- Crisp visuals
- Solid story and structure
- The best gameplay to date
- An evolving cast of fun supporting characters
- Co-op is a natural fit to the series
- None of the music stands out
- Boss battles spike in difficulty
- The rest of the multiplayer options are lacking
Luigi's Mansion 3 is a great time, and should appeal equally to fans of the previous games. It's even better playing co-op with a friend.
CROSSING THE STREAMS
Luigi’s Mansion 3 sits at a curious crossroads. It leans on the original Luigi’s Mansion‘s structure, but ties in a lot of improvements that made Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon better. It’s the most polished this series has been, yet it feels like developer Next Level Games could go further, if they wanted. There are still legacy issues around the edges, but a lot of problems have also been fixed. It’s not hard to say that this is the best Luigi’s Mansion so far, but it feels like a jumping off point. A template Nintendo and Next Level can draw from should they want to make something bigger and bolder in the future.
The story is familiar, but in line with previous entries. After getting a mysterious invitation to the Last Resort Hotel, Luigi, Mario, Peach, and a handful of Toads prove themselves to be the perfect marks. They don’t seem to notice that the staff is made up of ghosts with flimsy masks, nor do they remember that receiving suspicious invitations is what lead to Luigi’s Mansion in the first place. On the first night, Luigi wakes up to find everyone gone, trapped in paintings once again by King Boo. Taking up the Poltergust, Luigi summons the courage to save his family and friends with the help of the surrogate family he’s found during his adventures: Prof. E. Gadd, Gooigi, and his ghost dog, Polterpup.
Though the opening areas can be confusing, simple gameplay changes make Luigi’s Mansion 3 smoother than the rest. The ability to Slam ghosts to the ground while sucking them up is crucial, as it makes their HP drain faster. This cuts down on the time players spend battling each individual ghost, and makes it less likely for them to run away. The Boost ability is another helpful tactic that allows Luigi to propel himself up to get over small obstacles and dodge enemy shockwaves. These abilities are complimented by refined controls that feel good whether the Switch is docked or played on a TV, minimizing the hand cramps experienced on the 3DS.
The biggest change, however, is the full integration of co-op. Once a player unlocks Gooigi, another player can drop into the game at any time. Gooigi is basically Luigi’s slimy mirror image, except more useful because he’s practically invincible, and can fit into places Luigi can’t. Coordinating between Luigi and Gooigi is crucial to performing well, because during single player, only one can be controlled at a time. Playing in co-op allows for the two characters to act on-screen together, which is helpful during certain puzzles and timing windows. If the option is there, embracing co-op is definitely the way to play.
As much as I like the co-op though, I wish the rest of the multiplayer lived up to the same standard. The ScreamPark mode, which is new to this entry, is a disappointing handful of offline minigames with simple objectives like collecting the most money or capturing the most ghosts. The ScareScraper mode, which returns from Dark Moon on 3DS, is expanded to support two players on a Switch, or up to eight in local play and online. The idea is fine in concept – team up with a bunch of Luigi’s to clear a mansion of ghosts in either five or ten floor buildings – but every time I joined a team, the fun would last for one, maybe two floors until everyone gave up and either quit or went off on their own until time ran out. I spent whole rounds caught in annoying traps not found in the main game, or waiting for other players to help complete a puzzle screaming “Help!” over and over until someone arrived.
I also have some complaints with the difficulty of certain boss battles. Luigi’s expanded moveset makes it easier to capture ghosts than in the previous games, but he’s still difficult to control whenever the game wants precise timing. I particularly loathed boss battles that required me to shoot a bomb back at them, because the fixed, overhead camera made seeing the aiming reticle extremely difficult. There’s also a recurring boss fight with a cat that gleefully injects some chaos into the game’s linear structure, but ends up being tedious because of the cat’s tendency to escape to different rooms, and sometimes different floors.
Complaints about the multiplayer and boss battles aside, the presentation is pretty stellar. This is a fantastic looking Switch game, with crisp models and minute details that performs well no matter how someone chooses to play. Each floor of the hotel has a unique look, and the game doesn’t seem to care one bit whether the sights would be possible in a building this size – the museums, movie sets, and pirate ships all look incredible and run on a logic of their own making.
The audio design is perhaps the one part of the presentation that could be improved. I don’t think it’s bad, but it doesn’t stand out the way the visuals and gameplay do. Every Mario series seems to have different rules about how much the brothers can speak. This game slides into a weird middle spot, where they speak real words, as opposed to the Italian gibberish found in the Mario & Luigi series, but don’t speak enough to have full conversations like Super Mario Sunshine. The music is similarly right in the middle, neither wowing me, nor annoying me in any major way. I have plenty of affection for the sound effects, but the way the soundtrack became a vital part of the original Luigi’s Mansion‘s identity, isn’t present here.
For people disappointed by Dark Moon‘s mission-based structure, they might find the linearity of Luigi’s Mansion 3 more fitting. For those who didn’t like the way the Luigi’s Mansion bounced around, offering keys to rooms all the way across the map, the way this game goes up floor by floor might be welcome. In the search for the perfect Luigi’s Mansion, Next Level Games unites what made the last two games interesting and shows that more can be done. I’d love to see a sequel made in an open world, or with Metroid-like campaign progression. With one or two more iterations, I think Nintendo will one day have the Luigi’s Mansion equivalent of a Super Mario Odyssey. Something that can break the mold and take this series’ gameplay to the next level.
Platform: Switch | Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: 10/31/19 | Rating: E for Everyone
This review was conducted on an original model Switch (both docked and undocked) using a retail copy of Luigi’s Mansion 3 I bought on launch day. It is exclusive to the Switch. If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can leave a comment below or follow me on Twitter. You can also reach me via email at dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios(dot)com. For a look at what else I’ve published on Tilting Windmill Studios, you can look here.