• Luigi's Mansion Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    Many have suggested that the rather muted response the Gamecube received on its Japanese launch had more than a small amount to do with the absence of the perennial favourite Mario's own title. Whilst Mario Sunshine may be a long way from completion, it has provided the perfect opportunity for his brother Luigi to take centre stage for the first time since he appeared way back in 1993. Whilst Luigi Mansion may have a lot to live up to under the shadow of previous Mario titles, it does add an entirely new twist on an overcrowded genre, whilst being a worthy title in its own right.

    The story is as follows. Luigi's dreams were realised when he inherited a huge, mysterious mansion deep in the woods. However, his dreams quickly became a nightmare after his older brother Mario was kidnapped by a ghoulish foe whom will be instantly recognisable once his true identity is uncovered in the games finale. Armed with only a powerful vacuum cleaner and a torch, and aided by the help of his doctor friend, Luigi bravely enters the mansion in an attempt to rescue his brother. Whilst a good deal of the storyline is lost due to its narrative is played out in Japanese, it's a basic premise that won't score many marks for originality but is functional and serves its purpose.

    Luigi Mansion's gameplay can be described as being far more innovative than its storyline. Reminiscent of Ghostbusters, a blockbuster film of the mid 80's, Luigi ventures from room to room disposing of its ghostly inhabitants by sucking them into his vacuum cleaner. Upon entering a room that's home to the ghouls, the room will be almost pitch black, prompting Luigi to automatically use his torch which impressively lights up a small area of the surroundings. Ghosts, being afraid of the light, will retreat and disappear whenever it is pointed in their general direction; therefore the trick is to surprise them with a swift movement to catch them directly in the torches beam. The shock will freeze the enemy, allowing Luigi to suck its life-force away with the vacuum cleaner. This may not sound too difficult, however the wide variety of ghosts on offer each with their own strengths and weaknesses ensure that a cautious and calculated approach needs to be taken in order to survive the mansions many rooms.

    Battling with a ghost is immense fun and rarely becomes tiresome. By default, the left analogue will be used to manoeuvre Luigi, the right analogue stick is used to direct the vacuum cleaner whilst the right shoulder button (again analogue) activates the device. Once you have caught a ghost in your vacuum, a tussle much akin to fishing takes place with Luigi being pulled all over the room as the ghost attempts to break free from the vacuum cleaners suction before its rapidly depleting life counter expires. Whilst the battle ensues, Luigi also has to keep a close eye on his surroundings as other ghosts will also attack taking advantage of his sidetracked focus. It's possible to chain more than one ghost attack at a time, earning greater treasures and items, and veteran players will warm to this aspect of the game immediately.

    Luigi Mansion is played out over 4 floors including the roof, and its rooms will remain locked until Luigi overcomes a certain obstacle or puzzle. In most cases, this means simply to clean a room of its inhabitants. Once the room lights up it signifies that the job is complete, and the resultant treasure chest that appears can be opened to obtain a key used for unlocking another part of the mansion. Whilst the game is not exactly on rails, there is a definite linearity to the proceedings, however its rare that you find yourself completely unsure of what to do next and the game flows along at a nice pace without being frustrating.

    Along the way Luigi will encounter a wide variety of ghosts. Sub-bosses are frequent and inventive, and Nintendo need to be commended for the way that each boss has its own particular form of attack and defence, whilst the more common ghosts too have their own strengths and deficiencies. Luigi is able to upgrade his vacuum cleaner and this is necessary to defeat many of the mansions inhabitants. A ghost whose heart is of ice will be easily disposed of once Luigi obtains the fire upgrade for example. Early criticism of the game being repetitive are thankfully unfounded Luigi's Mansion continually introduces new gameplay elements to keep you interested.

    There are obligatory collectables to discover along the way, in the form of money and precious stones that serve no real gameplay influencing purpose which is a shame. The money earned from defeating enemies and investigating furniture cannot be spent on upgrades or the like, it simply mounts up to give you a higher ranking upon completion. Sub-quests add to the diversity, with a ghost hunt and plant watering being two such examples.

    Graphically, it's a mixed bag. Whilst the style of the game is very appealing, the mansion is detailed and very cartoon like in appearance, there are unfortunately instances of poor texturing reminiscent of Nintendo 64 titles, albeit with a higher resolution. The graphics do feel lush however, and the title does look next-gen, if not emphatically so. Lighting effects are excellent and the ghosts look suitably spooky and well designed. Luigi himself is a endearing character, and lovingly animated. The game has a definite polish about it that we have come to expect from Nintendo.

    As with any game, there are two sides to every coin. Whilst up to now Luigi's Mansion would appear to be a good solid game, it does have some drawbacks that prevent it from being triple A status.

    Unfortunately, its perfectly possible to complete Luigi Mansion in under 6 hours. That, coupled with the fact that the game is far too easy and wont be a challenge for all but the most cumbersome gamer, will ensure that you will have exhausted all that Luigi Mansion has to offer you within days rather than weeks. Luigi meeting his untimely demise happens on occasion, but normally through carelessness of the player as opposed to difficult encounters. Surprisingly for a Nintendo title, replay value is to a minimum also, with little reward for completing the adventure. The more hardcore amongst us may feel that finding every conceivable collectable available is reason enough to replay the game however I feel Nintendo really should have given more incentive to return.

    Luigi Mansion is by no means a poor game, far from it, however it far from being one of Nintendo's finest moments and not the triple A title we were all hoping for. It is a modest example of what the Gamecube is capable of and a polished title the likes of what we expect from Nintendo, yet its deficiencies are enough to make careful consideration a must before deciding whether or not to buy this game. Whilst it lasts, its great fun, however don't expect to be playing it for weeks to come as you may be sorely disappointed.

    A review by Marcus Jullion
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