Review by UberGrasshopper
First off, I want to say that, despite the fact that all of the names, characters, etc. are all directly related to the Mario Series, the game itself is a very different game in comparison to it's counterparts. This time there's no emphasis on jumping, running, or punching.
This time, there's a vacuum cleaner.
I'm kidding, right? I'm not. In this 'spooky' sequel, Luigi has to rescue Mario from a ghost-filled mansion with a ghost-sucking vacuum cleaner. Sounds pretty lame, doesn't it? In fact, the vacuum idea actually works quite well. Whenever a ghost pops up, you have to shine your torch, reveal it's heart, and then suck it up. There's a few different types, but they're all beaten in the same way. Very different to Mario, don't you think?
Actually, it isn't. Remember the old run and jump relationship in traditional Mario games? The torch and the vacuum cleaner are very similar. The torch is useless without the vacuum cleaner, and vice versa. You'll never get anywhere without them both. It's the balance between the two that makes what seems like a lame concept into a brilliant system.
Again, like the 'traditional' Mario games, using both the torch and the vacuum cleaner together will take you awhile to master. Oh sure, shining a torch and then sucking them up is easy, isn't it? However, there's a big chance that the ghost will keep escaping. It's the light-speed reflex in between that counts. You need to be quick, you need lightning fast reflexes to suck up that pesky ghost straight away. And those reflexes will only come with practice.
But here we come up to the main flaw: repetition. You'll be doing a lot of shining and sucking, and it gets pretty annoying when the ghost escapes from your grasp and disappears, making you wait until it pops up again. Once you've got those lightning fast reflexes, this shouldn't be a problem. But before that stage, it gets rather tedious. You'll soon find yourself going through each room only to fight the same boring ghost again and again and again.
Once you've got through that, you'll actually find that this game is pretty good. Very soon in the game you'll find yourself facing a new type of spirit: portrait ghosts. You can't simply shine 'n suck this time. You have to find their weak spot. Some involve waiting until their heart appears, usually when they're yawning or panting. Some require you to do something like opening a curtain to let in some wind or shoot pool balls at them. There's some really interesting challenges, most of which will require you to engage your brain.
There's still those lightning fast reflexes involved though. You need to quickly suck them up when they're least expecting it. It can get pretty difficult too, since you sometimes have to quickly turn around and then turn the vacuum on. Their hearts will only remain visible for a split second, so you need to be very quick.
Remember when I mentioned curtain opening and shooting pool balls? You won't just need to do that to catch the portrait ghosts. See that A button? When you press it in an open space, Luigi will just shout 'Mario!' Pretty useless, eh? Try it next to a cupboard. Luigi will open the cupboard... voila! You find some money!
This is where the game shines: the interactivity opens up to lots of neat ideas. It also adds a new element: experimentation. You'll sometimes find yourself in a room containing nothing... apart from a few pieces of furniture. Pretty bland, isn't it? But wait a minute... what if I examine that xylophone? Are those lit candles simply decoration?
This aspect reminded me a lot of Zelda: you have to try zany things, you have to try out ideas no matter how stupid they may seem to be. Try moving that chair. Smile as you find a secret stash of coins.
Yet this concept never interferes with the vacuum cleaning aspect. In fact, they both fit together perfectly. You'll need your vacuum cleaner to blow out the candles, and you'll need it to shoot those stars towards that distant moon. Later on, you'll also find medallions which let your vacuum cleaner expel fire, water, and ice. Light candles with fire, feed the plants with water, and freeze the bath water with ice.
What's great is that all of neat concepts I mentioned above all tie-in perfectly. Use the medallions to beat certain enemies, or certain portrait ghosts. Examine the crystal ball to reveal the ghost, and then light the candles to find a key. It all fits together, creating a seamless experience. You'll find yourself entering rooms just to see what new challenges they'll bring.
My favourite rooms have to be the Astral Hall and the Observatory. First, enter the Astral Hall. It's really dark in here, yet there's no ghosts about. But if you light those candles, they'll begin to pop up. Defeat them and enter the observatory. Again, there's no ghosts here. If you poke around, you might find some money... wait a minute! If you examine that telescope, the roof will reveal the cosmos. See that moon in the distance? Maybe if you shoot those stars that are falling down towards it something good will happen? Sure enough, the moon blows up, revealing a path to a semi-spherical rock, where you can find Mario's Star, on of the five items he dropped in the mansion. You'll need to give these to a certain ghost before you can suck 'em up. These two rooms include everything that makes this game great, and thats why I like them so much.
And that's what I love about this game. Each room contains a unique challenge, and most of them contain a good reward. You know, those rooms are like the unique levels from Super Mario Bros. 3. Every level/room is different. Sure, there are a few repeated challenges, such as lighting or blowing out candles, but hey, it's still fun.
You can also find lots of money throughout the mansion, including some very rare gems. The points don't do much, but it still puts a smile on my face. I think the ending depends on how much money you have; the more you have, the better it'll be...
Graphics and music-wise, this game puts up a good fight. The graphics won't blow you away, but the rooms still have lots of nice detail. The music isn't going to excite anyone, but it still creates a spooky atmosphere. This atmosphere is helped by the sound effects too. The thunder and lightning in the background, the quiet but menacing music, the dark rooms... the atmosphere is perfect. Oh sure, it's nowhere near as frightening as Resident Evil, but those ghosts did make me jump sometimes when they suddenly pop up.
The challenge is pretty good. The first half of the game is pretty easy, but those portrait and boss ghosts in the second half put up a good fight. You'll find yourself fighting five easy ghosts at a time. Throw in some stranglers, and some of the green ghosts, and you'll find yourself losing a lot of health. You'll need those lightning quick reflexes even more. And the last two boss ghosts, especially the last boss, are very challenging. There's nothing here to really scare you health-wise, but you still might find yourself in a bit of trouble here and there.
I do have one nit pick: those stupid boos. Once you find them all in a hidden room, they'll escape and hide throughout the house. I think there's one in every room... With your trusty Boo Radar, you'll need to flush them out from their hiding places. Then you have to suck 'em up. I like that, but I hate how the boos tend to escape into other rooms before you have the chance to suck 'em up completely. You'll find yourself running between multiple rooms for about five minutes before finally beating it. And with 40 boos required to fight the last boss, it gets very irritating.
The scanning with the Game Boy Horror seems a bit pointless. You can use it to receive hints on how to beat certain portrait ghosts or how to use a certain piece of furniture. However, the hints are too vague to help, and Luigi's comments on the decoration are rather lame, so the whole scanning process is totally pointless. I only used it twice, just so I could enter secret rooms through mouse holes. Metroid Prime's scanning system was implemented perfectly, but Luigi's Mansion's scanning system just seems like some stupid gimmick, only included so that the X Button has a use.
Despite the major differences in game play, Luigi's Mansion is very similar to the past Mario games, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me, since I was expecting a very different game. It's a pity that this game is so short, but I guess that stops the repetition factor from reaching an unbearable level. Oh sure, there is that Hidden Mansion that you can go in once you've completed the game, but that's simply a mirror-image of the ordinary mansion. I just couldn't help wanting more out of this game.
Overall Score: 8.1
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 02/13/07
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