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Luigi's Mansion

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Nintendo
Publisher:  Nintendo
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Adventure
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  11-23-01

After years of being the neglected brother, the green-hatted Luigi has finally gotten his own adventure. Apparently Luigi has won a free mansion in a contest he doesn’t even remember entering, and he arranges to meet his brother there for a tour. Unfortunately, once he arrives he discovers that his brother Mario is nowhere to be found, and to make matters worse the mansion is haunted. Thus, with the help of a crazy old scientist, Luigi sets out to rid the mansion of ghosts and rescue his brother Mario.

Luigi’s Mansion is a very straightforward and simple adventure. Utilizing a flashlight (to stun the ghosts) and a vacuum cleaner (to suck ‘em up), Luigi sets out to clear room after room of the specters inhabiting it. Clearing out each room or area will open up another area (usually via a key gotten from a vanquished foe) that needs to be conquered. It’ll also turn on the lights in the cleared room or area, which is important because (a) it helps the player to keep track of where he’s been and (b) ghosts hate light. There’s very little choice as to what gets done first, so it plays out in a very linear fashion. Along the way, Luigi will earn a variety of cash, jewels, coins, and more by way of vanquishing ghosts and searching his surroundings.

Battling the ghosts can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, as it almost plays out like a mini-fishing game. While most ghosts can simply be captured by shining the light and sucking ‘em up, a number of them require intelligent manipulation of objects in the environment. For example, in one room a ghost is at a large banquet table feasting. He’ll disappear whenever you try to shine the light on him, unless you first anger him by sucking up his dinner. Naturally this makes him angry, and he’ll begin to hurl balls of fire at you. Dodge these for a while, and eventually he’ll tire himself out. Once he’s tired and vulnerable, only then can you begin to suck him in. Enemies such as this that require advanced tactics are scattered throughout the game, and they’re frequent and varied enough that they prevent the game from getting overly repetitive.

As great as all of this is, unfortunately the game still gets boring at times. Sucking up the ghosts is fun for a while, but once you master using your vacuum and light it becomes far too easy of a task. The linearity doesn’t help either, particularly when you get stuck for a brief time in one particular room. Doing the same task 2-3 times to reach a boss character is downright annoying when that task was simplistic to begin with.

What really shines in Luigi’s Mansion are the gorgeous graphics. This game's primary purpose was to showcase what the GameCube hardware could do, and it’s here that the game succeeds admirably. The environments are incredibly detailed, with tons of objects everywhere. Even more impressive is that each of these objects reacts appropriately to Luigi’s actions. Sucking the fire from a candle will produce a "bending" that’s incredibly realistic, and is accompanied with some excellent particle effects. Aiming the vacuum at some drapes will result in those drapes being pulled towards Luigi, all the while flowing appropriately and moving at a realistic pace. Open up a refrigerator, and out pours some excellent fogging. Shake a vase, and a plume of dust will fly up.

It’s not just the realistic physic model though, as there is some awesome shadowing present here as well. Shine Luigi’s light on any (and I mean any) object, and that object will shadow appropriately based on the angle of Luigi’s beam and distance away from the object. When a bolt of lightning strikes outside the mansion, every object in the room you’re in will also shadow appropriately. Tie this all together with Nintendo’s traditional cartoony atmosphere, and your eyes are in for a visual feast.

However, nothing’s perfect…and that can be said about Luigi's Mansion’s visuals. First, some of the rooms are less than stellar. While they still look great, compared to other early GameCube visuals they’re slightly underwhelming. Perhaps this is due to the special effects already using up a lot of processor. There are also some very blurry textures to be found in places, which look like they were pulled straight out of a N64 game. I don’t know if the team ran out of time, didn’t realize they weren’t constrained by the N64 anymore, or what. Finally, as with any Nintendo title some people might not like the visual style used. These are very minor problems however, as the game as a whole still looks awesome.

On the sound side of things, Luigi’s Mansion is also technically excellent. Environment effects are everywhere, from the sound of ghosts unseen to running water. Luigi’s calls out to Mario are excellent, and the professor’s talking is very cute. The music is awesome as well, but here the game suffers a bit from a lack of available tracks. There’s only one main theme song that plays throughout the mansion, and I’ve had trouble getting it out of my head ever since I turned off the game to write this review. There are other songs as well (like the excellent "8-bit yet not" track that accompanies a transmission on the Game Boy Horror and a rendition of a certain classic Nintendo theme…), but these don’t pop up that often. For the most part, it’s just the main theme (and Luigi’s incessant whistling of said theme).

Now that I’m finished with the typical gameplay/graphics/sound breakdown, a few other things need to be said. One, this title is literally drenched in Nintendo goodness. Throughout the game you’ll find references to classic Nintendo games and a very "Nintendo" feel, and naturally for any fan of Nintendo’s games these will be memorable experiences. Secondly, this isn’t a game with a lot of replay value. The adventure only clocks in at 6-10 hrs. (depending on skill level and how fast you play it), and once it’s over it’s pretty much over for good. There is very little incentive to play it over again. Finally, and most importantly, this isn’t Super Mario 64. If you go into it expecting an experience as revolutionary as that, you’ll be greatly disappointed. If however you go into it expecting a good adventure title, then you'll be pleased.

Highs:

  • Stunning graphics that showcase the hardware. The PS2 would have a tough time ever matching this.
  • Finally a good Ghostbusters game…except it doesn’t star Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore.
  • The music is very catchy…sometimes too catchy. Must…extract…tune…from…brain…
  • A nice variety of puzzles to complete throughout the mansion.

Lows:

  • Blurry textures and low-poly environments occasionally (and inexplicably) mar graphical splendor.
  • It’s very short, with very little reason to play through it a second time.

Final Verdict:

Obviously the positives outweigh the negatives, but the question still remains: should you buy Luigi’s Mansion? If you’re a hardcore Nintendo and/or Mario fan, the answer is most definitely "yes". You probably won’t care about the sometimes-repetitive gameplay and lack of replay value.

For the rest of you, the answer is much tougher to give. If you didn’t mind the somewhat short quests in games like ICO and Silent Hill 2, then the answer is "probably". Given that the quest is so short however, perhaps you should just rent it one weekend and beat it that way instead.

Overall Score: 8.1

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