It has been six years since Luigi’s Mansion 2 arrived on the Nintendo 3DS and a massive eighteen years since the original game debuted. Nobody could ever accuse Nintendo of rushing the series, then. But with time comes a growing sense of expectation, a pressure for the new game to do well. Luigi’s Mansion 3 has been a long time coming, so has it been worth the lengthy wait?
Luigi himself is a masterclass in cartoon style animation, his timid tip-toeing, shaking and fumbling of objects are all incredibly endearing and fun. The poor wee bastard is constantly terrified of the haunted hotel he has found himself in, frequently quaking in horror at the prospect of facing down whatever new ghost might be residing in the halls and rooms of the building. It’s Luigi’s third time dealing with ghosts and ghouls in a hotel. You’d think he’d be used to it by now, and yet here he is, fumbling with his torch and scared out of his wits. His face is so expressive, his body language communicates his sheer terror but also his bravery at facing his fears.
It’s not just animations, mind you – this is a beautiful looking game in general with some superb lighting effects that give the world a lot of character. I’ve been playing on my Switch Lite, so I’ve been unable to get the full effect of the graphics on a big screen but even on the Lite’s smaller panel there’re heaps of detail to soak in. Part of me is a little disappointed that the spookier atmosphere of the first game seems to have been abandoned completely now, but it’s hard to care when it looks this damn nice.
But enough waxing lyrical about the graphics, let’s get down to the premise of the game: Luigi, Princess Peach, Mario and a few Toads have all been invited to stay at a beautiful hotel in the countryside and naturally they can’t refuse such a tempting vacation. Having already gotten through two entire haunted hotels you might expect Luigi to be a tad more wise when it comes to this sort of thing, but alas he too is lured in by the appeal of a posh room and some nice food. Naturally, things are not as they seem because all the staff are wearing masks and are suspiciously lacking in the feet department. They are secretly ghosts who trap Mario, Princess Peach and the Toads in magical picture frames, and so it’s up to the terrified Luigi to once again save the day while facing off against the hotel’s manager and the returning King Boo.
And that’s really it for the story. Luigi’s Mansion 3 keeps the narrative nice and simple: find your friends, suck up some ghosts, beat King Boo, save the day. That’s all it needs to be, really. The story is setup and then swept aside in the opening minutes, and after that it’s all down to the individual boss ghosts and the exploration of the hotel. It’s simple, and I like it like that.
Aiding Luigi in his quest is the Poltergust G-00, the handy-dandy machine that looks suspiciously like a modifed vacuum cleaner that is used to hoover up ghosts and do most of the interaction with the environment. Just hold down the suction button and you can suck up just about everything, from tablecloths to vases. The sheer amount of stuff that can be hoovered up is crazy, and it’s easy to find yourself addicted to sucking up absolutely everything in a room before you move on.
The big new upgrade that the Poltergust G-00 boasts is the ability to create an exact replicate of Luigi made out of strange green jelly-like goop. This wobbly clone of Luigi is called Gooigi and you can fully control him just like you do with Luigi, using a click of the right stick to swap between the two. Gooigi does have a few big weaknesses: he’s got very little health, and if he so much as gets a drop of water on him he dissolves into a pile of gooey gloop before slurping his way back into the Poltergust G-00. However, being made of slime has some big benefits, including the fact that he can slip through fences and vents with ease, and ignore otherwise lethal stuff like spikes and arrows. It’s a lot like playing through the game with a co-op partner, and in fact you can actually recruit another player to permanently take on the role of Gooigi if you like.
A lot of the game’s puzzles are built around using both Luigi and his transparent twin because both characters will continue to do whatever they were doing when you swap over. In other words you can leave Googi hoovering away and swap over to Luigi in order to add his suction power to the problem. At first things feel a little too gimmicky, a little too obvious in their use of Luigi and his green cousin, but it turns out that Luigi’s Mansion 3 is just slowly turning up the heat. This isn’t to say that the puzzles will wind up eviscerating your poor brain, after all this is a game aimed at a younger audience, but they do become less obvious in their solutions and Gooigi quickly stops feeling like a gimmick and more like a fundamental part of the design.
But let’s not forget about busting some ghosts because Luigi’s Mansion 3 is arguably the best Ghost Busters game out there despite not having the official name. Like before the basic ghosts are handled by blinding them with a flash from your torch before hoovering them up. Once they’re trapped in the suction you just need to pull in the opposite direction using the analogue stick before tapping A when the prompt appears. The only difference now is that tapping A lets you slam ghosts into the ground repeatedly, or into furniture or even into other ghosts. It’s fun and satisfying to smash a ghost into a table or right into one of its pals, but it’s not a perfect addition. The reason I say that is in the previous games when you were sucking up a ghost you’d have to evade the other ghosts, sometimes by jumping and sometimes by letting go of your target entirely. But here you can just flatten other ghosts and I rarely, if ever, had to worry about other ghosts attacking me. It’s a different dynamic, and it’s honestly hard to say if its better. It’s just different.
Not all ghosts are dealt with in the same way, naturally. Sometimes they’ll be wearing sunglasses or wielding something to shield their eyes. Other times they might just have a lot of health that must be whittled down. I loved figuring out the little things needed to get rid of their defences. This is where Luigi’s other new trick comes into play; a plunger, the trademark tool of the plumber. This little suction cup can be shot at flat services and has a handy little rope attached to it that you can then hoover up and use to yank or sometimes slam the target. This might mean dragging a ghost’s shield away or tipping over something or dragging a chest around before slamming it into something.
Much like Gooigi the plunger slides itself seamlessly into Luigi’s Mansion 3 and now it’s kind of hard to imagine playing the previous two games without these things in place.
When it comes to the structure of the game it’s kept nice and simple with the goal being to acquire the lost elevator buttons so that you can move up the floors and find Luigi’s friends. What the developers have gone with is a mixture of the first two games, attempting to blend the single location of the original Luigi’s Mansion with the multiple hotels of Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon. Many of the floors you run around are quite standard, lavish hotel floors, but sometimes you’ll step out of the elevator into something that defies logic, like an entire desert complete with pyramid and hidden tombs. I love this. It’s in keeping with the supernatural style of the hotel and provides plenty of variety both visually and mechanically. That desert I just mentioned? Well, that brings with it sand dunes that you can manipulate with your Poltergust. But my personal favourite sequence involved a ghostly director and a cunning little puzzle sequence that took the existing gameplay and mixed it up in a fun and refreshing way.
Indeed, Luigi’s Mansion 3 consistently managed to do that, changing up its formula in little ways that didn’t radically change the experience but kept it interesting. Each new floor of the hotel was an exciting prospect, a chance to see what would come next or face off against a cool boss. Not every floor or boss manages to be brilliant, but even at its lowest point Luigi’s Mansion 3 is still heaps of fun.
But now we do come to a small flaw. As you explore the various floors of the hotel there are piles of paper cash, coins and gold bars to suck up, and it’s strangely addictive to collect as much as you can. And yet there’s really nothing to use all of that collected fortune on. There are golden dog bones that basically give you an extra life upon death, or you can purchase maps that show you where the secret ghosts and jewels are. And that’s it. I just wish there was something to spend all that money on.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is primarily a singleplayer game where you can sink into your couch and just enjoy your time with it, but it does offer up some multiplayer, too. The first is ScareScraper where four Luigis and four Gooigis (the Gooigi players are tied to the console of their respective Luigi) team up to tackle randomly generated levels with the goal being to clear all the ghosts or find all the toads before the time limit runs out. It’s a fun mode and surprisingly challenging at times, plus you get a couple of gameplay tweaks in the form of powerups and traps that freeze players until someone rescues them.
The second mode is ScreamPark which is essentially a small collection of mini-games for up to eight players on the same console. Since I’m playing on a Lite it’s fair to say that this is the part of Luigi’s Mansion 3 I touched the least, but I did try it out. There’s just a few games that amount to competing to catch the most ghosts, get the most coins or hit the most targets. They are fun the first time or two that you play, and then you’ll likely never touch them again. Apparently there will be some DLC in the future that expands ScreamPark, but it’ll need to be pretty impressive to entice me back.
I briefly mentioned co-op in the review, so let’s jump back to that for a minute. As soon as Gooigi is unlocked in the story, which is very early on, you can recruit another to take on the role of the green gloop, although sadly it’s limited to local co-op only. On the one hand playing with someone else makes an already relatively easy game even easier, but on the other hand having another player along for the ride is a blast. There’s just enough differences between Gooigi and Luigi to make things fun, and a few of the puzzles sequences are genuinely brilliant with two people. I’d absolutely be considering a second run through the game entirely in co-op, even if it is a little crowded around a Switch Lite screen.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an absolutely outstanding example of how a sequel should be done. It takes everything that made the first two games so fantastic and adds some new twists to the formula. Sure, you could argue that Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a somewhat safe sequel, and you’d be right in that it doesn’t take any big risks, but I think it does enough to set itself apart from its forebearers while still keeping a tight hold of the charm that made them so amazing to play.
It took me around 10-12 hours to play through Luigi’s Mansion 3 and I loved nearly every minute of it. It’s a beautiful, entertaining romp that’s brimming with passion and tight game design. It is, above all else, just damn fun to play in either five minute bursts or for hours at a time. Luigi’s Mansion 3 will almost surely be on my list of the best games of 2019.
4.5 out of 5