Review: Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch)

A masterful sequel that manages to outshine the original.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/22/2019 21:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Incredible art direction and graphics; masterclass in sound design; clever knew mechanics for the Poltergust; puzzles are perfectly balanced and implemented; players are free to roam with minimal interruption
Poison Mushroom for...
E. Gadd can still be slightly grating on occasion

Video games are at their best when they exude a sense of the fantastic. When what the player is doing on-screen is so magical, so immersive, and so fun that the world around them melts into the background. As a player, I’ve had many moments like that over the years. Now, I’ve had another by playing Luigi’s Mansion 3. This is Lime-Green’s finest hour, not to mention Next Level Games’ greatest production.

Next Level sets the stage for what’s to come with a delightful opening cinematic of Luigi, Mario, Princess Peach, and three Toads making their way to The Last Resort, a hotel which the younger plumber has won a group vacation to. Run by the mysterious Hellen Gravely (seriously), upon arrival, the hostess gets Luigi and company settled and ready for their stay. Needless to say, things turn sour quickly and Luigi is forced to rescue everyone from the clutches of Gravely and a rejuvenated King Boo.

From the outset, the tone of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is one of whimsy. For example, of all the characters who could be driving the bus to the hotel, a Toad has been elected— someone who can barely see over the steering wheel! To be clear, saying he can see over the steering wheel is being generous. Little interactions between the characters are filled with warmth and charm. Yet, when needed, Next Level is able to insert just enough of a sense of danger when the big bads come calling. All without a lick of spoken dialogue!

This is, without exaggeration, expert storytelling. The plot isn’t especially thick, but what it lacks in detail it more than makes up for with exquisite character moments. Watching Luigi react to the various objects and enemies throughout The Last Resort is a treat. The frightened hero trembles as he walks the halls, shivers and shakes as he vacuums up enemies, and bleats out calls of “Mario!” so desperately, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him.

From an art direction standpoint, the use of a hotel for the setting of Luigi’s Mansion 3 was brilliant. Every floor has a different theme, allowing Next Level to send Luigi exploring everything from a gym (my favorite) to a movie studio. Sure, some of the settings make less sense than others (there aren’t many hotels with natural history museums, for instance), but that’s irrelevant when the whole shebang is a nest of sinister specters. The Art Deco stylings of the hotel are also gorgeous, not to mention packed with more detail than either of the previous Luigi’s Mansion games could ever dream of.

These details and various environments are all brought to life with some of the most gorgeous graphics and animation of any Switch game. In many ways, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is more impressive to look at than Super Mario Odyssey. Colors are bold and bright, the lighting is astounding, and every inch of every room is stuffed with things to look at and interact with. Half the joy of this game is in wandering the hotel and sucking up everything that isn’t bolted down with the Poltergust G-00.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 also has some of the best sound design I’ve come across in recent memory. Glass pops and cracks, paper crunches, metal squeaks and tings— virtually every object has a distinct and memorable sound. The satisfaction derived from sucking an entire couch cushion into the G-00 and hearing it “thoomp” out of existence can’t be properly put into words. The assortment of fanfares and jingles are on par with those found in the first Luigi’s Mansion, something that was handled less effectively in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Accompanied by a perfectly subtle soundtrack infused with everything from jazz to electronic beats, this is the sort of employment of sound that budding game designers should be made to sit and study.

As ever, Luigi must use the Poltergust to vacuum up spirits and explore the game world. While the core gameplay loop is unchanged from previous installments (explore rooms, vacuum ghosts and Boos to cleanse them, restore the environment to peace), it’s better than ever in Luigi’s Mansion 3. Exploration, for instance, is much more rewarding thanks to the aforementioned abundance of items to vacuum and play with. There’s also a ton of money and gems tucked away to discover. Granted, the only use for money is to buy a couple of expendable items that aren’t necessary to progress, but it’s enjoyable regardless to fill Luigi’s pockets with cash.

Perhaps more of note, though, are the clever new ways that the Poltergust is put to use. At one point Luigi can plug a chainsaw into the end of the vacuum and use it to destroy the contents of an entire room. The device can also become supercharged and suck up huge swaths of the environment with ease. Beyond that, Luigi can now slam his enemies into the ground, a wonderfully visceral addition to his traditionally more docile means of battling the undead. The addition of the Suction Shot, a plunger that can be fired and attached to a number of different objects and enemies, further mixes things up by letting Luigi pull switches, tear down walls, and more.

Gooigi was introduced in the 3DS remake of Luigi’s Mansion as a way for two players to engage in co-op, which is still the case here, but the translucent green doppelgänger can do so much more in Luigi’s Mansion 3. Housed within the G-00 at all times, Gooigi can quickly be ejected and sent out to reach places Luigi can’t access. Gooigi can slide between pipes, slip past spikes without harm, and largely do just about anything that Luigi can, albeit with a smaller health meter and an inability to go near water. The plumber’s helper (see what I did there?) is invaluable and helps to facilitate some great puzzles for the player to solve.

Professor E. Gadd, investigator of the supernatural and stalwart ally of Luigi in this series, is back to lend a helping hand. A far less intrusive helping hand, it must be said. In Dark Moon, Next Level subjected players to far too much of his presence with constant calls and interruptions to the gameplay. Thankfully, the developer has shown much greater restraint in using E. Gadd this time around, even going so far as to allow players to (mostly) shut off his guidance in the options menu. Still, occasionally E. Gadd can show up when he isn’t needed, but overwhelmingly, Next Level lets players enjoy the adventure at their own pace with minimal hand-holding.

The mission-based structure of Dark Moon has been jettisoned for Luigi’s Mansion 3. Where that setup would create jarring breaks in the action that worked against immersion, here the hotel is one big, uninterrupted jaunt. There are a couple of points early on when players are shuttled to E. Gadd’s bunker for some exposition, but it’s nothing unreasonable. In many ways, it feels like Next Level sat and methodically went through the valid points of criticism levied at Dark Moon and made right by them. Which is saying something when one considers that Dark Moon is a solid game even with its shortcomings.

Rounding out the package is Luigi’s Mansion 3’s co-op and co-op multiplayer modes. A second player can hop in and assist Luigi as Gooigi, which makes traversing the hotel slightly less difficult (and who doesn’t want company in a haunted house?). In terms of multiplayer, ScareScraper and ScreamPark are both very amusing, if not terribly addicting, multiplayer experiences. They’re probably not going to tear anyone away from a match of Mario Kart or Splatoon 2, but it’s an interesting take on the single-player gameplay that mostly works. Try it out if you have a friend or two around.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is one of the best games I’ve played in years. I spent every moment of its campaign gaping in awe at set piece after set piece. Raging dinosaur skeletons, suites overrun with plants, a kaiju battle, and a towering pyramid in the sand are but a handful of the sights to take in while playing Luigi’s Mansion 3. I never thought that the original Luigi’s Mansion could be trumped, but Next Level Games has officially outdone Nintendo with this gorgeous, wonderful video game. Bravo.

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