Luigi holds a special place in my heart. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Bumbling, awkward and cowardly, the forgotten man of the Mario Bros franchise. When the original Luigi’s Mansion was given a launch slot on the Gamecube ahead of his limelight-hogging sibling it raised a few eyebrows, but turned out to be a rather good little game. Short, flawed, but enjoyable - An easy 8/10.
You can probably see where I’m going with this.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 opens with a slight variation on a familiar theme. The man in green has won a dream vacation at a luxurious hotel, so sets off with all the usual suspects in tow, including returning fan favourite Polterpup. What starts as a vaguely unsettling check-in process builds to a full-blown nightmare, and culminates with a narrow escape from hotel owner Hellen Graveley and perpetual nuisance King Boo via a laundry chute. Classic Luigi.
From that inglorious beginning, it’s your job to make your way through the 17 increasingly perilous hotel floors, rescuing your pals and vacuuming up ghosts on the way. The essence of the series is unchanged and for a game that has such a simple and enjoyable underlying mechanic, I think Nintendo made the right call not to ring the changes.
Two -igis really is better than one.
Aside from the natural upgrades to visuals, sound and scope, the most noticeable new inclusion is a single-player role for Gooigi. The translucent green clone made an appearance back on the 3DS as a multiplayer counterpart, but this time you’ll have full control over him for almost the entirety of the solo adventure. He’s a fun - and only occasionally clunky - compatriot, sliding through gaps and into drains, running decoy in boss fights or teaming up to overpower stubborn obstacles.
Professor E. Gadd returns as your remote but ever-present companion, like a sort of geriatric Otacon or an unhinged Navi. He’ll occasionally bless you with upgrades to your Poltergust G-00 but those high points are swallowed by a fairly constant stream of nagging, to the point that I would’ve thrown my Virtual Boo at him if given the option. Sadly, you’re only allowed to inflict violence on the already departed.
Speaking of whom, the ghostly inhabitants of the hotel have got a wide arsenal of ways to cause you grief, but once the basic techniques are sussed, won’t present too much of a challenge as you meander your way towards the conclusion of each chapter. The boss fights are where things get interesting, and provide some of the finest, funniest moments in the game. I don’t remember either of the predecessors getting quite so creative and devious with their strategies, and solving them can be a rush. Bizarrely, the one exception is the inevitable rooftop battle with King Boo, which is a brutal combination of repetitive and irritating.
As a perpetual tidier and completionist, my favourite bit of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is - and it’s not even close - the sheer detail and authenticity of the level design. The character of each floor is completely different but they’re all equally believable, brilliantly crafted and full of life. Every room has a bewildering array of items to fiddle with, break, or vacuum up, and I got the lot. Seriously, anything that wasn’t nailed down, and a lot else that was. This (admittedly excessive) behaviour highlighted something a bit odd, because these dynamic environments conceal a not insignificant amount of cash, and the satisfying sound of exposing a pile of notes or coins is addictive. I wasted a disproportionate amount of time filling my boots with the stuff, only to discover later on that there’s essentially nothing useful to spend it on. In modern games it’s so unusual not to reward compulsive gathering, but consider this a warning, and don’t bother.
There are some extremely charming moments in this game, and they vastly outweigh its shortcomings. Rescuing toads and using your Poltergust to fire them across a room, only for them to obediently and enthusiastically trot back to you for another go, is pure fun. Levels like Paranormal Productions and The Unnatural History Museum are full of laughs, surprises and clever puzzles. It’s got a fairly weak multi-player and next to no replay value, but I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if you like a good underdog story, or just find the rest of the survival horror genre a bit too… horrible?