This year’s Nintendo Switch line-up has been full of surprises. Astral Chain has gone on to become one of Platinum’s best games for the system, right up there with Bayonetta 2. And the remake of Link’s Awakening has become a captivating surprise. So there’s no way that Luigi’s Mansion 3 would be able to outshine such gems, right? Wrong.
This is easily one of the best games of the year. Next Level Games has gone above and beyond their usual requirement, making a sequel that’s more fun to play than we would’ve ever thought possible. And, on top of a robust single player campaign loaded with tricky boss battles and puzzles, there’s a multiplayer component that’s also a good time. Throw in a killer presentation that’s amongst the best for the Switch right now, and you’ll get a good idea why I like it so damn much.
The game kicks off with Luigi and a few friends being invited to stay at an out-of-the-way hotel, in VIP fashion. But things aren’t quite what they seem, especially when they meet with the hotel staff for the first time. It isn’t long before the ghastly truth is revealed — King Boo is behind this, looking to ensnare Mario and company for his private collection. It’s up to Luigi, the last one to break free from his ghostly grasp, to get his ghost-capturing equipment and save his friends.
What sounds like a heart-breaking set-up is anything but, as Luigi’s Mansion 3 finally gives our underappreciated hero the chance to shine brighter than ever before. That’s not to say he’s brave in the face of battle, though. One neat thing about the game is watching how nervous he becomes, from facing down larger spectral spirits to being shaken up by the smallest of creatures crawling out of somewhere. It’s a neat effect that’s conveyed exceptionally well on the Nintendo Switch.
But he’s not alone. Eventually, Luigi gets the service of a scientist named E. Gadd, a splendid part of the game. His tech helps Luigi advance further, especially with the introduction of a green-slime copy by the name of Goo-igi. With his help, he’ll be able to solve more complicated puzzles, as well as get to places normal Luigi wouldn’t be able to sneak into. What’s more, this introduces the ability to play the game in co-op, adding a fun little factor for those that don’t want to go this journey alone.
The gameplay is filled with innovations, a true step up from previous Luigi’s Mansion entries. The introduction of new tools, like a buzzsaw for cutting through bothersome plants, is rather neat. And there’s a cool “jump” move that Luigi can use in “break glass in case of emergency” situations. But the real meat here is capturing ghosts, as you struggle to get them into your vacuum, and then suck them up after slamming them on the ground a few times. It does get slightly repetitive, but it’s good fun all the same.
The boss battles are incredibly fun as well. Each one poses a certain challenge, but not to the point of being impossible. It’s just a matter of finding the pattern and then using what you have on hand to eventually bring them down. They’re well thought out, and probably the best part of the game.
As for general gameplay, it feels good for the most part; and exploring each floor of the hotel is fantastic. They differ in many ways, from something that looks like it came out of a museum to the remnants of a TV studio, where a director simply wants to shine in the spotlight again. You unlock new floors with the progress you make within the game, thanks to elevator buttons that give you access. What’s more, there are hidden secrets galore, like gems and other goodies — and they’re not always in the wide open. You’ll be digging into this game for hours.
Aside from the single player mode, there’s also multiplayer. ScreamPark offers the ability to make your way through a mini-mansion loaded with games, for up to eight people. Online play isn’t bad, but this is a game that screams “local party experience,” which is a total shock given its single player origins. ScareScraper is an equally enjoyable mode, where you attempt to capture ghosts floor by floor while helping friendly Toad characters get to safety. It’s not the biggest mode, but it’s neat if you’re looking to do some ghostbusting together.
But it’s the presentation that’s the most charming part of Luigi’s Mansion 3. Again, it looks excellent, thanks to the animation and level design, loaded with character. Your new ghostly mutt is a great ally as well, providing some, ahem, spectral charm. And the sound is outstanding too, with lots of atmospheric effects and great voicework by Luigi himself. The echo effects really stand out, too.
There are some slight issues with slowdown (nothing severe, but during larger battles, kind of easy to see), and some of the backtracking may get tiring for some (like if they can’t get through a door). But there’s no question that Next Level Games has really stepped up their game with Luigi’s Mansion 3. It’s the best game in the series by far, and one of the best accomplishments of the year on Nintendo Switch. It feels great, playing like a charm; it’s probably one of the best-looking games on the platform, either in handheld or docked mode; and the fact that it’s loaded with so much in single player and multiplayer is truly staggering.
Halloween may be over, but Luigi’s Mansion 3 gives you a ghostly experience that’s worth celebrating all year around. Now’s the perfect time to get into its spirit.