Luigi and company have had enough of the AirBNB life. After two nightmarish experiences in mansions, the crew decides to try a hotel. There’s no way a squad of ghosts would haunt a whole hotel. Right?
Though we ultimately know where this goes, Luigi’s Mansion 3 at least get treated to a fabulous opening sequence that showcases our Mushroom Kingdom heroes in a new light. As they ride their travel bus and check into the hotel, we see these characters interact with the world and with each other in ways that build on our understanding of who they are. Hoping that more games in the Super Mario universe can find ways of incorporating this type of storytelling in its other games!
After narrowly escaping the ghosts who would capture his family and friends, it’s up to him to save the day. Conveniently, his trusty Poltergust and Professor E. Gadd also happen to be here. Once you’re properly equipped, it’s time to save your friends.
Luigi will do so by exploring each floor of the hotel, solving environmental puzzles, and busting ghosts with his trusty vacuum. One thing I’ve noticed coming from Luigi’s Mansion 2 is that the overall structure of the game has become much more rigid. Instead of being able to more freely roam a large space with the potential of getting lost, the hotel really serves as a way of driving users through a more linear experience. Each floor of the hotel essentially acts as a stage, forcing you to complete them one-by-one. The game falters during its few instances of forced backtracking, but thankfully these moments are few and far between.
Furthermore, the game also draws a hard line between puzzle-solving and combat. For the most part, you’ll move through each room, solving the puzzle preventing you from making progress. Then, the ghost gates will drop, forcing you to defeat the enemies at hand before moving on. You’re never asked to do both at once.
Some might be disappointed in this shift, but I actually prefer this approach. While I would still get stuck from puzzle-to-puzzle, It took the element of getting lost out of the equation. You’re still free to explore – and the game gives you reasons to backtrack – but there’s never any confusion over where you need to go.
Besides, the magic of Luigi’s Mansion has always come from the ways in which Luigi interacts with the world around him. Gorgeous visuals combined with an active physics engine make for a game where players are rewarded for interacting with virtually everything the game has to offer. Luigi’s tool set is relatively small, but the worlds around him allow him to find clever secrets and solve puzzles in interesting ways.
Reflecting back on my time with the game, there were no shortage of high points. One of my favourite moments involves him converting his vacuum into a makeshift circular saw, allowing him to cut down everything in sight. Another involved some incredible plays on perspective in a movie studio. In an Egyptian pyramids themed floor, sand is used in some really interesting ways to solve puzzles.
This phenomenon is amplified further by the introduction of Gooigi. A slime-based doppelganger introduced after the game’s opening sequence, you’ll need their combined efforts to solve many of the game’s puzzles. It’s an interesting dynamic that I’d imagine would work even better as a co-op game if I had the chance to play it that way.
When Luigi and Gooigi are solving puzzles, the game is at its best. Combat also involves a lot of puzzle-solving, which can be really interesting from one encounter to the next. Every enemy has some sort of trick to it, and it’s neat to figure those out on your own. Solving each enemy can take a bit of time, but the game’s generous distribution of hearts and your ability to slam ghosts to quickly drain their health takes a lot of the tension out of the battle.
Fights may not have posed much of a threat, but I never got comfortable with aiming. By moving the sticks left or right, you don’t actually point in those directions. Instead, Luigi spins clockwise or counterclockwise, giving the game a clunky feel at times. Up and down are reserved for aiming vertically. Combined with having to drag in the opposite direction of where ghosts are going, I oftentimes unleashed Gooigi by accident when pressing in on the right analog stick a bit too hard, causing Luigi to lose the ghost. I try my best to avoid this, but it does happen from time-to-time when battles get a bit hectic. These quirks are more of an annoyance than anything that will cause you to lose your life.
Control foibles and backtracking hiccups aside, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a great action adventure game that oozes with charm. Top-notch presentation and clever puzzle-solving alone or with a friend make it a safe bet for almost any Nintendo Switch player. Playing through this makes me wish more of the Super Mario universe got this level of attention to detail.
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