The other Mario brother gets a shot at the big-time with a new sequel that adds online multiplayer to the usual ghostbusting action.
A lot of people don’t like Luigi. Despite his long career in games he’s rarely given a chance to shine and often just ends up as the multiplayer character nobody ever picks. We love him though. He’s great in the Paper Mario games, where his uselessness is simultaneously mocked and celebrated, but his most significant starring role has always been the Luigi’s Mansion games – where his cowardly nature also serves a dual purpose, as a point of ridicule and as a rare sign of sanity in the Mushroom Kingdom.
It’s very difficult to say what kind of games Luigi’s Mansion is. The first one, recently ported to the 3DS, was famously a launch title for the GameCube and had a strong whiff of tech demo about it. In terms of its haunted setting it was a vague parody of Resident Evil, but where Luigi has to suck up ghosts using a modified vacuum cleaner while solving simple environmental puzzles.
The first game was okay, but it seemed as if it had been understandably forgotten when, 12 years later, Luigi’s Mansion 2 was released for 3DS. This was a far more robust game, with much more involved puzzles and exploration, and it remains one of the best games on the system – and the best Western-developed Nintendo game since Metroid Prime. And we’re happy to say that Luigi’s Mansion 3 seems to be just as good.
We were a bit worried that Canadian developer Next Level Games might not be involved in the third game, as they drew considerable fan criticism for making 2016’s much pilloried Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Which is a shame as it wasn’t completely terrible and, in any case, we’re sure it wasn’t their idea. But they’re back and, as you’d expect from being on the Switch, Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks even more expansive and varied than the last game.
From what we could gather of the story, the whole Mushroom Kingdom crew are visiting an appropriately haunted-looking hotel, which seems to have ended up with not just Mario getting captured in a ghostly painting but also Princess Peach and several Toads. Professor E. Gadd is also involved, providing Luigi with a new ghostbusting vacuum cleaner and several new gadgets.
The hotel comprises several floors and there doesn’t seem to be any effort at creating the illusion of a real building, with our demo including a large jousting arena for the boss battle. The larger playable section was from what looked to be normal floors in-between a kind of fake medieval market, with Luigi creeping nervously around and fighting ghosts in the normal fashion. That is to say, he first startles them with a flash of his torch and then sucks them up by pulling in the opposite direction to the one they’re moving in.
These smaller, cannon fodder ghosts are never meant to be too much trouble and dealing with them is more a question of crowd tactics than anything else. But there are some fun new moves, including an area of effect attack and a floor slam that seems to have been inspired by Hulk using Loki as a ragdoll in the first Avengers. Smashing ghosts on the floor in the same fashion not only injures (?) them but also allows you to attack others at the same time.
Although it’s still not very complex the combat is by no means a triviality and even in the demo we didn’t coast through any of it. But that was always one of the things that was so good about Luigi’s Mansion 2, as it had a surprising lack of handholding (or signposting) with actions and puzzles that seemed almost retro in the way they forced you to think about your environment. We don’t want to overstate their complexity but there’s certainly no following a bright flashing arrow to do exactly what the onscreen text tells you to, and then calling that a puzzle.
Instead, Luigi has to navigate past a series of traps and use his vacuum cleaner to suck up pulleys in order to get a lift working. There are hidden areas in wine barrels and lots of unexpected uses for a suction cup you can fire out of the vacuum cleaner, which attaches to a surface so you can then pull the rope on the end of it – which is also used to remove armour from stronger ghosts.
Some of the obstacles, such as spike traps that shoot up from the floor, are impassable and Luigi has to use one of the main new features of the sequel: Gooigi. Introduced in the 3DS port of the first game, where he was simply an avatar for the second player, Gooigi’s role has been expanded here so that he can slip between spike traps and grates – like a less threatening T-1000. Gooigi washes away with water though, so equally there are some situations only Luigi can deal with.
Gooigi can still be played by a second player if you want, while there’s also an eight-player online mode using randomly-generated maps that scale to however many people are playing. Meanwhile, back in single-player mode, the boss turned out to be a Scottish knight on horseback and, just like the rest of the game, he proved surprisingly challenging and inventive. The Luigi’s Mansion series has only been a relatively minor franchise up till now but there’s more than a ghost of a chance that this will finally make Luigi a leading man in his own right.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: Autumn 2019
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