An instant classic Gamecube title, with old-school simplicity and gameplay!
Luigi's Mansion is a giggling haunted house adventure. It is a game that teasingly plays with you at every step through silly faces, wacky outbursts and a hero who sucks up ghosts like fish with a magic vacuum cleaner. It is a goofy romp that will tickle you with its charm, but lock you in for a tense challenge as behind every antiquated doorknob lies a clever mystery to test your wits and prowess at the controls.
Strange circumstances have brought Luigi to a creepy old mansion perched on a sinister hill. The house is his prize for winning an unheard of contest, one he didn't enter and while lightning crackles about the mansion in the ominous dark Luigi braves the front door to find the place haunted at every step by ghosts of all shapes and sizes. Far from friendly, he is pulled out of their fatal grasp by Professor E. Gadd, a small, balding scientist with a studious zeal for ghostly things. He takes Luigi to his nearby laboratory where the Italian plumber learns that ghosts can be defeated through the use of a flashlight and an augmented vacuum cleaner called the Poltergust 3000. He also learns that his brother Mario has been to the house before him and has met an unfortunate fate with the ghosts who are keeping him trapped in a hidden area somewhere within the mansion's many floors. Determined to free his brother, Luigi straps on E. Gadd's magic vacuum cleaner and storms the house, bent on fighting the ghosts room to room until the mystery of his brother's disappearance is solved.
This is one of the first games released for the Nintendo GameCube and it gives us the most detailed perspective of the Mushroom Kingdom ever. Everything is defined sharply by lighting, texture, and depth. It is a world no longer made up of primary colours and shapes, but can now take on the grit and grey tones of reality. It is a more convincing existence and with that comes a new layer of fantasy, an evolution in concept. With Luigi's Mansion you can see the beginning of that process as the new graphics level allows Shigeru Miyamoto and his team to play with the atmosphere and facial expressions in a way that they could never do before. Every room that is cast in shadow is harbouring a hundred hidden details for Luigi to reveal with the gradient beam of his flashlight. From wall stands, paintings, bookshelves, covered chairs and candelabras amongst others items, you are constantly surrounded by unknown objects and shapes and these play to the sense of fear and suggestion. Certain effects such as Luigi's chilled breath and the convincing flow of cloth curtains help to provide the little movements you will catch out of the corner of your eye, breeding paranoia and nervousness. You couldn't create an atmosphere like this on the Nintendo 64, you couldn't tell a ghost story like this one. When the ghosts reveal themselves to scare, they do so with faces capable of exaggerated changes, of snarls and aggressive eyes and Luigi, for the first time can react with a comedic performance. His eyes widen while his mouth drops and quivers, and his tongue oscillates in a performance designed to make little kids peal out in laughter.
The entire game takes place in and around the mansion. It has many floors, many rooms, and hidden areas designed to be unlocked and solved one at a time. Each room is its own puzzle. Some contain simple phantoms that leap out from the dark while others play home to a unique kind of ghost that is immune to Luigi's flashlight and you'll need to discover their hidden nature in order to capture them. Some rooms have both and others are hiding different secrets. When each room is solved, its lights come on and a key to the next room appears. When you complete all the rooms within a certain area of the house you'll be whisked off to a nighttime arena under the control of a boss enemy. Defeat all of the boss enemies to finish the game and enjoy a special ending. Let Luigi's heart points drop from one hundred to zero and you'll get a less satisfying one. There are save points throughout the game for just such an occasion (you'll need to pick up a memory card, which is something new for Nintendo fans). It's a typical game layout, but it works as a frame for the game's inventive action and clever trickery.
The theory around capturing ghosts works like this. Most of them dislike bright lights and when Luigi catches them suddenly in the beam of his flashlight, their hearts become exposed and for a brief moment they become open to attack. When that happens, Luigi can then try to suck them into E. Gadd's Poltergust 3000, although its not easy and every ghost offers up a different level of resistance. In fact that resistance has a number and when the ghosts are caught in the suction of the cleaner, you'll see that number appear and watch it as it counts down to capture. Some ghosts weigh in at a simple level of five while others can go as high as two hundred. Once you have them caught in the path of the vacuum you'll enter a pitched tug of war with the ghost, similar to reeling in a big fish from the ocean. You have to pull the ghost in by keeping the control stick in the opposite direction of the ghost. Many of the ghosts are strong enough to pull you and you can expect to watch Luigi get dragged all about the room, making the task of keeping that control stick pointed in the opposite path difficult. It's a fun ride and a good challenge.
That vacuum, by the way, has many uses. Aside from sucking up ghosts, you can use it to suck up coins, dollar bills, gems, pearls, and other treasures worth collecting. It can suck up tablecloths, posters, and drapes. It can consume cobwebs and candle flames and even shake heavy furniture. You can even clean with it, imagine that. In a mansion furnished from top to bottom, a vacuum cleaner is easily the quickest way to search for hidden clues. One example I can give you is with the doors. There are several trick doors in the house, false ones that will slam Luigi against the wall and spill his coins. Well, the false doors don't shake when you suck at them with the vacuum cleaner. But wait there's more! As you progress through the game, you'll find upgrades for the vacuum, elemental medallions that will allow the machine to expel a stream of flame, ice, and water in addition to its cleaning action. These elements are key to solving many of the mansion's mysteries.
There are different kinds of ghosts. For starters, there's phantoms which pop out of the darkness to attack Luigi. They come in different colours and do different things. Some hang from the ceiling while others drop banana peels on the floor to make Luigi trip and drop his collected treasures. Some have a heart of ice, water, or flame and you'll need to use the vacuum's upgrades to counter them.
Portrait ghosts are unique spirits, ones that still reflect their old lives. They are characters, complete with their own back-story and they are all immune to Luigi's flashlight when you first meet them. Each of them is a tricky mystery to be solved and you'll need to ponder the clues each has to offer in order to capture them. They're called portrait ghosts because E. Gadd has a machine which can turn them into paintings and he even has a gallery put aside for them so you can visit them during your breaks.
Hidden within the furniture are Boos. These are the same white, bubble ghosts from the Super Mario series and there's usually one of them in each room. Luigi tracks them down by listening to the radar beeps of his Game Boy Horror. Find the piece of furniture harbouring the Boo and you can have Luigi flush it out with a simple knock. Out in the open, a Boo can be sucked away without the need for a flashlight, but be ready for a chase, especially with the bigger ones which will leap from room to room. There are fifty of these guys and if you grab them, you'll get a big, shiny diamond.
By the time you reach the end of the game, you'll see that had it played out with Mario being the one to look for Luigi, it wouldn't change a thing, in fact with some of the elements that surface it would make more sense. Let him collect stamps instead of coins, let him battle his own villain, a Transylvania Queen who falls for him and won't take no for an answer. Let him save with a stamp-licking puppy instead of Toad. Just the little touches that could help endear Luigi to us more. That said, Luigi's Mansion is still a fun romp worth buying and playing right to the end.