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Blog: Running Backwards, Writer: Dan

Running Backwards: Review – Luigi’s Mansion

Life can be a funny thing cant it? on Wednesday evening I sat down to begin a play through for a review of Portal 2 and things were going swimmingly…well swimmingly till my PS3 decided playing dead was a better past time than watching me throw myself around the course so hap-hazardly I could be mistaken for a sack of potato’s fired out of a cannon of physical learning. Long story short my plans were scuppered for it (Though I shall complete my review of it in the future so watch this space for that one), so on Thursday night desperately seeking a replacement I stumbled upon a little game I’d forgotten about from 2002. Nintendo’s own Luigi’s Mansion.

Luigi's Mansion Cover - Copyright Nintendo.

Of all the games I thought I’d review, even retro games non could have been further from my mind than Luigi’s Mansion for the Nintendo Game cube, when I first played it as a spry and hyperactive nine year old it sort of thrilled me, I never managed to finish it as a youngster but the concept is simple enough. Luigi, Mario’s brother, has won a competition, the prize of which was (Drum roll please) a mansion…Only upon arrival to said mansion Luigi discovers evil afoot, and even more worryingly that his brother has been kidnapped. With ghosts running amuck throughout the mansion can the tall green plumber discover the root of evil at the heart of the house? Or is he doomed to be trapped there forever? I popped the disc in and gave it a whirl!

The first thing that gripped me about Luigi’s Mansion, surprisingly was the graphics, the attention to detail and quality of the animation both in game play and in the cut scenes were tremendously well done, especially for a time where the competition consisted of blocky and fragmented PS2 graphics and Brown, grey and muted colour palettes courtesy of the X-box. The animation feels smooth and realistic but with a cartoonish and colourful air that slightly reminds me 2007’s sugar powered brilliance that was “Little Big Planet” and the detail used in the creation of the “sub boss” ghosts are pretty darn brilliant, while some of the ghosts (Particularly The Boo’s) haven’t really aged too well (Then again how do giant white clouds age well in the first place?) in short where it shines, it shines brightly.

The story had me hooked right from the get go, while the plot is essentially a fetch quest having you run Luigi from the top floor of the mansion to the bottom collecting items to show to people thus extending game play by a couple of hours easily while also pushing forward the narrative of catching more of the sub boss level ghosts, the veil that all this is linked together in order to help you find your brother and fix the mansion is really well achieved. There wasn’t a single moment throughout this game where I felt like there wasn’t something I could be doing. Which when compared to many contemporary rail games of the era or even when compared to the Mario games that had come before or since it really demonstrates just how interesting Nintendo can be when it comes to new developments on existing franchise though in all fairness any game that can create suspense using a selection of mute characters really is doing its job rather well…

The characters also follow a rather pleasant narrative ark as well, other than Luigi this is the first time we are introduced to the now Illustrious “Professor E. Gadd” a mad scientist monitoring paranormal activity throughout the mansion. Gadd would go on to provide both Mario and Bowser with items in 2003’s Super Mario Sunshine and make regular cameo’s in games ranging from Super Smash Brothers Melee through to the latest Brawl title. He is indeed very helpful throughout this game as well, often dropping hints to Luigi about where to go to next and even providing Luigi with his only weapon to catch ghosts in the mansion. The vacuum cleaning ghost buster of a device known as the “Poltergeist 3000”.

Other than that the ghosts are all very well defined each with a back-story that while in depth enough to justify their purpose in the mansion, I feel could have been taken a little deeper. Toad also tags along for the trip on this one providing a welcome save game option at varying points throughout the mansion that really was helpful in keeping my health afloat.

Game play itself can be a little ridged at times, in part due to the depth perception built into the game and in part due to control. The idea for catching ghosts could be considered child’s play, simply shine your torch at a ghost which reveals a heart and a number, then you suck up the ghost by holding down the “R” button on the controller and pulling in the opposite direction to where the ghost will try to flee till the number hits zero…however the fact that there is very little in the way of indication to show whether a ghost is closer to the me as the player or closer to the far walls within the game often led to me sucking up wallpaper while one of the bigger ghosts slowly sat picking overall’s out of his ghostly gnashers. This is particularly infuriating during the final boss level in which the final boss can take up to half your life in a single hit.

That’s another thing really, the idea of steady level progression seems to have gone out of the window with this title, whereas most games start off easy and progress harder as they go along, The people behind Luigi’s Mansion seems to have just shoved all the bosses into the house in random order, this is particularly demonstrated by a sub level boss by the name of “Mr Luggs” who with no indication of how to beat him simply spits fire at you till you die, after three attempts to stop this gluttonous ghoulie a quick wikipedia search revealed I was supposed to dodge the flames till he got tired…cue 20 minutes of flame dodging before he actually did get tired. This to me might suggest a lazy AI programmed for this character or me just being very unlucky either was particularly unfortunate and didn’t lend towards the enjoyment of the game too much at all.

Starting this game at around 8pm I played nonstop till 1am and completed it with a rank B, Apparently the more money you collect in game the higher your rank you achieve and the nicer the ending you get.  With 5 hours of game play I felt slightly cheated, the game is really quite fantastic and for Luigi’s first solo outing Nintendo really hit this one out of the park, the music’s perfect at generating that spooky atmosphere and the graphics are brilliant for the time, it’s just a shame slightly slack control’s and such a short story appear to let this one down a bit a bit. The cheapest I could find this game for online was a used copy for £10  at time of writing and I’d say if you were already a fan of the Mushroom kingdom and wanted a good way to spend 5 hours then it would be worth it, if your not entirely sure about traipsing back through Nintendo’s history, then I would recommend waiting till next year when according to a spokesperson from the recent E3 conference a sequel “Luigi’s Mansion 2” is planned for a tentative 2012 release on the Nintendo 3DS which no doubt will either rekindle interest in the franchise or cause me to nostalgia for how good this first one actually was. It’s fun, it’s spooky and I certainly can’t recommend playing it in the dark!

Dan – Blogger:Running Backwards.

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