A couple of weeks ago I shared my first impressions of Luigi’s Mansion 3, a game which in my mind took the best aspects of its predecessors and put them together into a single experience. That said, there’s quite a bit to Luigi’s Mansion 3 that didn’t come from the games before it, new mechanics and new approaches brought to the table that are worth their own separate analysis. This article focuses on the elements of the game that are brand new, and is also written from the perspective of someone who has beaten the game and so can address the full story as well as the overall structure and pacing of the game.
The Poltergust G-00 that Luigi wields on this particular excursion has a number of new features to bring to bear. The first is the burst (yay rhyming), which pushes air outward with a blast underneath Luigi that shoves him into the air while shoving enemies away on all sides. I like what the burst brings to the table in terms of boss battles because it allows for timed dodging of attacks through jumping and not just through moving side to side. Another new move is the slam – Luigi can fling a ghost or an object (the latter needs to be stuck with a plunger first) up and over in order to slam them on the ground behind him. This does big damage to ghosts and quickly destroys objects to clear a room more quickly. Slamming is deeply satisfying as it helps you to eliminate multiple ghosts at once and can even knock defensive items off of ghosts that get slammed. There’s a simple satisfaction to swing a ghost into a box or a table and watching the pieces shatter all over the place – the visual, audio, and tactile feedback is excellent in this regard. Luigi is a character that rarely feels powerful, but those moments are something special.
Of course, the biggest upgrade to the new Poltergust is the presence of a new friend in the back compartment: Gooigi. Gooigi is some kind of weird slime doppelganger of Luigi that E. Gadd made out of a synthetic ghost ooze. He can be remotely controlled by Luigi and has his own slime version of the Poltergust on his back, effectively making him a second Luigi in combat. Because his body is made of goo, he can squeeze through tight spaces like prison bars or sewer drains and uses this ability to navigate to areas that Luigi cannot go. Gooigi’s main weakness is water – if he gets wet, he dissolves into a puddle and has to return to Luigi’s pack to recharge. Luckily, this takes only a matter of moments, meaning that Gooigi is never out of commission for very long.
The addition of Gooigi is the most interesting mechanical change to Luigi’s Mansion 3 in my view. It is the change which opened up the most opportunities for new combat strategies, new types of puzzles, and a whole new form of gameplay in the form of co-op. Let’s hit on these topics one at a time. In combat, Gooigi can serve as a second Luigi in both offensive and defensive maneuvers. Afraid to get the real Luigi too close to a pack of enemies? Send off Gooigi instead, who has much lower stakes if he ends up being overwhelmed and defeated. Alternatively, there are some ghosts with two tails that Luigi and Gooigi can suck up simultaneously to double the damage dealt by their slam. Suction the ghost with Luigi first, then eject Gooigi and walk him behind the target to activate his vacuum and deal big damage.
From a puzzle perspective, a lot of options are opened up with a second character in play. In one area of the game, there are a number of old-fashioned castle traps that prevent Luigi from progressing with spiked floors or rains of arrows. Gooigi can pass through these traps unmolested and then deactivate the mechanisms so that Luigi can progress. Another area features two levels, one a flooded ground floor and the other a series of platforms on an upper floor collected by sewer pipes. Gooigi can’t stay on the ground due to the flooding, but he can zip between platforms on the upper floors to raise gates that allow Luigi to sail through unimpeded. Luigi can then turn valves that shut off water flows which would prevent Gooigi from getting where he needs to go. These team puzzles feel great and push you to think about the unique abilities of both characters.
While it’s possible to do these two man challenges as a single player by switching between characters with the press of the right stick, playing in co-op may be the best way to experience the challenges of Luigi’s Mansion 3. I often found myself wanting a second person with me, particularly during those puzzles or battles which were the most challenging (and by extension, the most fun). I did get to try out the co-op with my son, but since he’s four and is still developing the basic skills of maneuvering with a control stick and learning where buttons are, he didn’t give me the best indication of what the true Luigi’s Mansion co-op experience is like. While not every situation is explicitly designed to have both characters on the field, I’m not able to think of many which I think would be actively harmed by having two players. The only potential challenge is the camera, which starts to do some weird things if Luigi and Gooigi stray too far from one another.
In my first impressions I discussed how one of the strengths of Luigi’s Mansion is in the verisimilitude of its setting. There is an internal consistency to the hotel that makes it feel like a real place despite it having both a hotel mall and an Egyptian-style pyramid. Unfortunately, while some of the floors in Luigi’s Mansion 3 have a lot of personality and are quite memorable, there are quite a few which fall flat or don’t bring much new to the table as far as the challenges to face. One floor, for example, was essentially one square hallway that connected on one side to a single room with a boss battle. One of the highest floors in the hotel was a single hallway with two or three shops, one big room for the boss, and one secret room right by the elevator. These very small floors were easy to finish quickly but didn’t offer much in the way of exploration or exciting scenarios to engage.
One of my main complaints about Luigi’s Mansion 2 was the way in which the mansions were segmented. There were five mansions instead of one, and they were broken apart into levels which left some parts of each mansion blocked off at any given time. After completing a level, Luigi got booted out and would enter back in with perhaps one or two new rooms unlocked to explore. While Luigi’s Mansion 3 tries to address this by having all of the floors as part of one massive hotel, the floors themselves are still highly segmented as to be functionally separate. They are still levels, just presented in a different way that some may find more palatable. But because the floors don’t connect in interesting ways such as trap doors, hidden staircases, or ghostly portals, they start to lose the feeling of being one big place. They are simply distinct zones separated by an elevator door.
This feeling is aggravated by the way that the game’s structure becomes stagnant as you enter the late middle and ending. Once you get past the first five floors the game becomes a routine of unlocking a floor, exploring it, defeating the boss there, and then doing the same routine with the next floor. If you’re motivated to return to a floor immediately to pick up any missed gems as well as the boo for that floor, you’ll be repeating it twice before moving on to a different floor. A couple times during the game, a recurring boss will snag the elevator button you just received and force you to backtrack through a few floors to reclaim it. Generally these floors have not changed in any meaningful or interesting way when you revisit them, meaning that for many floors you’ll end up playing them three times before the end of the game: once to clear the floor and beat the boss, once to get any missed collectibles, and once when the story brings you back to that location on a wild goose chase.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 isn’t a long game by my personal standards – I clocked in right around 20 hours, and I regularly play games that last 50-60 or even as many as 80 in one playthrough. Despite it not being long, I feel that it is a game that overstayed its welcome. There are entire floors that could have been cut and they wouldn’t subtract anything meaningful from the game. In a title like this where the story takes a backseat to clever puzzles and mechanical challenges, the floors that don’t offer those puzzles or challenges are simply a barrier that adds a longer break between the strongest portions of the game. Luigi’s Mansion 3 has great moments and a good core premise, but what starts out as a positive becomes iterative over time and is totally worn out by the end of the game.
Credit where credit is due, though – the penultimate boss of the game is perhaps some of the most fun I have had playing any Luigi’s Mansion game. It really challenges you to use all of the mechanisms that you have learned throughout the game and blends them together effectively in a battle that takes place on two layers, using both Luigi and Gooigi in order to overcome the enemy. I won’t spoil any more about it, but it is in my opinion the cleverest boss fight in the game and it’s worth slogging through the boring parts to get to it. I would have loved to experience it for the first time in co-op, but even playing alone it was quite the experience.
I didn’t end up loving Luigi’s Mansion 3 as much as I expected to in the beginning. It did a lot of things well but its strongest moments were too far apart, broken up by multiple floors which essentially felt like filler content. When the game made the most of the new mechanisms and pushed you to think outside the box as both Luigi and Gooigi, it demonstrated how compelling Luigi’s Mansion can be. Because of that, I still recommend the game, but I definitely recommend playing it with a partner to help the experience to go quicker and to reduce the boredom that may come with the floors which are less than stellar.