Review: Luigi’s Mansion (Gamecube)

In this review, we go on a ghost hunt as we tackle the Gamecube adventure game Luigi’s Mansion.

This game was released in 2001 and would mark the second time Luigi is the main character of a Super Mario game after Mario is Missing!. It is also another launch title for the Gamecube.

Going into this, I had two reasons to worry that this wasn’t going to be that great of a game. This first reason was how badly of an experience I had with the last time Luigi starred in his own game. The second reason was that both Super Monkey Ball and Wave Race – Blue Storm were also launch titles and ended up getting mediocre scores. So, I was concerned that I just wasn’t going to find a good title for the Gamecube, but I gave this game a chance anyway thinking that there’s got to be a decent title for this system in its early life.

The game takes a while to fully flesh out the storyline behind this game. The storyline is basically that Mario and Luigi won a mansion in a contest neither of them entered. Mario was the first to check it out, but has been kidnapped. Luigi, following behind, enters the mansion and finds the place filled with ghosts. Luigi eventually meets up with E. Gadd who is having a hard time capturing the ghosts in the mansion. After the two flee the mansion, E. Gadd explains that the only way to stop the countless ghosts haunting the mansion is with the vacuum cleaner he uses also known as the Poltergust 3000. Once trapped, the ghosts are eventually trapped within oil paintings. With this weapon and Luigi’s flashlight, it is possible to actually defeat the ghosts within the mansion. So, Luigi eventually begins his quest to defeat the ghosts and rescue Mario.

Another device you have is the Game Boy Horror. This device has multiple uses. One use is to be able to communicate with E. Gadd. This happens at particular intervals in the game for you and sometimes helps advance the plot.

Another use is that it allows you to view a map of the mansion. Most doors, as you can tell by the map, are locked. Dark grey/black areas are places you have no access to. Lighter grey areas are places you do have access to, but haven’t cleared out all of the ghosts in there yet. Once you do clear out a room or hallway, the room will be lit up on the map in one of a number of colors. This represents what “area” each room represents. White seems to represent area 0, light blue represents area 1, green represents area 2, yellow represents area 3, and red/pink represents area 4. If you collect a key, you’ll automatically be taken to the Game Boy Horror and a key icon will appear above the door that it’s supposed to unlock.

A third use is the ability to search an area. If you point it at certain objects, different things can happen. If you, for instance, point it at a vase and activate it, Luigi might make an offhanded remark about it. If you use it on, say, a small hole, that hole will then become accessible. If you point it at well-hidden pieces of cheese before you defeat all the ghosts in the room, you’ll free a yellow mouse worth lots of cash. If you point it at a mirror, you’ll be transported back to the entrance of the mansion.

Later on in the game, it’ll also serves as an automated Boo detector.

Along the way, you’ll encounter Toad servants spread throughout the mansion. They’ll all have the ability to allow you to save your game. Some will also give you hints as to where important items are as well.

In addition, you’ll encounter many different objects you can examine or vacuum at. Most often, you’ll simply get a blast of dust (meaning nothing was found). Other times, you’ll uncover a hiding ghost which may be necessary to defeat in order to “solve” a room. In other cases, you may find loads of loot for which you can either collect by walking over it or you can more efficiently suck up with the Poltergust 3000. In some cases, you can also find hearts. These hearts, depending on their size, fills up varying amounts of health all the way up to the standard 100 health points. In rare instances, you may also find a purple mushroom that will reduce your health, so you’ll want to avoid these.

As you make your way deeper into the game, you’ll encounter one of three medallions. These medallions are: fire, water, and ice. If you collect one, you’ll be able to collect that particular elemental spirit which automatically fills your meter all the way. After that, you can use your alternative firing power in the Poltergust 3000 which spews that particular element as long as your fuel lasts. This is useful for many things including defeating elemental ghosts, triggering special hidden loot stashes, or unlocking something in a puzzle.

As you can tell, a vast majority of the game revolves around your use of the Poltergust 3000. In addition to what was already mentioned, you can suck up various objects including table cloths, coverings, and posters. For a small number of larger objects, you can hold an object by sucking it onto the nozzle and then charge forward and releasing it. Essentially, you throw the objects. This is useful for defeating certain bosses. You can even open curtains with the Poltergust 3000.

Suggested earlier when explaining the map, this game is divided into rooms and a few hallways. For pretty much the whole game, the goal is to defeat all the ghosts in a particular room. If you do so, a hidden treasure chest will appear. Some of these chests contain loot or one of the three medallions, but other times, they’ll contain keys. You pick up the key to unlock the next room. While this suggests this game is largely a linear experience, you’ll often find yourself branching out and finding a number of rooms with a particular batch of keys you uncover. There is enough of this branching out that this game successfully sheds that feeling of linear play in my books. Some rooms are even accessible early on, but can only be solved later in the game.

Another main element in this game are the enemies. A vast majority of your enemies are all ghosts (exceptions include traps and false doors). In the beginning, you’ll only encounter small ghosts that can be defeated by the flashlight and Poltergust 3000 alone. Some simply appear randomly and scare Luigi before floating up to him and attacking. Others will appear from the ceiling and either laugh at you (white) or throw bombs at you (purple).

In addition to this, you’ll encounter small ghosts which will damage you, but don’t do much besides that. These ghosts can either be mice or bats. Either way, you can simply suck them up with the Poltergust 3000.

Adding to your enemies are bosses. Most are more or less mini-bosses that will ultimately end up as paintings. Some of these can just be attacked normally, but a number of them require a way for your to distract, annoy, or damage in some small way. If they expose their purple hearts, you’ll be able to suck them up and defeat them.

Of course, there are major bosses. While they appear like normal bosses, they are exceptional in that once you find a weakness, they’ll transport you to a battle arena of some sort. Defeating them will give you access to a new area key which can be used to open up the sealed shimmering doors.

Finally, there are elemental ghosts that require a certain element for you to fire at them in order to stun them. Once stunned, you can hit them with the flashlight and defeat them in the usual way.

At some point in the game, you’ll also unearth a sealed area that unleashes 50 boos and the King Boo. These enemies should be more familiar to players who have played other Mario games – especially Super Mario 64. With your Game Boy Horror, you have to find a number of these Boos in order to complete the game. They can only be found after you’ve solved a room. From there, you’ll have to randomly chosen objects that you have to detect and either shake or use your Poltergust 3000 to shake them out. One will be the Boo that you are looking for. The other object will be a fake. You’ll either unearth a white ball with a drawing of a Boo on it or a bomb which you have to run away from in order to not take any damage.

Sucking up ghosts with the Poltergust 3000 is where a lot of the action takes place. It’s a bit like a fishing expedition in that you reel the ghosts in as they fight for their freedom. Sometimes they’ll get away while other times, you’ll manage to capture them. The idea is to start sucking when their purple heart is exposed. Once you’ve snagged them, you have to move away from where they are going. This reduces their health. Some ghosts have no health while others have 100 health. As you pull away, the ghost’s health will be reduced. When the health reaches 0, you’ll be able to suck them into the Poltergust 3000 – thus defeating them. It is also possible to suck up multiple ghosts at the same time, but it makes life more interesting in determining which direction to pull away from. Boos, however, operate differently in that you actually have to follow them around as you reduce their health. Boos also have a huge range in health – even going as high as 300 health. If a boo escapes a room, you’ll have to track them down by going into the room they went to (if you’re lucky). Otherwise, they’ll hide in the room they sneaked off to and you’ll have to search that room in the usual way. If a ghost sneaks into a locked room, you’ll just end up having two ghosts hiding in that room instead of 1. It’s always possible to get all 50.

There are different kinds of loot you’ll be able to find in the game. Coins are the most common kinds of loot followed up by dollar bills and the slightly more rare gold bars. It is also possible to find various colored gems as well. Pearls are dropped by boss ghosts. Each piece of loot you uncover adds to the total “G” at the end of each area. The more you collect, I’m presuming, the better your rank at the end of the game. So, collecting the loot is a good thing.

Generally speaking, I was relieved with this game. I thought I was in for another mediocre play at best. I actually found it quite entertaining. The way the game progressed was well done given that there was almost always something new to find or something new to solve. The only thing that was repetitive was the whole Poltergust 3000 sequence when you have a ghost. This game does manage to avoid being too repetitious in that there’s always ways of improving your skill with that. Mixed in with numerous puzzle elements and exploration, I never really found much that seemed too routine with this game.

One reviewer remarked that this game was too short in that you could sit down for an evening and complete the game from beginning to end in around 6 hours. I personally have to disagree with this assessment because I probably spent two days trying to complete it. It’s not the world longest game, but I wouldn’t call it too short in any way. In fact, if the game was actually a little on the short side of things, you could always challenge the “hidden mansion” after beating the game. I’m sure there are many more hours worth of gameplay to be had there. I think that, in order to get through this game in a single day, you have to already know the solution to all of the puzzles, skipped all the optional loot, and obtain the minimum number of boos possible. Even then, we’re talking speed run training runs at that rate – not something typical everyday players would do.

What I will criticize this game for is that some of the puzzles at the beginning were too cryptic for new players. In fact, some of the hardest to figure out puzzles, for me, was with the first few boss ghosts in the first area. While the concepts within these puzzles weren’t bad in and of itself, I thought that they could have been reserved for later on in the game when the player was more comfortable with the controls and how the game works.

Another point of criticism I have for this game is the key opening door cut scenes. Yes, in Super Mario 64, you had an animation sequence for every door you unlock, but there were only three keys to be had in that game. In this game, there are roughly 50 doors to unlock. When every other room you visit has this animation sequence, it get’s boring and repetitive. Yes, this animation could be used, but only some of the time – not all of the time. The way it’s implemented in this game was overkill in my view. Either have fewer locked doors or use this animation more sparingly.

Graphically, this game was well done. There’s the particle effects that not only cloud up, but some of which is affected by your Poltergust 3000. The cloth physics were also very nicely done. Lighting effects were very good. The reflections used in this game were pretty good as well. The transparency effects used on the ghosts themselves were very well done and was a real highlight for me in this game as far as graphics were concerned. Other effects like fiery explosions were also very nicely done. My only criticism was that there was some clipping issues that were hard to ignore. Still, a very solid effort on this front.

The audio was nicely nuanced. The sound effects were all very nicely done. The voice acting was great. The mansion music was the same throughout the entire game, but it makes its appearance in numerous forms. There’s the standard orchestral version that you hear when entering new hallways. To add to this, when Luigi is nervously wandering a new dark room, he subtly hums the horror music in an amusing effort to calm himself. In secured areas, he also whistles the music. Some area’s have different variations of the main music as well which wasn’t bad. Different music is triggered during different events such as snagging a ghost or speaking to different characters throughout. The music that you hear when speaking to E. Gadd was also nicely done. Overall, the music was pretty good.

Overall, this was definitely a solid effort of a game. This game progresses nicely and has numerous elements thrown in to keep things interesting. The concepts were very well realized throughout the game. The puzzles were well constructed. The graphics were nicely done with cloth and particle physics. The sound effects were great and the music was good. The unlocking a door animation sequence was overused, and the difficulty curve was a little wonky at times. Contrary to what others have said, I thought this game was a good length. So, I would say this is a recommended title.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game with all 50 boo’s captured. Didn’t challenge the hidden mansion.

Obtained a total of 104,550,000g and earned a “Rank A”.

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 82%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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