Review by Daredevil3181

Reviewed: 10/09/06

When there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call...LUIGI?!

It’s not easy being the younger sibling. From off-color remarks aimed with the sole intent of stripping your dignity to actually having it stripped from super atomic wedgies, the constant physical and emotional torment can get a little grating at times. The older brothers and sisters seem to get all the praise and glory while the younger generation is left in the dust. And what do the second stringers have to show for everything they’ve endured? Surprisingly, it appears to be a mansion.

In Luigi’s Mansion the slimmer and greener Mario brother finally takes the forefront and proves he does indeed suck. Suck up ghosts, that is. The game begins with Luigi clutching a little map, which points to the location of a rather large and rather haunted domicile. He soon learns that he’s no match for the residence’s other-worldly inhabitants and retreats with his plunger between his legs. No need to (overly) fear, however, as Luigi meets up with an eccentric old scientist by the name of Professor E. Gadd, who provides our hero with a secret weapon: The Poltergust 3000! Looking to be nothing more than an extremely bulky vacuum cleaner in backpack form, this massive inhaler is actually the hero’s first line of offense, allowing him to draw in and contain those nasty ghosts. Now Luigi’s playing with power.

Armed and mildly dangerous, the green plumber heads back into the mansion, determined to have his run of the house. Like all Trojan horses, however, all is not as it appears to be. Luigi cannot move from room to room like a carefree business traveler, but must instead progress through the house in a far more linear fashion. Each room is initially dark and foreboding, an eerie setting for a visibly spooked Luigi. The wobbly knees and condensed breath that accompany him in these close encounters are no testament to his bravery either. Ghosts attack in swarms and only once all are safely tucked away inside the Poltergust 3000 do the lights for each room turn on. As an added bonus, Luigi is also rewarded with a treasure chest after clearing most rooms, which can contain money, a key, or an elemental power-up for the fearsome vacuum cleaner. Strangely, there are no toilet-cleaning products though (and he calls himself a plumber…for shame).

The extra abilities will come in handy as Luigi will need all the strength he can muster for this adventure. Bits and pieces of the patchwork story soon come together and reveal a plot involving the disappearance of Mario. And no, he’s not being detained for failing to pay the bill at the local Italian restaurant. It seems things are a bit more serious for the main mustachioed hero and only Luigi can lend him a hand. Apparently brotherly love can make you do some pretty crazy things (although it still can’t see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch).

Light plays a huge role in the haunted mansion and is second only to the Poltergust in its importance. In the dark, Luigi automatically uses his flashlight to get a better view of things and to also stun approaching ghosts. This is his “default” setting, as the shine only turns off with him actively vacuuming or with the player depressing a button on the controller. And speaking of shine, the Gamecube does just that, exhibiting brilliant lighting effects that even stand the test of time today (not bad for a launch title, eh?). Even when the ghosts are out of a room and the power’s on, by using the Poltergust to swing a light around shadows will undulate with a very smooth and almost hypnotic motion.

Not everything in this mansion is peaches and cream however, as one of the biggest problems the game suffers from is its sheer repetitiveness. The process is mockingly simple as Luigi moves from dark room to dark room. In three simple steps, the formula for success is so easy to perform that even a caveman could do it.

First, Luigi enters an area and gets scared of a bunch of ghosts flying around. To try and vary it up some, the game does throw a number of ghosts with different abilities and attacks at the green protagonist, but this tactic is only moderately effective. At least the spooks are pretty to look at as they appear both translucent and solid at the same time, but this can only go so far.

Next, the hapless younger brother flounders around with his flashlight and vacuum cleaner. The light stuns the ghosts, revealing their hearts. Once the ol’ tickers are in plain sights, Luigi takes his cue and fires up the Poltergust, sucking them in. While the vacuum is activated Luigi can rotate and angle it higher or lower with the C-stick and move himself around with the analog stick, granting him a strafe-like ability. This is basically a simplified version of other control schemes from the survival horror genre, although it can get confusing at times. For example, by holding down the Poltergust will angle up and by holding left Luigi will always spin counterclockwise (even while facing the screen, meaning at times he will actually move to the right). Ghosts caught in the suction will frantically try and escape. To prevent this you need to deplete all their HP by wiggling the analog stick back and forth in a controlled manner. If you’re too slow, Luigi will get dragged around on the ground and lose some life from the nasty carpet burns.

Finally, the lights come back on and a treasure chest appears, indicating that Luigi has caught all the ghosts in a particular room. And that’s the bulk of the action. The game practically force-feeds you where to go next as each room opens up another one, indicated by a key symbol on your map, and so on. On one hand it is nice not to have to backtrack too much, but on the flip side the paucity of exploring severely hinders the game’s length (most players can breeze through it under ten hours, including unlocking everything). No surprise that this negatively impacts its fun factor as well. For the majority of the adventure the challenge is also nonexistent, although a few Boss Ghosts may sneak a game over screen on you once or twice if you’re not careful.

All is not lost on this spooky trek, however. There are nineteen “puzzles” in the form of portrait ghosts, affectionately referred to as this because they have escaped from their paintings. After diving a little deeper into the game, it’s easy to see that these spooks are the clear highlights of the house. Unlike normal ghosts these ghouls will only show their vulnerable hearts once certain conditions have been met (a quick scan of them using E. Gadd’s “Gameboy Horror” will usually reveal vital clues). A few of the techniques to uncover them are quite funny and clever, such as freezing the shower of a bathing ghost or causing instruments to play the classic Super Mario Bros. theme, while others are downright frustrating, most notably one which involves the hellish task of spinning two planes around a room using the Poltergust’s suction. Each portrait ghost is quite detailed and almost looks like one of the living except for their translucency and general absence of legs. For an added challenge, if Luigi can vacuum up the ghosts without breaking his suction he’ll be rewarded with a gold frame when E. Gadd turns them back into paintings at the end of each section of the game.

Not to be outdone by their portrait brethren, there’s another sidequest that allows Luigi to get reacquainted with some old friends: the Boos. No longer content to just stand around and cover their eyes when someone looks at them, these Boos are aggressive and not afraid to show it. They also enjoy hiding and just being a general nuisance. In order to make them come out to play, Luigi has to vacuum or shake furniture in a lit room, aided only by his Gameboy Horror’s built in radar function (which works more like a metal detector, except for ghosts). Once uncovered, the green wonder needs to quickly deplete their HP and suck them in, lest they escape through the walls and into another room, prompting the start of a low speed chase throughout the house. Catch all fifty and not only will you become a true Ghostbuster, but you’ll also be rewarded with a special diamond roughly the size of a small child and worth more than a lion’s share of cash.

Amid all the ghost trapping and money laundering, the music isn’t half bad. At least when there is some of it. Fans of whistling are finally blessed with a title to champion. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Luigi’s constant blowing is more annoying than anything else. There isn’t any serious voice acting, but occasionally Luigi will call out “Mario!” and some of the ghosts will make some interesting squeaks. The boss themes feel a little generic, but they do convey a sense of importance to the battles, so their purpose is served. The real award in this department goes to the outstanding effects though, as it really sounds as if Luigi is vacuuming the dirty house and shaking random pieces of furniture around.

And that’s about where the fun officially ends. There’s a second replay mode unlocked after beating the game for the first time called the Hidden Mansion, but don’t go in expecting any more secrets to be revealed. Aside from ghosts doing more damage, the Poltergust being slightly stronger, and having more money out there for Luigi to collect, the game is exactly the same. The only real purpose for this addition is to try and obtain more gold frames from the portrait ghosts and search the rooms for massive amounts of moolah so Luigi can buy his dream home at the end and settle into an early retirement. And because the Hidden Mansion is mapped identically to the normal one, it goes by even faster the second time. Blink a few times and it’s over. Obviously bathroom breaks are out of the question.

Nintendo took a gamble here by finally giving the younger Mario brother his chance to shine. However, as this title proves, he still needs more polish before he can call himself a bonafide hero. For a Gamecube completionist or someone just looking for a quick game to breeze through, this title is definitely worth a search in the used game bin and can really complement your collection. For everyone else, flip a coin, as you can take it or leave it. Luigi tries his hardest but it might be a better idea to leave the spotlight to the older sibling until the green one can stuff a little more experience under his belt. As for now, I think I’ll stick with age before beauty. Maybe next time, space plumber.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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