Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Luigi’s Mansion 3 caps off a month of spooks and scares by giving us a lighthearted haunted Nintendo adventure. This time around Luigi has to exterminate specters in a haunted hotel, including all the spooks that he sucked up in Luigi’s Mansion 1 and 2. Can Luigi summon up the courage to save Mario, Peach, and a handful of Toads? Will his handful of new gadgets and tricks allow him to survive seventeen floors of haunted chaos? Will he ever learn that spam mail vacation offers are never as good as they seem?
A different kind of Mario game
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is about as “Nintendo” as Nintendo games get. The plot is goofy, cartoony, and not at all what you came here for. This is a game that is 100% gameplay and aesthetics, much like Super Mario Odyssey before it.
It’s also about a far from Odyssey as you can get, gameplay-wise. Mario is known for making daring jumps and other feats of acrobatics while Luigi’s feet are essentially stapled to the floor for the whole game. Mario dashes around levels in ways that make a speedrunner drool, while Luigi takes plodding shivering footsteps. Mario roams through large open worlds while Luigi skulks through claustrophobic caverns looking for hidden rooms. If you already played one of the original two Luigi’s Mansions you know what to expect here, but if you are new to the series be sure to note that this is a Mario game in title only.
The brand new Poltergust
Luigi’s abilities this time around are a mixture of his abilities from the original Luigi’s Mansion and its sequel Dark Moon. Once again he is equipped with his ghost-busting vacuum the Poltergust and a trusty flashlight. In general, the flashlight is used to stun ghosts while the vacuum sucks them up. Luigi retains his flash ability from Dark Moon, allowing him to stun multiple ghosties at once. He also eventually unlocks some other holdovers from that game, such as the dark light, which can reveal secrets and free characters from paintings.
Luigi’s most prominent new ability is the slam. Suck on a ghost long enough and it will allow Luigi to whip it around, dealing 20 damage every time it smashes into a wall or floor. You can use this ability in lots of interesting ways, like slamming ghosts into other ghosts to deal damage and stun them. In fact, judicious use of the slam can let you clear entire rooms with one good suck.
Luigi also gains a new ability which strangely debuted in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the ability to fire plungers from his Poltergust. This allows him to latch on to and slam physical objects. This can be used offensively as a weapon against ghosts or as a puzzle solving tool as it lets you move and destroy large objects and barricades.
Luigi also gets the ability to create area-of-effect gust of air all around him. It lifts him off the ground for a few seconds and pushes enemies backward, giving him some space. It also destroys fragile items (but not items that need to be slammed using the plunger ability.) and makes bigger destroyable items shake. It’s kind of an all-purpose “find the secret” button when it isn’t being used to buy you space in combat.
Luigi’s last new tool is his weirdest one. His new Poltergust comes equipped with a tank full of ectoplasm that he can release into the world as a “Gooigi” clone. Gross.
Gooigi is essentially an excuse to create co-op puzzles in a single-player game structure. He can flip switches while Luigi runs through a door activated by the same switch, for example. A surprising amount of puzzles in the game require Gooigi. He’s a useful tool in single-player but his potential comes alive in co-op where one player controls Gooigi the whole time. Being able to use both characters at once to solve puzzles and make progress just feels good, and teaming up to take down a boss feels even better.
Gooigi plays exactly like Luigi in all ways except one. Gooigi can squeeze his gooey body through grates and fences, but cannot pass through water as it melts him on contact. This effectively gives both Luigi and Gooigi places they can and cannot go, which serves as the basis of more than a couple of puzzles. It’s just a shame that it’s not quite clear by graphics alone what counts as a fence or water, leading to a couple frustrating bouts of trial and error with the mechanic.
But nothing in the game will frustrate you more than the controls. You have two styles to choose from, omnidirectional or horizontal only. Omnidirectional controls allow you to aim up and down using the right analog stick but turns right and left into “rotate clockwise and rotate counter clockwise.” You also can’t invert the Y axis for aiming up or down, which is frustrating. Horizontal only controls greatly simplify aiming with the right stick to “press in the direction you want to aim” but to aim up or down you have to tilt the controller up or down.
Yep, those are your only two options: tank controls or motion controls. Have fun!
Another issue with the controls is that they are poorly tutorialized. The game tells you to use face buttons for your flashlight, darklight, and a lot of other functions. This makes it seem like you can’t use them and aim at the same time… except you can! Every face button function is also mapped to the shoulder buttons. You can use the flashlight with R, the plunger with L and the darklight with both at once. The thing is, the game never tells you this! I figured it out just by screwing around!
Many reviews out there have docked Luigi’s Mansion 3 points for forcing you to switch between face buttons and right analog stick, except you never have to. It’s just that you can get through the entire game without figuring out these extra button mappings. The fact that Nintendo made such a simple oversight is almost worse than if they didn’t include the double mappings in the first place.
Aside from ghosts you’ll be hunting through the haunted hotel for one other thing: money. There are hidden gems in every floor and tons of coins. The thing is, this money never amounts to much. You can spend it on extra lives and boo locators and that’s about it. You’ll end up swamped with money by the end of the game, which actually causes you to spend less time searching the mansion. Once you have all the money you need busting open a container only to find cash is a let-down. You’ll start making a bee-line to your objectives after a while, which is a shame because a few extra shop options is all we would have needed to end up searching through these haunted corridors for hours.
You’ll charm yourself to death
By far Luigi’s Mansion 3’s biggest strength is its charm. Luigi jumps and twitches at every little noise you make. Knock over an object and you’ll watch him shiver at the bang. Kick over a dustpan and he will cough and sneeze. Every single thing he does is dripping with personality, from playing with Polterpup to arguing with E. Gadd.
A good bit of personality is also embedded in the level design. Each floor of the hotel has a different theme to it, and these themes are not tied to the laws of physics. The elevator will drop you off in sandy deserts and shadowy forests just as much as it will drop you off in hallways with… you know… hotel rooms. Each floor has themed enemies and themed bosses each of which has to be taken down with a different set of Luigi’s abilities. There is a little bit of backtracking involved in the end-game, but for the most part these levels are one and done. It’s not quite as linear as Dark Moon but not quite as open as Luigi’s Mansion 1.
Then there’s the sound, which one again is charming as ever. You’ll hear the background music fade back and forth between different themes depending on what you are doing. In the very beginning you get to hear the original Super Mario Bros. theme when talking to Mario and the Super Mario 64 theme when talking to Peach. As the game goes on the music will change as you encounter ghosts, investigate areas of the mansion, or even simply move Luigi around. This is a game with a ton of leitmotifs and tracks that utilize them well.
It’s a monster mash!
Luigi’s Mansion 3 also has a couple multiplayer options, but they feel a bit like an afterthought. Scarescraper is a co-op mode that has you and a group of friends taking on timed challenges. While it’s a good way to get a big group in on the fun, it’s simply not as enjoyable as the standard two player co-op due to its focus on speedrunning over puzzle solving.
There’s also Screampark, which is an eight player mini-game mode. Unfortunately, this suffers from the same issues Scarescraper does, but more so. Each mini-game is good for a distraction at best but none feel as fun as the core gameplay of the single-player campaign. Let’s face it, if you wanted a party game, you would be looking at other titles besides Luigi’s Mansion 3.
The spooky times never end
While I can nitpick a couple things here or there, Luigi’s Mansion 3 for the most part upholds the reputation of the Nintendo seal of quality. It’s a good, solid, enjoyable game that will keep you playing from beginning to end. It’s not as groundbreaking as Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild, but hey, this is Luigi we are talking about. He was always going to be second fiddle to Nintendo’s other big powerhouses. That’s OK, he’s comfortable there, being a cult-classic hit that will be remembered fondly as one of the Switch’s greatest games that not everyone has played. Halloween might be over but Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a fun game to play no matter the season.