Luigi's Mansion (GameCube) review
"For the most part, you move from one puzzle to another, with little chance of dying in between. Enter a room and a ghost is present, but you have to figure out a way to make it appear long enough to defeat it."
''Yeah, it was a good game, but Luigi wasn't in it. I'm sick of Mario stealing the spotlight. When is Luigi going to get his turn?''
Before Nintendo released Luigi's Mansion, such comments were abundant wherever you found a gathering of Nintendo enthusiasts. And since the company mostly does a pretty good job of listening to its fans, it was only a matter of time before the company would give them just what they wanted. Well, almost. I say 'almost' because a lot of people were thinking a Mario-style game would be good for Luigi, and there's really no way you can say Luigi's Mansion is that kind of game, no matter how much you like it.
As the story unfolds, Luigi has a map to a mysterious mansion. At the same time, Mario has disappeared from the scene. Luigi senses that somehow the mansion and his brother's disappearance are related, though he doesn't yet know how. So he ventures into the mansion, only to be greeted by a bunch of ghosts. The day is saved by a mysterious madman with a vaccuum, who will be your mentor of sorts throughout the game. He explains that you must defeat all the ghosts in the mansion if you ever hope to see your brother again.
That's it. Luigi's Mansion consists of Luigi exploring the mansion and defeating ghosts as he looks for his brother. Such a concept is perhaps typical of a Miyamoto game, but the way in which it is pulled off is what will leave some gamers scratching their heads. See, Luigi has to use a vaccuum for his weapon. That and a flashlight. While he can upgrade the vaccuum so it expels fire, water, and ice, he's mostly just going to suck stuff up. This is true of many objects you find lying about the place, but most especially of the ghosts.
When Luigi encounters a ghost in one of the many rooms or hallways--and later, gardenish areas--he quickly turns about so the ghost isn't in his beam of light. This will cause a little heart to appear within the ghost. When Luigi sees that, he can whip about, vaccuum ready, and suck the little guy into non-existence. Sometimes, there's a struggle. At this point, this might as well be a fishing game. You dash about, pulling at the ghost and trying to avoid damage that will make you lose control.
All of this is executed rather brilliantly using the GameCube controller. The left analong stick moves Luigi while the right one adjusts the direction in which the vaccuum is pointed. You'll have to spend a while getting used to the control scheme, but soon you'll find it works wonderfully. The game gives you time to adjust, then it throws some of the games meaner challenges at you.
While you have a life gauge, though, it's mostly in jeopardy of dwindling to nothing only when you're new at the game, or later when you're fighting bosses. You can suck up hearts from pots, by defeating ghosts that hang from the ceiling, or whatever. There are many ways. While you're collecting hearts, you are also collecting money, gold bricks, diamonds, and other such things. This makes the game feel rather old-school, and it doesn't distract from the puzzlish nature of the game. And really, this is a puzzle game. For the most part, you move from one puzzle to another, with little chance of dying in between. Enter a room and a ghost is present, but you have to figure out a way to make it appear long enough to defeat it. A good way to figure this out is to use your little Game Boy thingy, which will let you receive hints by looking into the ghost's heart.
All of this is quite fun, but it wouldn't make the game very long at all. To counter this to a certain extent, Nintendo added in something that will allow you to collect ghosts. So you go through the mansion, looking for hidden ghosts. There are 50 of them in all, and they give you trouble as you try to gather them. You'll find them only in rooms that you have caused to light by defeating a mini-boss. Those ghosts then may flee if you give them a chance, and they are very good at dashing into a room you can't yet enter because you haven't the proper key.
If all of this sounds simplistic, it is. The game seems made for all ages. If you can get past the cartoony Luigi image, something I found quite easy, you will see that even shallow games can be a lot of fun. My wife certainly enjoys the title, probably because it's so easy to pick up and play if you're willing to give the control scheme a chance. I've put several hours into it and I'm nearing the end, now, which is my only criticism: Luigi's Mansion isn't nearly so large as a typical Mario game that gamers will probably expect when they buy this one. Still, it's a game worth at least a rental, and you shouldn't be groaning too much if someone gives it to you for a gift. Recommended.
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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