Luigi’s Mansion 3 Review
There’s something magical about the Luigi’s Mansion franchise. While Mario has made a name for himself as an unflappable pillar of courage, Luigi’s household brand is one of constant terror. No one wants to be the scaredy-cat brother, but Luigi pulls it off with style and grace. This newest entry in the venerable scary building franchise, Luigi’s Mansion 3, is a natural evolution of the established formula. Also, I hate it. But that’s okay! The fact that every moment of this game became a dreadful exercise in drawn-out anguish says little about the objective qualities on display here.
To elaborate: There’s a certain kind of puzzle-game structure I can’t abide by. In my early days as a reviewer, I was exposed to a series of puzzle titles that were broken down to their base constituents. You had 100 stages, or 50, and every level you completed was marked off of a master list of sorts. What this did to me was create a growing horror about the trials to come. That last stage was so awful, and there’s (checks list) 42 more? The checklist became a tool of psychological torment. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is, by design, one massive checklist to be completed. Thus, I grew to hate this game the more of it I played. I fully accept that this is a personal bias but also, ugh.
A Tower of Terror
Our story begins with a vacation giveaway that turns into a trap, like so many vacations do. On that note, this game doesn’t take place in a mansion at all. Perhaps an alternate title could be Luigi and the Scary Hotel, or Lu/Goo Hotel 3. Regardless, it’s such a lovely place, at least until the ghosts muck it all up. Even then this place is gorgeous. From the claw-foot bathtubs to the fainting couches, every detail is lovingly crafted. Even the ghosts themselves are a triumph of enemy design. You know their personalities and their motivations after a single glance. Would that the puzzles were so revealing.
One of the downsides to stuffing every room with touchable, breakable, vacuum-able objects is that you lose your grip on what’s important. I found myself in a manic haze, sucking up everything I could think of. At first it was a soothing balm, a zen diversion to ease the stresses of the outside world. This all changed when I get really stuck for the first time. I have hours of captured footage that is nothing but me running frantically between two or three rooms, looking for that magical object I had yet to vacuum. This is part of that rising dread I described earlier. Every time I hopped back in the elevator, newly broken by the last challenge, and saw how many floors were left, I almost wept. How to press on in the face of such raw suffering?
Don’t let my carved and hollowed spirit make light of that vacuuming mechanic, however. Good lord it’s compelling. Part of the reason I spent so much time sucking up every paper, coin, and purple pillow set, was that it felt so dang good. Whatever estimated run-time you read about this game almost certainly fails to account for all that compulsive vacuuming. If it wasn’t so destructive, this mechanic could draw a clear through-line to an eventual increase in real-life chore completion by children the world over. No matter how much sucking up you do though, you’ll eventually come to your first boss fight. I was never truly stumped, but I hated them all the same.
In a way, the boss fights are structured just like the rest of the hotel. You’re presented with an obstacle, and you end up frantically trying everything you can in order to stumble on a solution. The ah-ha moment never felt that way to me, like a lightbulb in the bathtub. Instead, I got lucky, and something I did ended up working in my favor. It just so happened that I’d purchased enough continues that my failures never outnumbered my lucky breaks. In hindsight, there are heaps of clever puzzles throughout Luigi’s Mansion 3. I was just drained of my life force by the time I discovered them.
Well-Crafted Cavalcade of Torment
On the subject of discovery, there are a lot of collectibles to scoop up in this game. Every floor has gems, Boos, and boatloads of cash to suck up and squirrel away. Finding these things has little tangible benefit, aside from the pride of acquisition. Even the money is only good for buying lives or hints. Perhaps I’m just too accustomed to collectibles being currency for alternate progression trees, but this robbed me of any thirst for discovery. Finding gems and whatnot was cool, but I was disinclined to go out of my way for them. As for the Boos, I found the tutorial one and promptly stopped for the rest of my playthrough. While there will be plenty of people ready to find everything for the heck of it, I am not one of them.
Scoring this game for me is a struggle. The core design structure, the aesthetic presentation, and the basic game feel are all excellent. Yet I hated Luigi’s Mansion 3 so acutely that I could not complete the game. There was no single puzzle that outwit me in the end. Instead, that rising sense of terrible dread just became too much. I wasn’t even that far from finishing the game! I just couldn’t grapple with the knowledge that all my suffering was a prelude to something worse. If this was a unique psychological tick, I wouldn’t even alter the final score for it. I have no delusions of my unique mental composition, however. Others will suffer in the way I have, and they must be warned. To that end, Nintendo has succeeded in creating a truly dreadful experience, a game that drills into your psyche and alters your brain. Heed my dire ramblings, and take this gorgeous, well-designed journey at your peril.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Everything looks terrific
- Vacuuming feels great
- Puzzles are very clever, I’m sure
- Boss fights feel random and obtuse
- collectibles feel tacked on
- Rising checklist dread became too much