“Now this… is art!” Those are the words of a ghoulish character that shows up for one particularly loveable level of Luigi’s Mansion 3, and, for the most part, it’s hard to disagree with the euphoria of that statement when it comes to the game itself.
We don’t want to spoil the exact nature of that individual ghost, or go into too much detail regarding any of the standout levels in Luigi’s Mansion 3, because a large part of the fun here is discovering the ins and outs of Nintendo’s latest offering for yourself – from the joyous pop culture references to the tricksy moments that demand a lot of you as a player.
The set-up, as you’d expect, is nothing overly complicated. When Luigi, Mario, Princess Peach and a gaggle of Toads accept the invitation to visit a fancy hotel, even the most absent-minded player will see what’s about to happen. Of course, it’s not long before Luigi – voiced once again with nervy charm by Charles Martinet – is wandering around a creepy locale, with an array of gadgets about his person, as a massive number of ghosts wait for the perfect moment to jump out and scare him.
You’ll face a mixture of playful puzzles and surprisingly challenging boss battles as Luigi makes his way through 17 different environments on a mission to rescue his captured friends. It’s always a fun moment when you arrive on a new floor (each one has a theme and an assortment of challenges), and working your way through each area is a really enjoyable way to spend some time – beating the main campaign took us 13 and a bit hours, although there were a few moments in there when we got a bit stuck and spent ages on certain puzzles and battles.
Whenever you find yourself in a situation like that, you need to remind yourself of every asset at Luigi’s disposal: he can suck up items or blow them away with his iconic Poltergust hoover; he can flash a light to stun a ghost or press certain sorts of buttons; he can fire plungers onto surfaces; he can dish out sizeable concussive blasts; he can use a different setting on his torch to search for hidden items; and he can also summon the help of Gooigi, a slimy green version of himself that can walk over spikes and squeeze through tight gaps. Gooigi, despite being silent and somewhat faceless, is sure to become a fan favourite. This surely won’t be the last we see of him.
Fully aware that Luigi and Gooigi are very well kitted out, the developers at Nintendo have designed levels that force you to switch between the two of them. Gooigi melts if he comes into contact with water, but he can access areas that Luigi can’t. You find yourself swapping back and forth, playing a weird sort of co-op with yourself. Or if you’ve got a friend to play with you, you can play actual co-op and allow them to control Gooigi. Whichever way you play, there’s a special sort of satisfaction that comes with wrangling Luigi and Gooigi through levels that neither of them could tackle alone. It feels like you’re managing your own mini Ghostbusters team.
That optional co-op, which you can switch into at any point during the main game, isn’t the only multiplayer experience on offer. As well as the lengthy campaign, there is impressive depth to be found in the extra modes: in ‘ScreamPark’, you’ll find fun little local minigames that test your abilities (there’s one that focuses on collecting coins while avoiding obstacles, another that focuses on catching ghosts, and an another that pits friends against each other in cannon-based battles); and in ‘ScareScraper’, you can play online with 2-to-8 players to catch ghosts across multiple floors. From what we’ve seen of these other ways to play, they are enjoyable and easy to get to grips with – they’ll probably give Luigi’s Mansion 3 a nice long shelf-life.
Having got to the end of the campaign and spent a bit of time with the multiplayer modes, most of our memories of Luigi’s Mansion 3 are overwhelmingly positive. The only real downside is that, for a game that kids should be able to play, there are points when Luigi’s Mansion 3 feels a bit too difficult to be categorised as pure fun. Some puzzles come with very little explanation, and a few of the boss battles feel a little over the top. If a grown adult is having to try 20-odd times before they can beat a boss, you’ve got to wonder how far the patience of children will go. The game also has a habit of forcing you to revisit previous levels before you can progress to the next one, which also tests the patience a little.
These moments are outliers, though, in a game that offers hours enjoyment and loads of grin-inducing surprises. The level design is highly imaginative and there are lots of geeky moments, and there are also instances when the graphics look really impressive for a game of this kind. There are quite a lot of different controls to learn, but once you’ve mastered them, playing well as Luigi and Gooigi is a super satisfying experience. You could even say its spook-tacular.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 launches on 31 October for Nintendo Switch.