"People just had unrealistic expectations."

The launch of a new Nintendo console or hand held is almost always paired with a new Mario game to usher in the technology and show of its potential. The NES had Super Mario Bros. the Super NES had Super Mario World, the N64 had Super Mario 64, and the GameCube had…well…Luigi's Mansion. Compared to the bar set by the previous launch games LM was disappointing; lacking the depth, length, and impact that most had expected. It's not a bad game by any means and I appreciate its unique charm and creativity but it would be foolish to try and compare it to any of the aforementioned titles. To enjoy LM you have to just accept it for what it is, an odd little curiosity never intended to be anything more.

Game Play
The player's objective is to clear the mansion of the ghosts running amuck throughout its numerous rooms and hallways. This is accomplished using a vacuum cleaner type device called the Poltergeist 3000. Minor enemies will be constantly sneaking up and attacking you from behind; to catch them you'll have to quickly shine your handy flashlight in their direction. This stuns them momentarily allowing you to reel them in Ghost Busters style by continuously pressing the control stick in the opposite direction. But the ghosts won't give in that easily they'll attempt to run pulling Luigi along for the ride. If you're too slow the ghost may escape and you'll have to lure him out again to finish the job.

Ghosts come in many shapes and sizes utilizing a variety of attacks such as throwing bombs, melee combat, and even dropping banana peels for you to slip on. You'll have to vary your strategy accordingly to come out on top. Luigi will also be able to utilize certain elemental weapons to solve puzzles and defeat some of the tougher foes. These include fire, water, and ice which can be sprayed from the Poltergeist 3000 or charged for a stronger projectile shot. Defeating regular enemies will net you keys, money, and new weapons but the real meat of the game is the Portrait and Boo ghosts.

Catching all of the Portrait ghosts is essential for unlocking new areas of the mansion. Most can be found in plain view but cannot be captured using the standard shine and suck method. Instead each requires a unique strategy often related to the ghost's distinctive personality. I found this to be the most interesting and challenging aspect of the game.
Luigi's Mansion strikes a good balance here, requiring you to think about and experiment with enough strategies to keep the game play fresh and interesting, but without causing too much frustration. Boos also require a slightly different approach. Unlike other ghosts Boos won't sneak up on you, instead you have to flush them out of various objects in each room. Once revealed they'll stay in plain sight but have much higher strength gauges than regular enemies, requiring more sucking and a lot of persistence to catch all 50. What makes this even more challenging is their ability to jump through walls moving from room to room to avoid you.

But the game also has a number of significant flaws which detract from its rather innovative game play. For starters LM's is way too short and can probably be beaten in less than ten hours your first time through. It also suffers from a mostly linear course of completion allowing the player very little freedom to choose the order in which tasks are accomplished. Catching all of the Boo's can also become very repetitive and tedious due to their ability to jump through walls. This is especially annoying in the basement and third floor areas where you'll often find yourself having to back track multiple times through three or four different rooms just to put them away.

Also very annoying is that every time you get hit by an enemy you lose some of your hard earned coins. In some situations you'll be given the chance to grab some of them back if you're quick enough. But this usually results in more damage and more lost coins especially against bosses. Speaking of bosses the last two are particularly irritating for this reason. The second last one requires you to shoot lots of small very fast moving targets using your ice gun. Aiming powering up and getting off the shot is very tricky to do quickly and precisely enough and will usually result in much frustration and many lost coins. The final boss is just plain cheap. If he hits you once he'll then proceed to combo Luigi with multiple attacks until you lose several sets of coins, plus you're given no chance of grabbing them back.

The controls are another area where I have some issues. Luigi moves really slowly and there's no way to speed him up. This is annoying because the game's hallways are quite long and you'll have to do a fair bit of backtracking as you gain new keys to open locked doors from earlier in the game. The basic shine and suck concept is easy enough to master but aiming and changing direction can be tricky to pull off fast enough to catch certain ghosts and avoid being hit. Trying to co-ordinate the two actions in rooms with multiple ghosts attacking at once is especially frustrating. The game would have benefited from some kind of run or jump feature to help avoid these traps. An auto aiming feature would have been of great help for taking out the ghosts hanging from the ceilings as well.

Graphics
Luigi's Mansion is a good showpiece of the GC's power providing a tantalizing preview of many great things to come. Characters are very smooth and well textured with almost no noticeable distortions and their animations are fun to watch.

The game succeeds in creating an appropriately spooky atmosphere while incorporating the lovably quirky character designs and dialogue the Mario universe is known for. It seems contradictory but the elements come together and work surprisingly well. LM incorporates a fair number of cinematic scenes most showing Luigi being scared senseless by the mansion's various denizens. Again they succeed in being humorous but also contributing to the atmosphere with lots of confusing angles, enemy close-ups, and spooky lighting. Plus you've got to love Luigi's expressions.

Sound
The music has a comically spooky theme to it. I found most of it to be enjoyable and I can still remember most of it quite vividly in my mind. Sound effects also follow suite and are varied and extensive in their use. From things as simple as Luigi's footsteps to the roars of boss characters it all contributes to a good overall package.

Replay Ability
Not a whole lot unfortunately. You can interact with most of the mansion's furniture and other fixtures by pulling, pushing, or vacuuming them. This will uncover coins, bills, jewels, and other goodies which contribute to your final score. Collecting them is optional and the rewards are meager given the level of effort but it does add an interesting little side element to the mostly linear adventure.

You can play through again to increase your item score and receive a better grade or try your hand at hard mode but otherwise there isn't much to see after beating it the first time. Plus you'll already know how to catch all of the Portrait Ghosts which makes an already short game even shorter on replays.

Buy?
It's worth a rental if you're looking for something a bit different and off beat but probably not worth the purchase unless you see it somewhere really cheap. All I can say is give it a chance and keep an open mind.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/02/07

Game Release: Luigi's Mansion (US, 11/17/01)


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