As I’m sure everyone knows by now, I’m a huge fan of the Luigi’s Mansion series. Starting with the original game in 2001, I’ve played through each of the games more times than I can count, with my clear total for the first game being in the 30s and my 3DS software log recording 240 hours of playtime in Dark Moon.
Because of this, when I heard a new Luigi’s Mansion game was on the way to Switch, I knew I had to play it. After all, it’s got portrait ghosts again! Themed floors supposedly as big as the mansions in the second game! Even more online multiplayer via the ScareScraper!
Everything about it felt like a dream come true, and it quickly became my most anticipated game of 2019 in an instant.
But now I’ve actually beaten it, does the game live up to the hype? Is Luigi’s Mansion 3 really the definitive Luigi’s Mansion experience?
Well yes, and no. And in this review I’m gonna say exactly why.
Starting with the visuals, which arguably one of the game’s biggest strengths. Everything here looks amazing, from the hotel environments to the characters and their animations. In fact, some may even say it’s Pixar quality, with the cutscenes here being good enough for the hypothetical Mario movie that’s supposedly in development right now.
Which in turn is only made better by the storytelling and cinematography as a whole. Every scene in this game is full of charm, with Luigi having a huge range of animations for every situation the player could potentially put him. Did he enter a new floor? Expect to see a nifty animation play out to set the mood, like Luigi panicking as a halberd slams to the floor in front of him in Castle MacFrights or the bosses taunting him in Twisted Suites. Caught a ghost? Same deal, every one has a neat scene that plays when they’re sucked in, from Steward’s Indy type hat grab to Johnny Deepend flexing and posing for a bit before the capture. There’s not one boring moment to be had here, and you’ll be desperately trying to reach new areas just to see what the future brings.
It really makes it tough to find any downsides here. As far as the graphics are concerned, the game is virtually flawless across the board.
That said, there is still one menu that looks a little half assed compared to the others. That being, the recap menu.
This can be found in the log in E Gadd’s lab, and summarises the story for those who somehow missed the intro cutscene.
And this is probably the one part of the game where the visuals had no effort put into them at all. Indeed, this menu makes the Breath of the Wild title screen look exciting by comparison, with some of the most boring text you’ll read placed over a set of static backgrounds. It’s kind of lame really, and makes you wonder why they didn’t just give you an option to rewatch the opening cutscenes instead.
Never the less, that’s the only cheap looking thing in the entire game, and one that’s entirely excusable given the tiny percentage of players who’ll ever actually read it.
So on a general level, the game looks great. Onto the soundtrack now!
Which in my honest opinion, is pretty mixed in terms of quality. It’s not a bad soundtrack, and there’s nothing annoying there that’ll get grating fast.
But it’s also not particularly interesting either. There are a couple of neat songs I remember (the Twisted Suites theme, Tomb Suites, Boilerworks, the Spectral Catch, etc), a couple that are functional ambience songs at best and a few others that were just okay at the time.
Caption: Some of the songs I remembered/liked most, minus one I’m saving for spoiler reasons
Nothing too bad, just not that much I remember from my playthrough of the game.
Still, the aesthetics aren’t the most important aspect of a game. No, that’s the gameplay, and for the most part, that’s where Luigi’s Mansion 3 does rather well. The combat for one thing is as satisfying as ever, and the new moves at your disposal only make it even better. The burst clears out crowds and lets you dodge projectiles with ease, the slam feels super satisfying to pull off and turns Luigi into a ghost busting superhero, and the super suction is surprisingly versatile in combat too.
And this only gets better where the bosses are concerned. Why? Because even compared to the battles in previous Luigi’s Mansion titles (and the Mario series as a whole), these are some of the best designed, most interesting battles I’d ever seen.
Oh sure, they don’t exactly start super dangerous or exciting. You won’t exactly be losing any health to Steward or Chambrea early on, even if their personalities are as charming as the opponents yet to come.
But soon enough you’ll be dealing with far more interesting battles with all manner of creative attack patterns and weaknesses. These include a crazed pianist who possesses his piano and turns the stage into a battlefield, a shark pirate who possesses his entire ship, and even a T-Rex skeleton that smashes a museum to pieces and has to be taken down by Luigi and Gooigi working as a team. There are some seriously cool battles to be had here, and it really makes you want to see what wacky shenanigans the next floor has to offer.
Which is only amplified even further by the floor themes themselves. Mansion or not, the Last Resort is by no means an ordinary hotel.
Oh no, this place would make Trump Tower look like a holiday inn. Or perhaps a Las Vegas casino look like a garden shed by comparison.
Because the place is filled from top to bottom with some of the craziest, most elaborately themed floors and locations you’ll ever see. A medieval castle with dungeons and an arena? Check. A movie production studio? Check.
A full blown Egyptian pyramid with multiple levels of passageways and rooms filled with mummies, deathtraps and ghosts?
Oh you’d better believe it, and that place is somehow on the tenth floor of the building. The place absolutely defies all sense of logic when it comes to what you’ll find there, and the game is made all the more enjoyable for it.
They’re not just backdrops either. Nope, every floor also introduces new mechanics based around its theming too. In the plant themed Garden Suites you’re swinging on vines, smashing watermelons and using a chainsaw/lawnmower to demolish rooms, whereas in Castle MacFrights you’re smashing suits of armour and beating spike traps as Gooigi. It’s very much the Mario 3D World style of ‘3 step level design’ throughout, and the boss fights at the end all take said design and build on it even more.
It’s often very well designed, and it shows just how much Next Level Games have learned from Nintendo’s own designers (and their experience working on the last game in the series).
Additionally, they’ve also learnt to fix quite a few of their previous issues here too. For instance, the mission system from Dark Moon is now gone for good, with Luigi being free to keep exploring the hotel after every floor as expected. Indeed, it’s arguably even more open than the first game; even there you had to go back to the lab after each major area.
That’s not the case in this one. Not at all. Now you’re free to go wherever you like, whenever you like, no interruptions necessary.
You’re also free to play without being interrupted by E Gadd too. That’s because in this title, E Gadd doesn’t send you messages anywhere near as frequently as in Dark Moon, and you can even disable his help altogether in the menu. So if you find having a ‘helper’ is getting annoying and want to take on bosses at your own pace, that’s now thankfully possible.
However, as good as the core gameplay and design often is, Luigi’s Mansion 3 does have its flaws.
Most notably, how rushed a decent portion of the game feels.
Because for whatever reason, it has a surprising number of bugs and glitches for a Nintendo title.
Indeed, in my 15 or so hours playing the game, I’ve seen:
- The theme indicating a Boo is present in the room not playing at all, forcing me to purchase a radar in order to track it down
- The game actively softlocking when I opened the fridge the Boo was hiding in, necessitating a home menu visit/game reset
- The darklight not working properly in certain areas, causing a certain invisible object to not load properly and its gem to remain unobtainable until I reset the floor
- Plus in one amusing case, a previously rescued Toad actually reappearing in the painting he was trapped in, despite being in E Gadd’s Lab at the same time.
— Gaming Reinvented (@GamingReinvent) 5 November 2019
That’s pretty bad for a Nintendo title, especially given these glitches weren’t ones I’d actively searched for.
And it’s not the worst of it either. No, that’d be the point where the game outright crashed on me while playing.
In that case, I was in Twisted Suites and had decided to chuck a fish into a rabbit cage for whatever reason. This in turn apparently overloaded the game somehow, and resulted in an error message and the game exiting to the Switch home menu.
It’s quite shocking really, and when combined with the other issues myself and others have encountered while playing the game, leads me to believe that the game’s QA process wasn’t quite finished when it was put on sale.
In fact, I get the impression quite a few elements of this game weren’t finished when it was released in general. Cause for whatever it’s worth, the level of effort put into each floor is uneven at best.
On the one hand, some floors are great. Castle MacFrights, Garden Suites, Tomb Suites and Twisted Suites are all amazing areas to explore, with enough content that they practically feel like entire mansions in of themselves. You’ve got interesting puzzles to solve, tons of ghost battles to fight your way through, some extremely creative level design here and there, and loads of extras to find off the beaten path to keep things entertaining.
Yet that level of effort doesn’t extend to the whole game. Instead, other floors often range from being short and uninspired (like the Fitness Centre and some of the early areas) to virtually empty (like the Unnatural History Museum, Spectral Catch, and Dance Hall).
And this is hugely disappointing given how well certain elements of the game were designed. After all, these areas have interesting themes to them, like a pirate themed restaurant, a museum and a disco club. There are loads of creative things Next Level Games could have done with the areas to make them stand out.
But they didn’t do any of that. They took creative ideas, and often used them for a couple of empty rooms and a boss arena. It’s a huge waste of potential really, and one that especially hurts towards the endgame.
Since that’s the point the game seems to peter out in terms of quality. Between the Spectral Catch and Master Suite, every floor is also either extremely short or overly empty. This creates a weird lull in the last 6th of the game, where the quality of the design falls flat before the big finale.
Yet it’s not just level design that has its issues in places. No, the game also has a fair few issues with enemy variety too.
Because for the most part, the game has very few enemy types, with the vast majority of encounters involving only five types:
- Goobs, which are weak blue ghosts that replace the Greenies from the last title
- Hammers, aka giant red ghosts which fulfil the role of Slammers from the last game
- Oozers, which hide in objects and replace Hiders
- Slinkers, the creepy looking purple ghosts that try to sneak up on/scare/grab Luigi
- Plus Trappers, weird looking door guarding ghosts that need both Luigi and Gooigi to defeat
With the first two also have mini versions that come in hordes and need to captured ten at a time. These enemies then make up at least 95% of the enemy encounters in the game, with the Goobs and Hammers being by far the most common of the bunch.
And the end result is that by the seventh floor or so, you’ve seen everything there is to see enemy wise.
That’s not a good thing given the game’s length. Especially given all the creative area themes that could have been used to introduce new ghost types or mini bosses to mix things up a bit.
Fortunately, Next Level Games did do a few things to keep combat encounters varied later on. The basic Goobs get new equipment on later floors to make fighting them all the trickier, and the majority of ghosts also get new outfits to fit the theme of the area as well, like maid outfits in RIP Suites or hoodies in the `Dance Hall.
Add this to the fantastic boss battles after each area, and it does go some way to varying things up a bit.
It’s just that there should have been more done with ghost types overall.
Like say, a few extra character ghosts that could have acted as mini bosses throughout the floors. After all, the first game’s portrait ghosts weren’t all area bosses, and many weren’t mandatory to finiish the game at all.
So the same setup could have been implemented here too. Have the main boss at the end as it is now, but also include two or three other portrait ghost like bosses as minor opponents that either act as mini bosses or optional extras along the way.
That would have gone a long way towards fixing up the game’s enemy variety issues, especially given how well it worked in the original Gamecube title (normal enemies weren’t very varied there either, it’s just there were tons of portrait ghosts to deal with).
Then there are the game’s multiplayer options, a mixed bag in of themselves.
So let’s start with the ScreamPark first of all. This one is basically three mini games you can play with friends on a single system, each supporting up to eight players at once and both splitting the players in team Luigi and team Gooigi respectively.
And they’re all pretty standard for the most part. There’s one where you capture ghosts called Ghost Hunt, one where you collect coins in a swimming pool (Coin Floating) and one where you shoot at targets in Castle MacFrights (Cannon Barrage). They’re all decent enough fun in the short term, but not something you’ll keep coming back to for hours on end.
What’s meant to fill that role is the ScareScraper, a co-op multiplayer mode which has up to eight players battling through a haunted tower while completing objectives like catching ghosts, collecting coins or rescuing Toads. It’s a fun little distraction from the main story, but it’s about as mixed as said story mode in the quality department as well.
That’s because while many aspects of the mode (such as the floor designs and objectives) have been improved, almost as many others have been toned down, simplified or removed altogether. For instance, you can’t play unlimited floors any more, with only 5 and 10 floor options remaining. You also can’t choose what challenges you play either, with all games being a random mix of floors like in the original game’s Surprise mode.
These are changes Next Level Games said were for ‘matchmaking reasons’ (read, letting people find allies for an online game more easily), and they make some sense in that context, but they also hurt the game for longtime fans too.
Since said fans aren’t playing with randoms. They’re playing with friends they know already, in pre arranged rooms with specific settings. Now that’s just gone, along with the hour plus marathons that allows.
And the difficulty doesn’t help things either. You see, when you design an online co-op multiplayer game (or hell, any kind of co-op game in general), you need to make sure of two things:
- That the difficulty is balanced so both a solo player and a full team can get through it, without either having too much of an advantage/disadvantage
- That said difficulty isn’t too punishing, so newbies can learn ropes (and because many players online are best described as ‘morons’)
The ScareScraper does not do either of these things. Instead, it throws everyone in at the deep end, with time limits and ghost combos significantly more challenging than anything in the main story or past instalments of the series in general.
This means that 90% of games online will quickly end in utter failure, since most people are not very good at that the game and the mode gives no leeway for them to learn.
It also means that trying to take it on alone is basically a suicide mission, since the time limits and floor designs are short and maze like enough respectively that a solo player has almost no hope in hell of getting past floor 1, let alone reaching the end.
Which I’m guessing Next Level Games figured out in development, since even in a game with ‘achievements’ for every possible action, ‘beating the ScareScraper on your own’ doesn’t net you one.
Still, even with a team (and even a good one at that), it’s still not certain you’ll do well, since the aforementioned time limits are often simply too strict to be fair. For instance, is the objective to ‘find the money’ with a 10,000 coin requirement? Yeah, good luck with that one, since in about 50% of setups it’s basically impossible due to questionable level generation, and the other 50% is only possible with a very well co-ordinated team.
The rewards for doing well in this mode and the variety present here have also taken a hit too. For example, there are now no upgrades for doing well in the mode, nor any red coin bonus missions after each floor to spice things up.
As a result, the sense of progression has fallen by the wayside a bit, with powerups often not being worth the effort to get at all.
And the boss ghost selection hasn’t exactly fared much better. On the positive side, the actual rooftop boss (Boolossus) is a huge improvement over the Brain from the last game, being a familiar face from the first game with an interesting attack pattern and a battle that progresses in difficulty as you go through.
Yet at the same time the mini bosses are even more lacklustre than in the previous title. Now there aren’t any themes at all, with the only bosses being three types of basic ghosts with extra abilities:
- Throwing bombs
- Going super fast
- Plus regenerating health
That’s it. Three different varieties of the basic ghost lineup with more HP and a twist.
It’s pretty disappointing given the 30 odd design variants their Dark Moon counterparts had, especially given said bosses all had unique descriptions whereas these ones don’t even get creative names.
So the multiplayer modes are as mixed in terms of quality as the main game is. Fun, but uneven at best.
4 Stars here too.
Still, onto the length part now. How much value for money does Luigi’s Mansion 3 have?
Eh, again, it’s a mixed bag.
On the bright side, the main story is pretty meaty compared to previous titles in the series, and can offer a good 12-15 hours of gameplay plus extras for things like gem collecting, multiplayer modes and achievements. In that sense, it’s a step above the Gamecube game, and roughly on par with Dark Moon.
So there is value to be had here.
But it’s not really enough in my opinion. Why? Because once you’ve beaten the main game once, there’s not really much of an incentive to keep going.
That’s because the gems, Boos and achievements are all something you can tackle in a few hours each, and the game’s optional content is basically limited to the ScareScraper and ScreamPark. There’s no boss rush or way to refight bosses in general, no Hidden Mansion style hard mode to unlock (or other form of new game plus), no optional areas or floors to explore beyond those seen in the story and the ending (while something I won’t spoil here) isn’t exactly a great reward in of itself either.
There is at least a tiny bit of variety in how the rooms change if you revisit them (new ghosts will appear in earlier areas to add a bit more challenge to any backtracking you do), but it’s not much, and it’s unlikely to keep you coming back to every room in the hotel none the less.
Additionally, as mentioned before, the ScareScraper mode is cut down too, with the ScreamPark not really adding anything to make up for it.
So it’s a mixed bag once more. There’s definitely a bit more to do than in the Gamecube original, but it’s far being as fleshed out as other major Switch titles like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey or Smash Bros Ultimate, and it doesn’t offer that much to come back to in the long run.
Caption: Though it still probably has more of a postgame than Pokemon Sword and Shield will
All in all, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a good game, and one that often borders on greatness too. The boss battles are amazing, certain floors and puzzles are really well designed, and the general aesthetics are on par to the point of competing with many animated movies. And with the improvements to the combat, certain multiplayer modes and core game structure, it’s definitely one that any fan of the series will enjoy too.
But it’s not the 10/10 masterpiece it should have been, and that’s thanks to some questionable design decisions, cut features, a surprisingly high number of technical issues and a lack of replay value for those who’ve beaten the main story mode.
Here’s hoping the game’s future DLC will fix some of that down the line!