Monday, November 18, 2019

Luigi's Mansion 3 Review

When the GameCube launched in 2001, one of its launch games was Luigi’s Mansion. It was part tech demo, part Survival Horror parody, and totally unlike the traditional Mario platformer many Nintendo fans wanted at launch. It was fun, though, and it gave Luigi a personality. He wasn’t much more than Green Mario before. It’s thanks to that game that Luigi plays how he does in Smash, he got the personality that made him a meme superstar with his Mario Kart 8 death stare, and we eventually got Luigi’s Mansion 2 (Dark Moon) on The Year of Luigi. Now, Luigi is back and better than ever. Luigi’s Mansion 3 feels like a game from a developer that has learned from its past mistakes and put some real effort into making Luigi’s Mansion one of Nintendo’s big series.

Luigi's Mansion 3 doesn't begin on a dark and stormy night. It begins on a beautiful sunny day. The Mario gang has been invited to stay at the Last Resort by its owner, Helen Gravely. Apparently, nobody thinks any of this is suspicious, so they go along with it. But on the first night there, after everyone has gone to sleep, the beautiful luxury hotel is revealed for what it truly is, a haunted luxury hotel. The lights go out, fog rolls in, Mario, Peach, and the Toads go missing, and Helen Gravely reveals that she is actually a ghost working for Luigi's arch nemesis, King Boo. King Boo traps Mario, Peach and the Toads inside paintings, but Luigi and his dog, Polterpup, manage to get away. Luigi then runs into his old friend, Professor E. Gadd, gets his Poltergust vacuum back, and sets off on another ghost busting quest to rescue his brother and the gang.

The hotel's elevator has no buttons, though! How is Luigi supposed to get around the hotel without elevator buttons? There’s only a few stairs connecting the bottom floors. That's probably a fire hazard. It turns out that Helen Gravely’s ghost minions (the bosses) have the buttons, so Luigi must capture them to get them back. These buttons are sort of like stars in Mario 64, except there aren’t 120 of them. Once you get an elevator button, you’re able to go to the next floor. Unlike in LM2, the game isn’t split up into Missions or entirety separate mansions. Each floor is completely self-contained, but you never have to go to a menu screen to do another objective or to move to another floor. You're free to go wherever your buttons and abilities can take you at any time. This isn't a total throwback to LM1, though. There aren't many reasons to go back to previous floors besides catching all the Boos, which only spawn after you complete a floor, or maybe getting gems you missed.

The Last Resort is 17 floors of puzzles and ghost hunting adventures, and it’s much more than hotel rooms. In fact, there’s more activities and entertainment here than there are places to sleep. There’s a mall, concert hall, museum, gym, dance club, a pirate cove themed bar, and a pyramid in the middle of a desert, complete with Indiana Jones style traps and mummies. The environments are much more varied than in either of the previous games, and I like that, even if sometimes they seem out of place. I felt like the game didn’t take advantage of the Mario IP as well as it could have, though. Luigi’s Mansion is kind of its own thing, but it’s still in the Mario universe. They could have filled the pyramid with Super Mario Land references, put Yoshi in the dinosaur museum, and made the generic King Kong in the movie set Donkey Kong instead, for example.

The varied environments also keep the puzzles fresh throughout the whole game. Luigi only has so many things he can do with his abilities, but the different themes keep changing the logic of the puzzles. For example, in the pyramid themed floor, you’re constantly vacuuming tons of sand. You vacuum everything up in this game. That’s not new or unique. But not every floor is covered in sand like that. Simply adding sand that Luigi can move around changes everything because that gives him control over the elevation of the ground. Just when I thought the game had done everything it could do with Luigi’s abilities, it kept surprising me with clever new types of puzzles.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 really is all about the puzzles. Even though the series is a parody of games like Resident Evil, the puzzles are also a lot like Zelda puzzles. There’s a lot of switch pulling, finding hidden doors, and moving things around in the environment. Even the bosses are more puzzly than the average Mario boss. You’re usually showered with health replenishing hearts during a battle, so it’s almost hard to die on them for most of the game. Most boss battles are more about figuring out how to damage the boss than they are about avoiding attacks and doing as much damage as possible.

Luigi’s moves don’t lend themselves to fast-paced action very well anyway. This game is at its best when the action is slow and you have to use your brain. There are definitely times when the game crosses that line, though. Near the end of the game, you often have to do puzzles with strict timing requirements, and the bosses become a little too demanding for what Luigi can do with his limited skills and slow movement speed. I feel like the game became more frustrating than challenging at that point, and some of that stuff could have use a nerf, but I was able to get through it eventually.

I guess it’s been a while since Luigi was in a new platformer, so he may be out of platforming shape. Luigi has a new jump move in LM3, but he’s actually just using the Poltergust to do a tiny rocket jump. This is the move you rarely use, but the game won't let you forget about. Luigi also gets a plunger with a rope tied to it, which he can use to pull, tow, or throw stuff around. The biggest new ability, which is actually from the LM 3DS remake, is Gooigi, a green jello-like Luigi. You can summon Gooigi and move him around independently from Luigi to solve puzzles or fight enemies, but this also leaves Luigi vulnerable. There’s also a co-op mode in which player 2 plays as Gooigi. He only has 25 hearts, but he can infinitely respawn without penalties to make up for that. Gooigi can help you press down switches, pull objects around, and reach places Luigi can’t by going through gates and drains, like a green T-1000. The Gooigi puzzles are some of the best in the game. Gooigi for Smash!

I did have some trouble getting used to the controls, and the lack of aim inversion options didn't help, but I managed. I've been playing with inverted Y axis since Star Fox, it's hard to adjust. Luigi’s aiming works kind of like in 1st and 3rd person shooters, but Luigi isn’t always facing forward, and the aiming doesn’t adjust depending on which direction Luigi is facing. If Luigi is facing towards the camera, left on the right stick still turns towards Luigi’s left, which is now your right. This method of aiming makes sense, and it would be a real mess if it constantly switched which way is which, but it's confusing, and it doesn’t help that I’m always thinking with inverted aim in mind. There is an option to make aiming work more like in a dual stick shooter, but that forces you to use motion controls to aim up and down, and I am not a fan of motion controls.

The graphics are some of the best I’ve seen on Switch. It does run at 30fps, and there a few dips here and there, but the lighting and amount of detail in the environments and characters is pretty amazing. Luigi’s clothes look even more realistic than Mario’s in Odyssey, his flashlight makes pretty much everything in the environment cast a shadow, and he can vacuum and and throw around pretty much anything that isn’t nailed down. The game also has a very abstract cartoon-like style that I really like. Everything is crooked or slanted in some way, like in The Nightmare Before Christmas or the old Beetlejuice cartoon.

The music is pretty ambient and low-key, but it does have some really good stuff in it. There’s a few remixes of the main LM theme, a Super Mario Bros overworld theme remix when you arrive at the hotel, and lots of slow, jazzy, ambient tunes. The sound effects are very well done, too. You can actually hear Gooigi’s jello-like body wobble as he walks around. And this might sound weird when talking about a Mario universe game, but the voice acting is really good. Mario and Peach both have a lot more lines than in regular Mario games, and it’s kind of mind blowing to hear. Peach actually says stuff like “Yahoo” and “Here we go”, like she’s been hanging around Mario so much that she’s talking like him now. And of course, Luigi has a bunch of new lines, too. You actually get 3 directions on the d-pad dedicated to making Luigi call out for Mario.

I did try out the multiplayer, but I didn’t play a lot of it. It just isn’t really what i want from Luigi’s Mansion. If you played the multiplayer in LM2, it’s basically that. You run around a floor with other Luigis and catch ghosts until time runs out.

I really enjoyed this game. It’s just so fun and full of charm and personality. It has clever puzzles and bosses, the graphics are amazing, and the music and sound effects are incredibly well done. The controls took some getting used to, and it got a little frustrating during the last part, but the good far outweighs the bad here. This is definitely worth picking up, even if Halloween has already come and gone.