Premiere of the Gamecube, second solo outing of the green brother, first entry in a curious but cultastic series – Luigi’s Mansion (2001) is the one and only horror IP of Nintendo, and an intriguing contribution to the genre at that. Admittedly, my review of the game may perhaps be influenced slightly by the fact that this game was equally magical and terrifying as the only horror game I was allowed to play at the tender age of seven years old. Nevertheless, as a grown, totally-not scaredy-cat man of twenty-two, I will endeavour to remain as impartial as possible.

story

It’s what he deserves

Simply put, the story of Luigi’s Mansion sees Luigi following a map to his ‘new mansion’ that he unexpectedly won in a competition… that he never entered. SpooOoOOoky. As it turns out, the mansion is actually owned by the villainous King Boo who has conspired the entire set-up to lure both Mario and Luigi into his lair as revenge for all the plans that the Mario brothers have foiled in the past. It soon becomes apparent that Mario has been kidnapped and trapped into a painting and that the only way Luigi can save Mario is with the help of a kooky old scientist and a vacuum cleaner. A nightmare of slapstick, spooks, and spectres soon ensues for the cowardly Luigi… and deservedly too for falling for this classically simple Nintendo plot.

horror

The gameplay sucks

Literally. Combat is based around Luigi’s Poltergust 3000, a vacuum cleaner, Ghostbusters styled machine used to suck up ghosts. Ghosts have health meters that range in size depending on minion or boss level of the spectre, but the real fun of the combat comes from the ways that ghosts will scramble away from the pull of the vacuum and drag Luigi around with him. Many of the ghosts will fight back, but most require some low-level puzzling skills and dodging (shuffling around in Luigi’s case) to reveal the character’s weaknesses. After some exploration and key locating, ala Resident Evil, Luigi will also find some fire and ice powerups to add another dimension to the game’s puzzles. The game poses very little challenge as a children’s game, but its draw is certainly in its varied and engaging collection of spirits that guide the core gameplay and its fantastic atmosphere.

gameplay

E. Gadd! Frights galore!

This game is haunting. Helmed by developers Grezzo, this entry is unique in the series as having a comparatively gothic and muted aesthetic than the cartoonish and colourful stylings of future entries by other developers. Many of the rooms are cast in darkness prior to Luigi’s excorsision, and it’s here that the atmosphere shines. The in-game usage of the torch is not only practical, but also enhances the space by casting long spindly shadows that work in conjunction with the low light of fires and glowing ghosts. From time to time lightning will strike too, causing Luigi to jump and certainly inducing panic from players fearing a surprise ghost attack (which this game is prone to doing). Tieing everything together is a cartoonishly creepy soundtrack that keeps the game from straying into anything too scary for children, but also keeps adults entranced with its hypnotic ostinatos.

Picture almost perfect

All in all, Luigi’s Mansion is an entertaining adventure, child-friendly, horror-themed game that oozes atmosphere, creativity, and risk-factor (from a publisher perspective). It’s marred by its relatively short playtime, lack of multiple gameplay modes, and relatively simple mechanics. In saying that, the charm and prospect of completing the game faster and faster each round of playthrough is a nice reason to come back to it from time to time. Three and a half Cthulhus out of five. More to be read here.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)