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  • Writer's pictureStu

Welcome to the house of fun.

The more I play on my Switch, the more I'm beginning to realise that on a game-for-game basis, Nintendo and their development studios are the best on the planet. Hyperbole? Maybe - but I don't say that lightly. In the last couple of months I've finished a handful of first-party Nintendo games, and I've come across fewer bugs in total than I normally stumble across in a single game on my PS4 or Xbox Series X. Between the sheer technical quality of the games and their standout designs, I'm starting to wonder if Nintendo are capable of making a game that's anything less than an instant classic.

The most recent case in point is Luigi's Mansion 3. I have less history with the series than Lachesis does, if I'm honest. I picked up the first game as one of two launch-day releases with my GameCube (the other being Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader) and promptly left it on the shelf until I visited her in her university digs and walked in on her crashed out on the couch in the lounge, totally absorbed by it. It was the first game she ever finished - there have been plenty since - and it's one that she openly adores to this day. It was inevitable that the third game would find a way into the house, and finally, when it did so for the second time(!) I got a chance to play through the game that consumed her through a period of lockdown last year. And what a game it was.

It occurs to me at this juncture that the piece I'm about to write may be considered, by some quarters, to err on the side of fanboy. This is an accusation I can live with; I've been playing Nintendo games for most of my life. "Fanboy," at this point, is a label I can live with. A sizeable portion of my childhood was spent with Mario and Link. The fact remains though, that even now - some 35 years after I first touched a NES - Nintendo remain one of the most imaginative developers. The don't rely on gritty narratives or gore, or on service games that last forever. They deliver games that know exactly what they want to be, and run with a level of technical polish that most other game-makers can only fantasise about delivering. Their games drip with colour and charm - and you'd need to be a person with a very cold heart indeed to be immune to them. They serve up childhood on a screen, nostalgia on a cartridge the size of a coin. Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8, and now Luigi's Mansion 3 - while wildly different games, have all had the same effect on me: They've helped remind of what it was about videogames that caused me to fall in love with them in the first place.

Luigi's Mansion 3 starts off in similar style to the previous games - Luigi, Mario and the gang are en-route to a well-earned holiday, and arrive at the hotel only for most of them to be kidnapped in the night by a popular Mario game protagonist. Only Luigi is spared - and with help from his trusty Poltergust he sets out to rescue his brother and their mates. So far, so standard. Gameplay-wise, if you've played any of the other games you'll have a good idea of what to expect here; you navigate each floor, vacuuming up ghosts, solving environmental puzzles and defeating bosses that block your progress until you obtain a new button for the elevator. At that point, you ascend a floor and start again. There's a bit of a Metroidvania element going on as well, in that you'll need to backtrack with new or improved equipment to find some of the collectibles along the way. What sells Luigi's Mansion then, aside from it being a welcome return to playing as the taller and skinnier plumber, is its charm - which just about oozes from the TV. Luigi himself is wonderful; walking the line between terrified and amusing at all times, humming nervously to himself. His interactions with other characters are hilarious at times - he made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions.

Each floor has its own theme - and its in the level designs that you can see the team behind it really flexing their artistic muscles. It's a testament to them that the game still feels cohesive despite all of the different environments you end up running around in. The basement contains a boiler room - all pipes and water level puzzles. Further up the building, there's a concert hall in which you'll battle a ghostly conductor. A kitchen, with a spooky chef running show. The further you go, the wackier it becomes; a museum (complete with possessed T-Rex fossil), a movie studio, a nightclub all appear in addition to the rooms and bathrooms you'd expect to find in a hotel. One ancient Egypt inspired level is filled with sand - and I've got to say vacuuming every last grain of it up was one of the mostly weirdly therapeutic experiences I've ever had in a game.

Are there flaws? A couple of really minor ones. Toward the end of the game there are a couple of moments where you're forced to backtrack - those moments feel like filler, and also break the flow of the narrative a bit (yes, Polterkitty - I'm talking about you). Several boss fights, particularly a couple that crop up later in the game, are likely to leave you scratching your head as you figure out how to engage with them. Some of the puzzles end up having solutions that require a bit more lateral thinking than the early game trains you to entertain. Worst of all, there are a couple of really cool mechanics introduced on later floors that are only used once or twice in the entire game - a decision which effectively reduces them to gimmicks. None of these issues was enough to diminish my enjoyment of what I already think of as yet another classic Nintendo game.

If you've got a Switch and you haven't played this, you really do need to check it out. Nintendo games are always at their best when they're fun, quirky, or charming - and this one ticks all three boxes.

Have you played Luigi's Mansion 3? What did you think? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know.


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