck while you scratch your head and figure out what to do next on that game, but you’ll rarely be stuck on a puzzle in Luigi’s Mansion 3 for longer than a minute.
I can only presume that the games relative ease has been designed to make it accessible to both younger players and older players alike, and that’s fine, but the effect that had on me as an adult (I still hate calling myself that) is that it made the game’s 15 hours feel a bit too long. By the time I’d reached the 12th or 13th floor I was ready for the game to end, and it got particularly tedious when the story forced me to backtrack on more than one occasion to floors which I’d already completed. I feel like the game would have benefited from having these sections cut out of it, and a play time more around the 12-13 hour mark would have prevented the fatigue from setting in late on. Don’t let any of that put you off though, because Luigi’s Mansion 3 is still an absolute delight to play.
Once you do finish the single-player portion, then there are two multiplayer modes to try, but neither of them are really anything to write home about. First there’s ScreamPark, which is essentially a small collection of 2v2 mini-games. They’re decent fun without being anything special, but they’re also only available offline in local multiplayer, which seems like a mad decision in this age of online gaming dominance. If you do want to take Luigi’s Mansion 3 online then you can do so in ScareScraper mode, a four-player co-op journey through various floors which challenge you to perform objectives before the timer runs out, such as clearing the floor of ghosts or collecting all of the coins. Again, this is pretty decent fun and it’s very polished, but it also lacks depth or substance, and it has very little reason to go back or keep playing. The different floors get very samey very quickly, and aside from needing to pass the odd half hour or so you’ll probably feel very little desire to play. These multiplayer modes definitely aren’t any reason to buy the game on their own, instead acting as an extra, as an added bonus to go with the main attraction.
And that’s okay. Nintendo have been miles behind on the online side of things for a long time now, but their exclusive titles possess a certain character, polish, charm, and fun factor which the likes of the Xbox One can only dream of. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is another example of that; there’s no reliance on deep story or over-the-top action, we’re just taking Mario’s scaredy cat brother through a series of fantastically-designed levels, armed with nothing more than an incredibly addictive-to-use gadget to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. The bottom line is that it’s just an absolute blast to play, and that’s enough for me.