Luigi’s Mansion 3 Review
A charming, spooky adventure that annoys a bit too much.
The Luigi’s Mansion series has always been somewhat of an oddity among Nintendo’s massive stable of IP. A spinoff of the legendary Mario series, its first outing served as the marquee launch title for the Nintendo Gamecube. Reception was somewhat mixed, but since then fans have come to regard it as a cult classic. Eventually Nintendo took notice and a sequel arrived on the 3DS. Though it improved much of the base gameplay formula, it presented new problems of its own. And now there’s Luigi’s Mansion 3 for the Switch which seems to split the difference between its two predecessors. It’s fantastic getting to dive back into the spooky world of Luigi’s Mansion, but the series is still struggling to put together that perfect formula.
The Mario crew sure is lucky. They’ve won an all expenses paid stay at a luxury hotel out in the middle of nowhere. Of course, things aren’t quite that simple. The hotel is haunted and the situation quickly takes a turn for the worse. Luigi is the only one left who can stop the ghosts and save his friends. But can our cowardly hero stand up to the nefarious forces that wish to trap him in a painting? Maybe, with Professor E. Gadd and his trusty Poltergust at his side. But to save his friends he’ll have to climb the multiple floors of the hotel, solving puzzles and fighting ghosts all along the way.
Everything in Luigi’s Mansion 3 comes back to the Poltergust, a spectral vacuum that Luigi can use for a multitude of purposes. Sucking up everything that’s not nailed down is a good way to get some coins, but your real reward comes when you discover something unique, like pulling sheets off of beds, or revealing some hidden pathway. Despite some clunky controls, as has been standard for the series, there’s something viscerally enjoyable about entering a room and using the vacuum to just go crazy. Coins and rewards pop up everywhere, leading to a satisfying haptic vibration in the controller. But then when you stop and look at the layout to determine where you might need to apply your abilities, which include blowing air, sucking up objects, and shining a flashlight or blacklight, that’s when the puzzles begin to reveal themselves around every corner.
And here is where Luigi’s Mansion 3 adds its signature gimmick with Gooigi. A copy of the game’s hero, only made from goo, Gooigi is able to reach different areas and perform diverse tasks. He can’t walk through water, but is able to fit through grates or bars. Splitting the two characters up leads to some truly innovative puzzles for the series, and while you can toggle between them yourself, the game really opens up when a second player takes control for co-op play. Puzzles that rely on Gooigi can get a bit complicated, but they’re also some of the game’s best.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 may struggle in some aspects, but it is constantly charming
Beyond puzzles, Luigi’s Mansion 3 has a heavier reliance on combat against ghosts, while disappointingly simplifying the mechanics for it. In the first game sucking up a ghost would require a lot of work, with the fight feeling like a game of tug-of-war. With the slam maneuver though, the tug-of-war lasts a mere few seconds before you drop the ghost’s health immensely, possibly taking others along with him. When there’s multiple foes, all with unique ways of making them vulnerable to your vacuum, the combat feels better. It rarely feels satisfying though, and can often become a chore; especially in some of the longer and more complex boss fights.
What Luigi’s Mansion 3 seems to do right from the start is react well to the feedback given on its immediate predecessor: Dark Moon. At least in regards to level design. While many of that games changes were for the better, its mission structure felt disjointed. Luigi wasn’t exploring a singular mansion, but was tackling multiple buildings that didn’t really connect up outside the hub. The hotel in Luigi’s Mansion 3 fixes that while still allowing the segmented gameplay design that seems to work best for more casual players.
Each floor acts as a stage of its own, with little that truly connects it to other floors. Your goal on almost every one is to get an elevator button that will unlock the next stage. How you’ll get to that button changes every time, with floors varying pretty wildly in quality. Some offer up a lot of exploration and puzzle solving. This is where Luigi’s Mansion 3 does its best work, with puzzles that often truly test your mental acuity. But this is where things can fall apart a bit.
Some of Luigi’s Mansion 3’s puzzles simply rely on leaps of logic or odd changes to the base gameplay formula that cause a lot of confusion. It’s not that the puzzles are difficult, they typically boil down to shining a light here, or flipping a switch there, but many won’t guide you to that switch or rely on you trial-and-erroring your way to a solution. Conversely, many puzzles are quite obvious in their solution which results in players simply working through the process, rather than inventively solving anything. Some hit that sweet spot where the solution seems clear, but players have to logic it out in some way, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. And once those puzzles are solved, the game likes to throw roadblocks in your way that diminish the feeling of accomplishment.
Especially in the middle stages, when you “finish” something in Luigi’s Mansion 3 the game will say “congrats, but now here’s something else to deal with.” Of course, the game has to continue, it’s not like completing stage 6 of a 15 stage game should feel as satisfying as completing the whole thing. But Luigi’s Mansion 3 rarely lets players celebrate their victories before yanking it away and telling them to just keep trudging along.But while you’re getting a bit frustrated by the way missions play out or how they end, the game will be presenting you with some of the most charming and fun atmosphere there is.
The series has always had a fun, spooky element that few other games could replicate. Luigi plays the role of a cowardly hero so well that he can lift even the most mundane moment to pure joy simply through chanting “Mario!” or the way he reacts to a shock. And his co-stars and villains hold their own in this regard as well. Underpinning them all is some of the best animation on the Switch, which combines with some really beautiful art and design work to create a world that feels fresh and real while maintaining its colorful vibes. Luigi’s Mansion 3 may struggle in some aspects, but it is constantly charming players and delighting with its focus on fun.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 doesn’t get the series where it needs to be, but it certainly moves it closer to that goal. The game oozes charm in every way possible. And speaking of ooze, Gooigi is a great addition for single players and co-op fans alike. Combat is simplified though, and puzzles can become quite frustrating and tedious. The game also likes to rain on your parade a bit too often as well, tossing roadblocks in your way when a bit of celebration or relaxation is more in need. If this sounds passable to you though, you’re in for a truly spooky treat.
Luigi's Mansion 3
- Available On: Switch
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: Next Level Games
- Genre: Action Adventure
- US Release Date: October 31st, 2019
- Reviewed On: Switch
- Quote: "Luigi's Mansion 3 doesn't get the series where it needs to be, but it certainly moves it closer to that goal."