Since playing it on the GameCube many moons ago, Luigi's Mansion became my staple for horror. It was never necessarily a scary game, but it was about as far as my tender soul would take me into the genre, and quite honestly I was happy with that. It had the atmosphere, a few chills, a few spooks, but above all was just a brilliantly fun experience. Having not found my feet with the mission-oriented sequel, I was desperate to see a Luigi's Mansion game truly recapture the spirit of the first title, and in some ways, Luigi does just that.
The game starts out with a lavish cutscene of Luigi and friends as they head towards the aptly named Last Resort, a grand and golden hotel stretching high towards the sky. Everything is shining, everything glistens, it's the image of luxury itself, but not without an oddity or two. Blissfully ignorant, our favourite friends head to their rooms, where I might add you can pet Luigi's ghost dog, and get some sleep. In the dead of night, our gallant green wakes, watching on in horror as the golden aesthetic melts away and his nightmare really begins. The hotel, quite unsurprisingly, was a ruse to lure in our heroes and trap them in paintings. The mastermind? King Boo himself, still holding a grudge against Luigi for their previous few run-ins. Naturally, Luigi escapes, dropping down to the basement of the hotel and kicking the game off.
As a setup, I think it was played fantastically. Though the setup doesn't do much to shock you, it takes great strides to poke fun at itself, and at the cast for falling for such a clear trap. The masks the ghosts wear to conceal their identities were the standout in this for me. You have the tone of the game set incredibly well, putting forwards brilliant physical comedy with the largely-mute ghosts, contrasted by Luigi's genuine fear in this unfamiliar environment.
When it comes to gameplay, Next Level Games really do take the core controls of the first game to, well, the next level. Luigi has his standard flashlight and vacuum combo, with the general cycle being the same satisfying 'shine your light on them, and suck them up'. It's tried, it's tested, it works. As you continue through the first few areas of the game, you add to your arsenal a little, acquiring the Dark-Light, a launchable projectile plunger, and by far my favourite miscellaneous creation of the Mario franchise, Gooigi. Instead of lumping all of these on you together, the game takes time to introduce each new aspect with small puzzles and time to adjust. Though it might not seem like a lot to remember, the game expects you to have a complete understanding of your options to solve a good number of its puzzles. Forgetting the basics can lead to a great deal of frustration, and in some cases, even death for the lean mean green machine. Quite early on, I forgot one of the new attacks for the vacuum, ending with two bats taking my health down from 99 to zero. Thankfully, the game saves at almost every door transition, but I held an unjust grudge against the game for a good number of hours before realising I had that attack as an option.
Gooigi takes no prisoners.
Gooigi is the hero we deserve, and thanks to Next Level Games, he's also the hero we got. Once unlocked, you're able to summon him at will and switch between him and Luigi as you please. Why would you want to do this? Because of his gooey demeanour, he can quite neatly walk through spikes, cages, even go through some easy to recognise pipes! His health bar is also completely separate to Luigi's, with no real punishment for it falling to zero outside of having to resummon him. What's the catch? Water. One touch of the stuff and Gooigi's down the drain; it's a clear trade-off, and one you can quickly recognise as a threat or puzzle when presented. Gooigi's attributes make him a fun character to mess with in single player, a good number of puzzles requiring you bring him out to do his own thing or stand by Luigi when one vacuum just doesn't offer enough suction. Where I feel he truly shines, however, is in providing a low risk means of enjoying the series for the first time. Thanks to the same system coop available, young children could quite happily play with a parent or family member to be a part of the experience without necessarily hindering the main player. It gives power and satisfaction in a surprisingly balanced way, and I really do hope there are children out there who get to jump in this way.
Though I touched on it earlier, Luigi's moveset deserves a spotlight (or flashlight as it were) shined on it. Luigi is versatile, Luigi is frantic, Luigi is fun. Starting with the vacuuming basics, you have the slam attack. As you pull the ghost towards you, you fill a small gauge as you drain their health. Once this is full, you can press A to slam the ghost to the ground, dealing a flat 20 damage, with you being able to repeat the attack four times before they break free. It's satisfying, but that's not where the beauty of this move lies. Where the fluidity of gameplay and satisfaction truly begin is in how you choose to chain your ghost captures when you're against more than one spook. In other games, you might hook two together, or just move from one to the next while dodging hazards; Luigi's Mansion 3 laughs at these simple notions. By slamming one ghost into another, you throw them into a vulnerable state as if they've just been hit by your flashlight. This means once you've finished with the ghost you're currently catching, you can move straight onto the next with little downtime, becoming particularly useful as ghosts develop countermeasures in their choice of light-blocking accessories.
Beyond this, you have a neat downward thrust that's particularly handy for blowing away bats that will otherwise chip at your health until you die, and a generic blow function. Both of these are used more for puzzle solving than combat, but the overall variety is something I did come to enjoy, even if it took me a while to remember everything I had. The game relies on you knowing what you're doing with your controls, especially if you're seeking out its secrets. Take the time to learn the basics. The plunger is fairly self-explanatory; it's a projectile. It hits things far away. Thanks to its plungerific design, you'll find it sticking to surfaces too, allowing you to vacuum it and pull on objects you'd otherwise struggle with. One thing I'm quite grateful for is how it'll only stick to specific areas in the world. What this means is that you can focus on what exactly it's stuck to, and debate on whether it'll lead to a secret, or whether it's just a chance to cause chaos. If it stuck to every wall, I fear you'd lose a lot of this charm and excitement. It'd be more a case of repetitive frustration as you pull at every wall, knowing it sticks and knowing something might just maybe be there. Finally, the Dark-Light is the item you pull out once you have the solution to the puzzle. Often the final piece, shining it on certain areas can bring to life previously-invisible objects. Be it a chest, a door, a drain or more, you're rewarded well whenever you need to use it.
Moving from a mansion to a hotel brings with it an interesting assortment of good and bad. As an isolated structure and means of progression, the hotel setting utilises a simple but effective formula. You have a themed floor with a stream of puzzles that ultimately lead you with a trail of breadcrumbs to a boss ghost. You beat the boss, gain access to a new floor, rinse and repeat. Having an entire floor following a cohesive theme provides a fantastic build up, often chasing the boss themselves through it and ending in a more satisfying and meaningful battle. While the game is set in a hotel, the design team clearly took some liberties in their creations, resulting in some incredibly quirky and 'unhotel-like' floors you constantly find yourself in awe at. This is especially hammered home as you return to the elevator upon completing it and find yourself pulled back to the frankly odd truth that the knight's castle you just ventured through was in fact a part of the hotel. It is, of course, not without its floors.
Compared to the mansion of the first game, you notice an oddly distinct lack of life—something amusing to point out in a game so focused on catching the dead. Though the game features roughly the same number of unique boss ghosts, this build up and time to develop and embrace a theme can at times backfire, going out of its way to say 'you are alone'. On paper, this sounds like a good thing, pushing the spooky ambience and isolation of our protagonist, but it never really feels that way. You lose the constant drabs of dialogue, the tiny injections of personality and charm. The first game thrived in its limitations, in the cramped and almost claustrophobic environment. Opening this up gives you more content, but I feel something was lost along the way.
It's not to say the puzzles occupying the hallowed halls are particularly lacklustre either; I do in fact hold them in high regard. They kept me engaged, trying and testing me at every opportunity as I methodically tore each room apart. The game is full of puzzles with a great variety of complexity and obscurity, all but guaranteeing you'll miss one or two as you play. With five optional gems to find on each floor, each hidden behind a puzzle or small challenge, you're always looking for what's coming next. In my playthrough, I found myself averaging between three and four gems, and I was compelled to seek out more. There is of course a point where this search boils over to frustration, but the game never lets you reach that point, with hints available to purchase. What makes these hints appealing to me is that the game only reveals the room the gems are in, leaving the satisfaction of finding and completing the puzzle completely to you. It keeps the challenge and overall sense of reward, while removing the frustration of moving from room to room after the fact, creating a fantastic sense of balance that had me unashamed in asking for help.
Beyond the previously-mentioned same system coop in Gooigi, Luigi's Mansion 3 features an online multiplayer mode in the form of ScareScraper, making its return from the second game. The concept is simple: move from room to room in a series of randomly generated floors to clear them of their ghostly inhabitants. Being on a timer, the focus shifts to your skill in quickly dispatching these ghouls, the challenge lessening with the number of players joining you. There's fun to be had both alone and with friends, and this mode being playable both locally and online really does wonders for it. I already have plans to be playing this with friends once the game launches!
The game also features a number of multiplayer-exclusive minigames, allowing between two and eight people to partake on the same system. Sadly, with my right Joy Con's SL and SR buttons out of order, I wasn't able to connect two separate controllers to try these for myself, but you can check out their descriptions below. While I doubt they're anything particularly extraordinary, they seem fun distractions from the main game if nothing else, and ones to be enjoyed with friends. As miscellaneous extras, you can't really ask for more than that.
All in all, Luigi's Mansion 3 is a game I urge anybody reading to play, and I really do mean anybody. Whether a series veteran or completely new to gaming, this game covers every base. Featuring a myriad of fun optional challenges, puzzles, and achievements, there's a fantastic amount to do and experience. I can think of no better way to spend Halloween.