Original Release Date: 2001
Price now: £10-15
Luigi’s Mansion was a launch title for the GameCube and is widely regarded as a classic. The game takes focus from everyones favourite red plumber and gives his brother Luigi one of his first starring roles. Luigi is investigating the disappearance of Mario in a mansion he won in a contest (that he didn’t enter!). Luigi soon discovers that the Mansion is haunted so teams up, with Professor E.Gadd, an eccentric scientist who explains that a bunch of bothersome Boos have released a family of ghosts he had trapped in paintings. He equips Luigi with a deadly weapon….the Poltergiest 3000 vacuum cleaner and Luigi begins his quest looking for his brother while trapping the ghosts on his way.
Luigi’s Mansion plays in the third person in which you move Luigi with the left stick and control either the torch or Vacuum cleaner with the c-stick. The shoulder buttons are used to either suck or blow and X and Y will allow you to navigate the GameBoy Horror, which serves as a map or can be used in first-person mode to scan surroundings. On his journey through the cramped corridors and dusty rooms, Luigi faces a range of foes, from tiny ghost bats and mice that suck straight into the vacuum cleaner or ghosts or ranging difficulties that pop out from ceilings or walls. The larger ghosts and Boos require a little more effort to catch, first Luigi must stun them with the torch to expose their hearts, then he can use the vacuum to try and catch them. When he has a ghost hooked in the vortex of the vacuum cleaner, a number shows under the ghosts heart and the player must use the C-Stick to pull in the opposite direction, depleting the number before catching the ghost when it reaches zero. Harder ghosts are much more sporadic with bigger numbers which can mean a lot of wrestling before they are caught; a process that is oddly satisfying, especially after a particularly long tussle. As well as the Boos and standard ghosts that roam the halls, there is the family that escaped from E.Gadd’s paintings which all have their own personality and charm. These ghosts are much stronger than others and usually involve some sort of puzzle element or special tactic in order to reel them in.
Out of all of the retro consoles I have, there’s something about GameCube graphics , they just seem to age very well and Luigi’s Mansion is no exception. The graphics are smooth and polished, even after all this time and the lighting from the torch and the candles is gorgeous. The game is charming in its visual style with lightning flashes lighting up the spooky rooms and a most of the scenery interacts with Luigi’s vacuum. When Luigi aims the vacuum at inanimate objects, doors will shake, chandeliers will swing, candles will go out, drawers will open as well as a myriad of other interactions depending on the objects. Some of these are part of the game but others, such as the cobwebs on the ceiling that can be cleared, are just for added immersion. This gives a level of detail that was not always seen in other titles around this time.
As you travel around the mansion, and move through corridors, the camera will follow Luigi but leave the front wall translucent which keeps the feeling of being in a confined space, helping to give the mansion scale; a technique that works very well. Each room, however plain looking, has an air of excitement as Luigi knocks on items or vacuums them in order to find loot or hidden areas. Another standout technique are the mirrors and how they are used in the game. Some ghosts can only be seen as a reflection or a switch may be on the south facing wall, which Luigi can’t see unless in the mirror. These may not seem a big deal in today’s standard but back then, many games used cheap tactics like broken or dirty mirrors in order not to have to animate reflections. The sound is minimalistic which somehow works in the games favour. A lot of rooms are silent, with just the sound of the thunder outside, or Luigi humming a tune but will then burst with music when a ghost is revealed. This gives the game an atmospheric touch, without being too creepy for younger gamers. Luigi himself is well animated and some of his facial expressions, especially if he is nervous, are priceless.
Luigi’s Mansion holds up incredibly well considering this year will mark its 16th birthday and is a credit to Nintendo’s ability to occasionally break out of their comfort zone. The GameCube was a fun console and this launch title was an opening for many more like it. Luigi’s Mansion is reminiscent of when games were made just to be fun, and it does exactly that. Sadly, I find many big games today can lack this element and for games that are just fun, it’s more likely that you will have to search out an indie title. With Luigi’s Mansion, the story is barely there and it suffers from being incredibly short, but despite this, the short time spent with Luigi is a blast. Hooking a ghost and being dragged around the room before finally landing the catch has an almost fishing like satisfaction to it. In my sea of retro games, rarely does one come along that I go back to just for fun, but Luigi’s Mansion is one of those games.