The Luigi’s Mansion series has never quite gotten the love it deserves when compared to the mainline Super Mario games. Ironic, given that the lankier, more cowardly plumber has always lived in his older brother’s shadow.
While Mario dashes through intricately designed platforming levels, grabbing coins, riding Yoshi, rescuing royality, and generally having a wonderful time of it, Luigi spends his downtime exploring a series of haunted mansions like the My Chemical Romance fan I know in my heart he is.
I’ve always liked to describe Luigi’s Mansion as Resident Evil for kids, and I feel it’s pretty succinct comparison if I do say so myself (which I do).
While it’s obviously not full-on survival horror, and dials waaaaay back on scares and gore, Luigi still has to navigate dungeon-like mansions, solving puzzles, gathering clues, collecting keys and doing battle with the undead. All it’s missing is questionable voice acting and a convoluted plot.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 then, manages to build on the solid foundations out down by the GameCube original and its underrated 3DS sequel, while seemingly bringing enough new ideas to the table to make for a unique gaming experience on Nintendo Switch.
The basics of Luigi’s Mansion remain largely unchanged here. Our nervous friend is primarily armed with a torch and a handy invention known as the Poltergust, which can be used engage with the environment in a number of ways and pick up treasure. Oh, and it’s naturally vital for dealing with any pesky ghosts that stand in your way.
Luigi can stun ghosts with a flash of his torch, which then gives him an opening to use his Poltergust and suck them up. Ghosts obviously don’t go in there without a fight, so you need to pay attention to the direction they’re pulling and use the control stick to pull in the opposite direction – kind of like every fishing minigame ever, to be honest.
In Luigi’s Mansion 3 you can tap the A button to slam the ghosts around for extra damage, which makes combat a little less of a slog and typically more exciting by making you feel just a bit more involved in the action.
There are plenty of different kinds of ghosts too, just to shake things up and keep you on your toes. Some will hide and require Luigi to coax them out before he can attack, while others will brandish swords or shields that need to be removed before Luigi can stun them and go in for the kill (or capture, as the case may be).
At the end of the day, this is a Nintendo game, so don’t expect combat to be ultra challenging at all times – Luigi’s Mansion 3 has been designed to be accessible to everyone, and that’s great. As such, fights require less skill, and more of an ability to solve puzzles under pressure.
Take the armored knight boss I fought in the demo, for example. I could have dodged his attacks with my eyes closed, but that’s not the challenge. The challenge was working out exactly how I was supposed to take him down, and then proceeding to do so.
That’s not to say you can’t take too many hits and die in the game, to be clear – you can, and if you don’t know what you’re doing later on in Luigi’s Mansion games, it can happen a lot. I just mean more seasoned gamers will get their kicks from puzzle solving element of encounters, not the thrill of some incredibly epic Dark Soulsesque challenge.
The puzzle solving goes beyond ghost encounters and into actual exploration, of course. In my demo I came across a few lovely, very Nintendo-style puzzles, any of which could have come from a Zelda game – and I mean that as the highest possible praise.
Luigi’s Poltergust and torch have a number of attachments that lend themselves to some great puzzles, including a sucker attachment which can be shot from the Poltergust and used to pull down certain objects and reveal secrets, and an antimatter light for the torch that detects previously hidden objects.
This is a Luigi’s Mansion game, so there’ll doubtless be plenty of new items to find that will allow us to slowly open new areas and find previously undiscovered secrets – again, just like a Zelda game. Or a Resident Evil game. I will push the Resi comparison until it catches on, mark my words.
One entirely new feature I can talk about is the horrendously named Gooigi – a slimy doppelganger for Luigi who can be summoned at the press of a button to travel through hazards that Luigi can’t. This adds an intriguing new layer to the puzzle solving that took a while to click with me, as I kept forgetting I had a helper I could call out at any time.
It’s also been confirmed that a second player can take control of Gooigi in the game for some local co-op fun. I didn’t get a chance to try that out, but I imagine it’ll be an especially great opportunity for parents to play with their kids, and I look forward to trying it out with my wife (Luigi’s Mansion is one of the few games she’s interested in).
The game looks and sounds gorgeous, by the way. Even when the series was on the humble 3DS, the subtle animations on Luigi’s terrified face as he crept around dark corridors and occasionally sang to himself in an attempt to stay calm were a sight to behold.
Obviously Nintendo Switch is able to take that attention to detail and amplify it tenfold, and the result basically looks like a Pixar film designed by Tim Burton, which I think has always been my aesthetic without me even knowing it.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks set to be another solid entry in a series that has always deserved more attention than it’s gotten. Hopefully Luigi’s rising stock coupled with the sheer number of Nintendo Switch owners means that the third game in the series can be the one to catapult the green plumber to heights comparable to his more successful sibling.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.