No more living in the shadow of his more stalwart sibling — Luigi’s Mansion 3 has built its puzzle-solving, ghost-busting gameplay upon two solid foundations, and the result reaches fantastic new heights. With a host of new abilities, an incredible amount of interactivity in a gorgeous setting, and an army of undead hotel staff ready to be sucked up into the afterlife, this is easily the best entry in the franchise — and a culmination of what Nintendo and developer Next Level Games has learned since the original GameCube release.
While there will always be those who appreciate the more Gothic atmosphere of that first entry, it’s hard to argue the superiority of its basic action. Gameplay-wise, the original Luigi’s Mansion was a starter home, and Dark Moon is where the timid green plumber’s ghost-busting, drapery-sucking antics really settled down. By adding new abilities to the Poltergust, increased interactivity with the environments, and a multitude of secrets, Next Level Games created a blueprint that future entries in the series could build upon. Luigi’s Mansion 3 takes that schematic and runs wild with it, jam-packing their funhouse with a plethora of things to do and discover, and plenty of new ways to do it.
Fans of the franchise will no doubt remember exactly how to blind their foes (and disintegrate creepy-crawlies) with the blinding flash of the Strobulb, as well as obsessively comb every nook and cranny with the Dark Light, which can materialize hidden objects (and Boos) out of thin air. But while these holdovers are just as fun as ever, it’s the additions to Luigi’s repertoire that really take Luigi’s Mansion 3 on a private elevator to the penthouse. The best is Gooigi, a green jello doppelganger of the hero who has all the same abilities, but can also ooze through cage bars or spikes like the T-1000, and travel through pipes like…Mario and Luigi; like the Wicked Witch of the West, however, he will melt when exposed to water. Several wonderful puzzles and boss fights involve switching back and forth between the two controllable characters, and some even require them working in conjunction to combine their vacuum powers.
Also tons of fun is a suction cup projectile that conveniently has a rope attached for Luigi to yank on. Firing it at bulging pieces of luggage, electrical boxes, potted plants, garbage cans, bathroom stall doors, or any number of highlighted objects around the hotel allows Luigi to perform a smashing slam move that breaks ornaments apart and spills their loot. There are times when Luigi’s Mansion 3 feels like a hotel burglar simulation, as players run around destroying everything in sight, ransacking rooms for anything valuable — but the spree is certainly a blast. In addition to feeling great, these new abilities also force players to scrutinize rooms closer than ever before if they are to find every deviously hidden stash of gold or gems.
It’s sheer pleasure seeing how cleverly Next Level Games has layered puzzle upon puzzle in such luxuriously small spaces, daring players to experiment and think outside the box when it comes to how the Poltergust’s various powers are applied. It’s easy to turn on a bathroom faucet and receive a couple of coins in return, but perhaps this simple button prompt leads players to wonder what happens when other taps — ones that aren’t accessible by hand — are opened. So many puzzles require players to make logical leaps without any telegraphed clues, and that makes the process of discovery so much more satisfying. This is where Luigi’s Mansion 3 stands out most from its predecessors — the incredible amount of variety and interactivity to poke around in.
And unlike Dark Moon, players won’t be kicked out this time upon completing objectives. Completing a floor simply leaves Luigi where the battle began, free to go about his business and explore, or to move on to the next story beat. The seventeen floors blend seamlessly with each other via an elevator (in which Luigi is still controllable — a nice touch), allowing for the feeling that this is one continuous environment more than the multiple mansions of the last trip.
Each floor also is given a specific theme (an deadly overgrown garden, an ominous concert hall, a pirate-themed seafood restaurant, a peppy fitness gym, etc.), and is often presented as a maze of rooms which Luigi must work his way through in order to get to the boss. The more cartoonish vibe of Dark Moon is clearly the influence here, but these spaces are absolutely gorgeous, showcasing a tactile, diorama-ish look that will have players eager to see what inventive scenario comes next. What’s better is that they are also thoughtfully designed and stuffed with complementary amenities, artwork, and knick-knacks (often tailored to the theme of the floor, which only increases the visual variety) with which to manipulate.
Sure, every loose piece of cloth can be whisked away, each sheet of paper can be sent scattering in a blast of air, and no plant’s leaves can consider themselves safe from the mighty Poltergust-00, but a comprehensive physics system is where so much of the magic in Luigi’s Mansion 3 is made. This is introduced immediately in a benign opening sequence that features tumbling luggage and tippable chairs. As Luigi bumps into objects, they react appropriately; plates fall to the ground and shatter like they should, things with wheels can be rolled, loose carpeting can be furled. It isn’t long before knowledge of these principles comes into play, and certain puzzles begin to show how the ‘regular’ moves by themselves aren’t going to cut it. If something is made of glass, it’s likely breakable — one only need to figure out how to smash it.
Experimentation is the key, and one of the real joys of Luigi’s Mansion 3. With so many tools at one’s disposal, it’s only natural to test the boundaries of this physics system, but Next Level Games has risen impressively to the challenge. Unorthodox maneuvers are almost always rewarded, either by a cornucopia of cash, a well-earned gem, or even an achievement recognizing the outstanding industriousness. This validation goes the extra mile in making the gameplay feel gratifying, and encourages spending a lot of time in each room to prod at every corner.
More importantly, training players to think creatively prepares them for the combat challenges ahead, and for those whose primary aim is to to bust ghosts, be assured that there are plenty. While most of the standard enemies conform to the same six or seven types, they often are wielding accessories that complicate the fight. Disarming plays a big part of combat, as savvy ghosts know how to block that Strobulb flash, and swarms of these yammering poltergeists can easily overtake poor Luigi. To assist in this, the previously mentioned slam works well at flattening approaching opponents and reducing their health, while a jump of sorts creates a burst of air which knocks opponents backwards. As usual, this latter move is useful for more than meets the eye.
There is much more visual variety to the abundance of bosses, and while it’s doubtful they will be the subjects of much fan fiction or lore (with a few exceptions), the goofy characterizations are more distinct this time around than the last, and provide some of the most memorable moments. These ghoulies aren’t to be slept on in the difficulty department either; more than one boss ghost will put the plumber in his place if players simply charge right in without thinking first. And while Luigi’s Mansion 3 is generous with healing hearts and semi-useful hints from Professor E. Gadd, these creatively epic battles ultimately rely on understanding the full range of what Luigi’s many abilities can do. Weaknesses are rarely just given away, especially later in the game, and it’s likely that many younger or inexperienced players will be glad of some of E. Gadd’s health-restoring shop items.
Regardless of any bumps in the night, Luigi’s Mansion 3 succeeds wonderfully in creating a bountiful playground out of a haunted hotel that is a pleasure to patronize. With the online play of the Scarescraper still manic fun, and the mini-games of ScreamPark as an enjoyable multiplayer diversion, players are likely to return for many, many lengthy stays. A couple tedious set pieces and one or two frustrating boss fights aside, this is a perfectly paced sandbox (especially on the Egyptian floor) teeming with fun ideas — a towering expansion on previous models that takes the franchise to the next level.