'Luigi's Mansion 3' Is A Charming Puzzle Game Full of Invention
Luigi's in a tough spot. He's trapped in a hotel called The Last Resort, ghosts are everywhere, and all his friends have been trapped in paintings. Despite being in this situation twice before, the mustachioed man in the green hat is still as terrified as ever, and it makes Luigi's Mansion 3 one of the most charming puzzle games I've played in 2019.
Over the course of the game you'll need to unlock different floors in the hotel, hoover up all the ghosts you find with your trusty Poltergust G-00, and fight the bosses holding Mario, Peach, and the toads hostage. But while that may be the broad strokes of the campaign, there is such inventiveness in the puzzles and play that you'll be discovering new delights many hours into this game.
As you puzzle through the first few floors of the hotel you're given access to your main gear: an upgraded ghost vacuum, the Poltergust G-00; the Dark-Light attachment that reveals secrets in the environment; a plunger you can fire at objects and then suck into your vacuum; and, most importantly, your slimy alter ego, Gooigi.
Gooigi is a new experiment of returning character Professor E. Gadd. He's a goo clone of Luigi that you can summon into the environment and take control of with a tap of the right stick. Gooigi can do everything Luigi can, as well as being able to squelch through bars and grills like the T-1000. However, he has one major weakness - water instantly turns him into a puddle.
Once you have Gooigi by your side, you'll always be on the lookout for barriers your companion can pass through. He'll slip into secret areas, or walk through traps without taking damage, while the same obstacles would harm Luigi.
Later puzzles push you to make Luigi and Gooigi work together to get through a room. For instance, there's a bathroom you can only access as Gooigi, travelling through a pipe in the next room over. However, once inside he can't access the chest holding the key you need, because a leaking toilet has left an impassable puddle on the floor. To get rid of the water, Luigi has to turn off the pipe and hold the valve shut while Gooigi does his work.
Gooigi is a tool, then, but Nintendo's put so much character into the slimy replica that I quickly fell in love with the lad. While Luigi is scared of everything in the Last Resort hotel, Gooigi isn't fazed by danger. In cutscenes, ghosts will try to jump out at him, but he just stares them down glassily. Whenever Luigi clears a room of ghosts, Gooigi will give a little thumbs up of encouragement to his master.
There's a wonderful sequence in a movie studio where you're picking through film sets surrounded by blue screens. If Luigi looks down the camera he can see how the sets appear in the films, and then summon Gooigi into the scene to fight ghosts, solve puzzles, and generally play the role of a stoic action hero. What could have been a blank slate has instead become one of my favourite gaming companions.
Within and around puzzles you'll come across the residents of this haunted mansion: the ghosts. These cheeky monsters will tease and poke at Luigi, who is clearly terrified of them. They'll hide invisibly and throw things at him, pull up carpets to knock him down, or simply float into him to cause damage. To fight back, you need to first stun them with your strobelight and then hoover them up with the Poltergust. They'll try to break free as soon as they're in the nozzle, so you have to pull against their movements like you're reeling in a big fish, throwing them into furniture and smacking them on the floor to deal extra damage.
While there are only technically a handful of ghost varieties - like the gold spirits that are full of coins, and hulking red spectres that charge at you like a bull - Nintendo has made them stand out from one another whenever possible. You'll find ghosts dressed as hotel porters, or carrying medieval shields stolen from suits of armour, or wearing sunglasses taken from the shopping district. It gives the impression of a much larger cast of characters. And, with items like the shield and sunglasses changing how you fight them, it seems like you're battling a wide assortment of enemies.
On top of the regular ghosts, you'll also come across unique boss battles. These include a ghostly gardener with a mutant flower for a hunting dog, which you cut down to size with a chainsaw; and the pianist boss who tries to crush you with its grand piano. Then there's the director ghost who you don't fight, instead helping it create its masterpiece by starring in a very Nintendo take on Godzilla. Each battle is lovingly crafted and a joy to play. Best of all, the battles don't overstay their welcome, often only taking a few minutes to complete. Sekiro, this is not.
My one frustration with Luigi's Mansion 3 is its sometimes awkward control scheme. I've been playing largely in handheld mode, and while you can control almost all your gadgets with the shoulder buttons and triggers - operating the hoover's suck and blow functions with the triggers, and your strobelight and plunger with the shoulders - your Dark-Light is controlled with the X button. While it's not a major issue, it's surprisingly awkward to hold down X while using the right thumbstick to look around; you end up with your right hand in an uncomfortable claw shape.
Luigi's Mansion 3 is easily the most delightful game I've played in 2019. Its tiny details add up to form an engrossing and endearing whole: the way ghosts wear sunglasses to block the light from your strobe attack; how enemies try to shoot Gooigi with children's water pistols; the way Luigi moves along ledges with a scared little hops; and how when you're hoovering up mice, they cling to the floor for a moment before being sucked into the nozzle. All of these touches make for an extremely enjoyable game that I've played for hours at a time without feeling that a second was wasted.
Luigi's Mansion 3 was tested using code supplied by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo