Editor Note: If you’re not familiar with the term “pile of shame”: basically, it’s all the games you’ve purchased over the years but never gotten around to playing. We’re now working our way back to retrospectively review some of them.
Being a massive fantastic for both Xbox and PlayStation, anything that Nintendo released while I was growing up never managed catch my attention. Around my late teens, all I wanted to play were mature shooters and adventure games, and most of Nintendo’s first-party line-up was aimed at families; games which didn’t really spike my interest. Years passed – now being a bit older and a little bit wiser – I have come to realise that underneath any release with a G-rated label can often hide an engaging and well-polished game to be enjoyed regardless of age demographic.
I’ve picked up a GameCube on two occasions now: the first on the tail end of its retail life and the second as a trade with my brother. On both occasions, I never offered myself the opportunity to try one of the most talked about titles on the square-shaped console, Luigi’s Mansion. On first inspection, I thought this game wasn’t going to be for me. I never had much love for Luigi; he just looked like taller green Mario, to me. To top it off, the idea of creeping all over one big house sounded uninteresting, to be honest. It’s worth noting, I’ve always prided myself as a Sega guy, and at that time, I was busy playing Sonic Adventures, Jet Set Radio and Shenmue on the Dreamcast at that point in time.
Recently, however, I thought: fine! I’ll put my Nintendo cap on and see what all the fuss was about. I loaded the game, sat deep into my chair, and within the first half an hour I was surprisingly hooked. It felt so original and unique for a game that is nearly 14 years old; almost matchless to any current game on the market. Not only was Luigi’s Mansion a far step away from any previous Mario game released, but it didn’t feature a jump button; I was genuinely shocked!
Not unsurprising for a Nintendo game, the premise for Luigi’s Mansion is pretty straightforward. Luigi won a mansion in a contest that he doesn’t remember entering, and, going against better judgment, ventures to the mansion anyway to claim his prize. Once he enters, however, he is immediately ambushed by a gang of ghosts; scaring the wits out of the poor guy. Fortunately for Luigi, a new friend, “Professor E. Gadd” comes to the rescue with his prized invention: a hotted-up vacuum cleaner that can suck up niggling ghosts. Professor Gadd proceeds to bring Luigi up to speed about the haunted mansion and reveals that Mario has been imprisoned somewhere in the house. Luigi is frightened, but equally determined to save his brother from whatever evil that lies ahead. He’s then equipped with a flashlight, a “Game Boy Horror,” and most importantly, “The Poltergust 3000″; to dispose of those bothersome ghouls.
Even by today’s standard of storytelling, I actually found this tale to be refreshing. Sure, instead of the old cliche of “save the princess” you’re out to save the brother instead. However, this time round, it’s a whole new dynamic with E. Gadd as the mentor and Luigi as the apprentice, collecting ghosts and, most significantly, solving a mystery.
The overall design of the Mansion is surprisingly well executed with most of the rooms providing a different theme which actually makes general navigation a lot easier to comprehend. In fact, I was actually able to remember most of the locations of the rooms without having to check my Game Boy Horror for the map. The mansion offers multiple levels, as well as a basement and the rooftop; so, in my opinion, there is a decent amount of area to explore; even though many players at the time thought size of the mansion made the game relatively short to complete.
Most of the rooms in the mansion are interactive in some way, and, at times, have a puzzle element involved in order to reveal a new ghost or even health pickups. The number of ghosts hiding in corners, vases, and every other piece of furniture you can think of was enough to test your wits without ever being too swamped by a crowd of enemies. There are 25 main ghosts to discover who basically act as mini-bosses; offering a different battle plan, and encouraging you to find a different way to get the ghost out of hiding, which I thought was pretty neat and worked especially well.
The gameplay was responsive with simple mechanics to learn. What I love the most about this game, though, is that it’s all modelled in 3D, but still feels as if you’re actually playing a multi-layered 2D game. You move left and right like with any side-scroller, but you also traverse the environments like a 3D platformer; employing two different styles at once. It was oddly appealing and worked surprisingly well because of a simple fixed camera. I loved the struggle of capturing ghosts, which is also super entertaining to watch. First you must weaken the ghost with the flashlight, followed by activating the Poltergust 3000 at just right moment to draw them in; it’s a real thrill! I especially got a great sense of achievement when nabbing one of fifty Boos that are scattered across the mansion. They can be very tricky to get a hold of as they can dart in and out of rooms, escaping the vacuum, which makes your job a lot harder.
Luigi’s Mansion was released on the GameCube in 2001, but graphically speaking, I think it still holds up quite well. The visuals are a good mix of dark, moody atmospheres with a splash of the trademark Nintendo colour palette. The small details in the presentation of the mansion is quite impressive, providing players with the idea that people once lived in this enormous sized home. Nearly everything in this game is interactive; from the furniture to the table cloth, and all impeccably animated. It must be mentioned: Luigi is now my newfound friend and has finally won me over. He is so likable in this, full of character and goofy charm. His waddling power walk, the ability to call out Mario’s name, and the delightful detail of Luigi humming the theme that lurks in the background is brilliant. Even the short animation of Luigi nervously opening a door is one of many subtle details that make this game a complete haunted experience.
Luigi’s Mansion is truly an adventure to enjoy; brilliantly combining character and environmental interaction while portraying an engaging and relatable story. Despite being a short game for some people, there is a lot to love about this game be it the atmosphere, variety of gameplay mechanics and innovative boss battles. For me, it was such a unique experience unlike anything I have ever played before. Every component felt artfully crafted and arranged to create a satisfying explorative campaign. I wish I had given this gem a chance sooner, but at least I didn’t pass on it indefinitely. Luigi’s Mansion is certainly a game I will want to revisit just so I can re-experience its fun and spooky world.