You’d think after being the unwilling star in not one, but two ghostly adventures, Luigi might have been at least a little suspicious of a sudden and unprompted offer of a free holiday at a luxury hotel. A hotel named The Last Resort, no less. Alas, it seems that ol’ Green Mario hasn’t learned a thing since his original escapade on the Nintendo Gamecube, and so here we are. It’s not even one night in when Hellen Gravely, the hotel’s ghostly manager, kidnaps Mario, Peach and a trio of Toads, with Luigi narrowly escaping capture. Our reluctant hero then finds his way into the building’s basement levels where he not only happens across a shiny new model of his trusty ghost-sucking vacuum, the Poltergust G-00, but its inventor Professor E. Gadd, too. Turns out E. Gadd, the scientific genius that he is, fell for Gravely’s trap just the same, and so begins another spooky adventure in Luigi’s Mansion 3.
Though the overall tale is straightforward and succinct, Nintendo has done an especially good job at bringing both the cast of characters and the hotel itself to life in Luigi’s Mansion 3. The Last Resort is a massive location, and its 15-and-some floors are made up of a variety of themes from standard hotel decor to lush gardens – even pirate ships and ancient Egyptian deserts – often existing outside of logical, physical limits. There’s a ton of incidental detail that brings each floor to life, telling stories of its residents both past and ghostly, and throwing in a healthy dose of clever ‘spooky’ game and film references for good measure. Though it looks fantastic in handheld mode, this is definitely a game made to be played on TV – it looks amazing. Each room or space is like a living diorama, and the characters and ghosts in them exhibit and almost Aardman-like physicality and sense of movement.
Of course, the star of the show is Luigi, and he absolutely shines. Whoever the animation wizards are at Nintendo, they’ve done a bloody ripper of a job here. From the way he walks, nervously clutching his flashlight, down the hotel hallways – to the way he fondly pets his phantasmal pet Polterpup, Luigi is perpetually endearing. Every set of animations is augmented further by his convincing reactions to the goings-on around him too, with Luigi often vocally as expressive as he is physically. “Oh no, oh boy, oh no,” he’ll murmur as you send him through yet another corridor to the unknown, sheepishly calling out for Mario whenever it feels safe to do so. Don’t even get me started on the way he says “Doggy”. Honestly, this is probably the funniest and most adorable thing Nintendo has ever made – people are going to flip out at how stupidly cute Luigi and friends are, and a special mention has to go to the fact that Luigi accesses the pause menu and speaks to E. Gadd through a repurposed Virtual Boy. Brilliant.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 will feel instantly familiar to anyone who’s played the first two games. Just like the mansions before, Luigi finds himself exploring the spooky hotel, floor by floor, sucking up hundreds of ghosts (and just about everything else) along the way. The new Poltergust mostly possesses the same capabilities as before – a flashlight that can stun enemies, a UV lamp for finding hidden secrets and, of course, the ability to suck up and capture ghosts. New to the ‘G-00’ model are a couple of extra features, starting with the Suction Shot, which fires off a roped plunger that can then be sucked back up to forcefully pull whatever it was attached to. There’s also a burst shot move handy for knocking back ghosts and objects, which I’d almost always forget existed until I needed it. By far the biggest change though, is the addition of ‘Gooigi’.
First introduced by being retconned into the 3DS remake of the original Luigi’s Mansion, Gooigi is a gooey clone of Luigi that lives in the tank of the Poltergust and can come out as needed and operate independently. Playing solo, Luigi dozes off (rather creepily – does Gooigi steal his life essence??) and control is switched to Gooigi, who controls much the same and has an identical Poltergust G-00 with the same abilities. The key difference between the two is that Gooigi can slip through bars and squeeze into pipes that Luigi would otherwise be too big for, making him useful for getting into inaccessible areas to flip switches, move obstacles or find secrets. Because the two can be switched between at the press of a button, and will stand still and continue doing the action they were left with, Luigi and Gooigi can also team up to solve puzzles or take down larger enemies together. It all works surprisingly smoothly, though adding a second player through drop in/drop out co-op makes it all even easier.
The other major change is in the way Luigi subdues and captures ghosts. Previous games had you stun a ghost with the Poltergust’s Strobulb before switching on the suction and whittling their stamina down until they were sucked right in. In Luigi’s Mansion 3 you’ll still stun, then latch on to ghosts and counter their frantic movements until they’re worn down, but once that happens you’ll mash the A button and use the left stick to slam them around the room repeatedly. Aside from the entertainment value of smacking ghosts into walls, floors and anything in close proximity, other enemies will often find themselves in the firing line. It’s incredibly satisfying to clear a room by grabbing two or three ghosts at once and using them to smash the afterlife out of their friends. Deeper strategy comes from a range of different ghost types requiring different approaches, plus the occasional trickier spectres with weapons or protective gear.
All of these different elements – exploration, puzzle solving, combat – are satisfying and well-crafted on their own, but it’s Nintendo’s absurd creativity and talent that really brings it all together. The 10-15 hour journey to the top moves along at a surprisingly brisk pace, with new surprises around every corner and barely a single boring or frustrating moment. When those do come, it’s either because of the few less exciting boss encounters (especially the final one, sadly) or an overused callback to Polterpup’s function in Luigi’s Mansion 2 (only now it’s a Polterkitty). The puzzles and hidden secrets in Luigi’s Mansion 3 are very, very good though. There’s serious cash money to be found in just about every nook and cranny in the hotel – it’s not uncommon to walk into a new room and begin by just sucking everything up. There are hidden gems on every floor too, often waiting at the end of some seriously ingenious puzzles.
That said, Luigi’s Mansion 3 does come with some issues that seem very out of place in a Nintendo game. For one, I came across quite a few odd bugs with objects not behaving properly or not animating correctly, which was surprising. There’s also a real lack of satisfaction to collecting the tens of thousands of dollars scattered throughout the hotel, which can only be spent on extra lives or map locations to hidden gems and ghosts – the lives are rarely ever useful, and anyone playing thoroughly enough to collect the cash needed for hints will probably have already found the secrets by proxy. The extra multiplayer modes feel tacked-on too; Screampark is a collection of multiplayer mini-games using some of the game’s least exciting gimmicks, and Scarescraper takes Luigi’s Mansion 2’s multiplayer and repeats it without addressing the balance issues it had back then. None of these are game-ruining complaints, but up against the pure, A-grade Nintendo quality of the rest of the game they’re noticeable.
Also, and this can’t be stated strongly enough, the noise that plays on a loop when Luigi is low on health is the absolute worst. It overpowers everything and it rattles my brain. I took to just quitting and starting the section again if it ever happened.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a fun, endearing, endlessly creative and beautiful puzzle-platformer that can proudly sit amongst the other greats in the Nintendo Switch’s library. It has its moments of frustration and some odd issues, but it’s an experience that quite literally sucks you in from the very beginning, and will have you captured you right up until the end.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher