Review by Crystal Phoenix
"Wonderful... while it lasts."
Traditionally, the dawn of a new piece of Nintendo goes hand in hand with the release of a new Mario game to help bolster initial interest and sales. This time however, with Mario Sunshine still some months away, the job in hand has been given to his less well known brother, Luigi.
As it transpires, Luigi appears to have won a mansion in a contest that he doesn't even remember entering. Not being well known for his brain power he sets off to take a look at a place with the intention of meeting Mario there. When he arrives however, it turns out that things aren't quite as they seem...
The use of Luigi instead of Mario is not the only departure from the standard Mario formula. There are no platforms, no head bouncing and no jumping. Instead, the game is set on a side-on psuedo-3D environment.
Luigi's mansion is riddled with ghosts and shortly into the game you are given the one and only way to get rid of them - a modified vacuum cleaner named the Pultergust 3000. In order to catch a ghost you must first perform a certain task in order to scare the ghost and reveal it's heart. The common or garden ghost you encounter will only require you to shine your flashlight onto it to achieve this goal. However, there are 23 gallery ghosts that will need you to solve certain puzzles before they will display their weak spot...
Once the heart is exposed you activate the vacuum cleaner to latch on to it. At this point the game reverts to the sort of tactics found in fishing simulations, requiring you to use both the Control Stick and Camera Stick to move and pull in the opposite direction to the ghost to reduce its power to zero and suck it up.
While the system can be a little disorientating for the first few initial encounters, it soon becomes second nature (helped not inconsiderably by the controller itself which the controls were obviously designed around). Before you know it you will be happily going about your mansion sucking up ghosts and just about anything else that isn't nailed down first.
The graphics in Luigi's Mansion are a definite strong point. The whole mansion feels very solid and each room is highly detailed and intricate. One point of particular merit is the lighting effects which have been used to full effect. The flashlight you carry will cast real time shadows of every item in the mansion and when the storm outside releases a thunderbolt the whole room is illuminated with shadows changing and moving accordingly.
I have seem some complaints that the sound within the game, particularly music, is too sparse. While I can appreciate that point of view, I feel the level of sound and the way in which is it used helps considerably in creating the spooky feeling that permeates through the game. The subtleties such as the how Luigi will whistle the main theme if he is happy and healthy, then start to nervously hum it as he gets in a worse state are also nice touches. The general lack of sound also helps to give added punch to the action sequences such as capturing a ghost, when all the previous rules are thrown out the window and you get 30 seconds of total mayhem with noise and sound to highlight the frantic nature of the action.
Oh dear... This is where the game trips up and falls flat on its face. The game is very successful at drawing you in and making you want to continue your exploration of the mansion. The result of this in my case was that within 24 hours of getting it home, it had been completed. I understand that Nintendo is moving more towards making more games of a shorter life-span as opposed to its previous ethos of making a few games that last forever. I also understand that their idea behind this is that many people never actually get to finish their games and many ideas toward the end are therefore wasted. While I can appreciate and applaud this thinking, I think personally that Luigi's Mansion falls too far toward that goal and leaves you with a distinct feeling that there should have been more.
There are some redeeming features to make you want to go through the game again. There are secrets to discover (like the Golden Mice) and targets to try and beat (you collect money as you go) but all in all there is not a great deal to make you want to come back. The main appeal of my initial play was the fun of exploring this creaky old mansion. Once you know what ghost awaits you in what room and how to beat them, it not only takes that pleasure away but also reduces subsequent play even further as you know immediately how to progress. The UK release of the game has been modified to include an extra touch but without giving it away as a spoiler, it really isn't anything much. Still, it's nice they made the effort.
Buy Or Rent
This would have to be a definite rent. If Nintendo ever release a budget range and this comes out at half its current retail price, then I would change that to a buy, as after a few months you may want to surrender to its charms again, but otherwise, rent it, play it, enjoy it, and give it back.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/14/02, Updated 05/14/02
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