Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Under-appreciated Gem: Luigi's Mansion

Many exciting Nintendo announcements were made at this years E3, but what I anticipated the most is the release of Luigi's Mansion 2 on the Nintendo 3DS. Luigi's Mansion was an excellent ghost busting adventure that still seems a little under-appreciated.

One of the launch games for the Nintendo Gamecube back in 2001, Luigi's Mansion allowed Luigi to step out of his famous fellow moustachioed brother's limelight, and become the main hero. The premise was very simple, somewhat predictable, and no twists present, but it was an enjoyable story nonetheless. It all begins when Luigi receives a strange letter from his brother Mario which leaves Luigi convinced that, rather mysteriously, he has won himself a mansion. However, upon arriving at the mansion's destination, Luigi is greeted by Professor E. Gadd, who explains to him that the mansion suddenly appeared in this spot just a few days earlier. The mansion is over-run with ghosts, and it turns out that Mario has gone missing somewhere inside too. Now, armed with just a torch, a "Gameboy Horror" (a device where maps of the mansion can be viewed) and the Poltergust 3000, a modified vacuum cleaner which is designed to trap ghosts, Luigi must travel deeper and deeper into the mansion in order to save Mario.

The premise screams "Ghostbusters", and in all honesty, I think there is some level of homage here for these hugely successful films. Replace the Proton Pack with a Poltergust 3000, and voilĂ , Luigi is the somewhat reluctant latest recruit. The controls take a little getting used to, but once mastered, they are easy to continue with. Some may find the idea of Luigi shuffling around the mansion rather than running or jumping a tad frustrating, but Luigi's slow pace helps the player to take in more of the creepy atmosphere that the game is trying to convey. Catching ghosts is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Luigi's Mansion. With the basic enemies, simply aim the torch directly at them to stun them, and hastily suck them up with the Poltergust 3000 until their health (bottom left of the screen) is reduced to zero. As the game progresses, the enemy types become more varied, and somewhat trickier. At this point, the Poltergust 3000 can be upgraded, so that it has several uses, such as firing ice, water and objects. The Poltergust 3000 can also be used to suck up treasure, which will increase your end of level rating. 
The mansion serves as a maze of rooms. As the player explores, they will find that many doors are locked. Enter an open room and clear the room of ghosts, and you will earn a key to open up another place in the mansion. I feared that this mechanic would become too repetitive quickly, but thankfully each room is completely different from one another, and the variety of bosses help to keep the game-play refreshing. Puzzles are introduced into the game at times, such as using special items in order to coax the bosses out for a showdown. These puzzles are not too perplexing, but are fun nonetheless. It is advisable to keep checking the maps on the "Gameboy Horror", as fumbling around in the darkness with merely a torch can get a little disorientating at times. 

The look of the game is rather beautiful. Whilst the lighting for the most part is dark, allowing the torch to be the main guide, the ghosts are of a multitude of glowing, vibrant colours. The animation and the look of the mansion have been excellently rendered, and due to these factors, I believe that Luigi's Mansion would translate well in High Definition (something which Luigi's Mansion 2 will be treated to). At times the graphics can get a little pixelated if the camera is taken in for close inspections, but this is a very minor criticism, and was to be expected for a game of this time. 
The use of sound is another excellent touch to this game. The soundtrack is very subtle, thus allowing the player to embrace the silence of the mansion, and listen out for the ghostly wails that sound out amongst the collection of rooms. The more ghosts Luigi encounters, the more scared he becomes. This fear is reflected in his voice when he hums along to the games music, or calls out for Mario, which makes a nice little touch.

Once the game is completed, there is the option to play the "Hidden Mansion" mode, which completely flips the mansion's layout. Bosses move faster, and enemies become trickier. Luigi's Mansion is not an overly hard game to come to grips with, so the real challenge definitely lies in this mode. The main game only takes about a day to complete, which is a shame, as it had the potential of adding a lot more if it was longer.

While it may not win over all Super Mario fans, Luigi's Mansion should be applauded on how different it is from the previous games in the Mario series. The graphics look great for a starter Gamecube game, the soundtrack and setting are irresistibly spooky, and the game play is incredibly fun. People of all ages should be able to complete this, although some children may find the atmosphere at little disconcerting at times. Luigi's Mansion is definitely an under-rated gem that deserves a bit more recognition, and still stands as one of the greatest Gamecube releases. The Gamecube disc will work fine on your Wii console and a Gamecube controller, so I recommend checking this game out before we are graced with Luigi's Mansion 2!

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