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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




While this Gamecube launch title is not quite as revolutionary as Super Mario 64 was at the N64 launch, Luigiís Mansion is still a solidly entertaining experience with simple play that should have immediate appeal for Nintendo fans. The title does a good job of showcasing the new GameCube systemís power and abilities with brilliant graphics and silky smooth character animations and other delectable treats that provide plenty of eye candy for fans. We enter the spooky haunted house and explore its mysteries.

Luigiís Mansion is an enjoyable and challenging video game which should appeal to the younger set. The main appeal of LM is its beautiful cartoon-style graphics which are really well-done and smooth. The title uses the Gamecube effectively with brilliant light sourcing, excellent smooth animation and virtually no load time. Underneath the visual effects, this is a simple game with a concept similar to the 80ís film Ghostbusters though done with that unique feel only Miyamoto and co. can create. The object of Luigiís Mansion is simple yet effective. You explore a haunted house in search of Luigiís missing brother, the erstwhile Mario whoís been trapped by the mysterious forces in the mansion. Along the way, youíll face ghosts who youíll have to catch using your specially designed vacuum cleaner and uncover the many puzzles and riddles hidden with the mansionís walls. The game starts off slowly, as it trains you in the use of the vacuum cleaner and your other devices such as the Game Boy Horror. Luckily, thereís a scientist who will give you plenty of advice and instructions along the way.

There are several different types of spirits in the mansion, who are apparently all related to each other in some way. When you confront a ghost, you need to trick them into the light and suck them into your vacuum. This is done by sucking them slowly, as you do the number of hearts declines and when this indicator reaches zero, the ghosts are yours. While the early ghosts are easy to beat, the gradually become more aggressive and harder to battle with more hearts and can grab Luigi. Some of the ghosts arenít that easy to beat because they wear masks, making the impervious to your light. The trick is you have to suck off their masks, making the vulnerable to the standard methods. This seems easy at first and it is until they begin attacking you in groups. There some intimidating boss ghosts which are much more difficult to defeat, requiring the player to figure out their weak spots before they can be sucked in. Whatís cool is that these confrontations have a great feel to them with a lot of creativity Ė this is have the fun of the game. Some of the later ghost-bosses are extremely difficult requiring both skill and the right special elements to beat. There are also puzzles and mysteries to solve and youíll have to collect keys and money along the way in order to have a chance. Luigiís Mansion has a good balance of puzzles and action, and unfolds at a leisurely pace. Some players may find it a bit juvenile in spots, but the slapstick humor is really fun and itís still a great game that offers plenty of fun for everyone.

Most platform games suffer from poor controls and awkward camera systems, but these donít seem to be a problem here. Instead of manically spinning the camera around like madmen causing confusion and more trouble than its worth, Nintendo has come up with an elegant system where objects blocking the view simply become transparent. This makes things a lot easier to understand and allows players to concentrate on having fun. Likewise, the interface is also quite excellent and controlling Luigi isnít difficult because GameCube controller is well-suited for the game allowing for plenty of flexibility. In one cute touch, when thereís nothing in the room and youíre wandering around, you can press a button and instead of pulling out his vacuum, Luigi will cry out for his brother. Even though the interface is largely intuitive, there are some aspects of the game that need some practice before you get the hang of them. This takes awhile but makes sense as you get used to it. The biggest problem is the vacuum itself which is complicated to use. The trick is to keep the flashlight off and stun the ghosts by turning it on and vacuuming them up, itís more the timing than the actions that cause the most problems initially. Still, itís fairly elegant and intuitive once you get the hang of it. Strangely enough, the ghost vacuum system closely resembles a fishing game and pays direct homage to Ghostbusters. You can also collect elemental ghosts which will allow you to use fire and water against the bosses Ė though these only occur later in the game. Once beaten, you can empty the bosses from your vacuum and theyíre stored as gallery paintings which you can view after you beat them. This is a cute feature that actually helps to make the game more fun.

In addition to using the vacuum cleaner and his wits, Luigi also has another device, the Game Boy Horror to help him along in his quest to find Mario. This is a cool idea in many ways. Itís also quite useful because Luigi uses this to switch to search for hidden items, view maps and to keep track of inventory. This is quite clever in its implementation and adds to the overall flavor of the game, not to mention the all-important Ďcorporate synergy.í Unfortunately, you canít move Luigi or fight ghosts in this mode because the action continues simultaneously, so you need to be sure that there are no immediate threats in the vicinity. While the controls seem simple in theory, actually playing Luigiís Mansion isnít as intuitive as it could have been because the ghost sucking system is hard to get the hang of. Using some simpler controls would have helped a lot. Still, itís fairly easy to learn how to use the vacuum and the Game Boy Horror, itís just a bit awkward and takes some getting used to. Still, the game is still simple enough that younger games will be able to get into.

The smooth animation, colorful environments and excellent production values make for a brilliant looking game. Thereís little doubt from the moment you boot it up that Luigiís Mansion has that classic Miyamoto look and feel all over it. The character designs are consistent with many previous Nintendo titles and the gameís consistency is only enhanced because other famous Nintendo characters such as Toad and the Masked Koopas from Mario 2 have fun cameos throughout. This feels a little different from previous efforts, since thereís a darker look to it but still safe for kids because the creepy atmosphere is about as threatening as Scooby Doo. In a departure from most other Mario titlesí conventions, there arenít any of the expected platforms to jump over, which makes this refreshingly different, as does the more puzzle-oriented gameplay. Thereís a really good balance between challenging gameplay and action. What makes the game so much fun is the effective mixing of horror-overtones with slapstick comedy as when Luigiís flattened by a slamming door. Thereís never a moment of real fear in the game, and itís so light-hearted, most players wonít be afraid Ė this is no Resident Evil. Luigiís Mansion is designed for younger players obviously. One problem is that it isnít as long or challenging as it could be nor is it as serious as some of the more jaded older gamers would like. Still, players who are young or young-at-heart will love the atmospherics, which are really excellent.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Luigiís Mansion is quite impressive with a fluid cartoon look creating a highly polished gameplay environment that showcases the GameCubeís power. Its character animations are expressive and fluid, with even the ghosts appearing lively and fun. The environments look razor sharp with dangling chandeliers; mirrors, really cool dust particles blowing around when the vacuum is enabled. There are also some really cool transparency effects that give the ghosts themselves that perfect cartoon look. The impressive light-sourcing fits the mood perfectly, with Luigiís flashlight brilliantly illuminating the dark rooms and environments beautifully. What really sets a Nintendo game apart are the little touches. While their invisible when you view them head-on, turn Luigiís back and you can see the ghosts appear in an appropriately eerie fashion. The production values throughout are excellent, making for an overall aesthetic thatís highly-polished, consistent with more than a few surprises.

While it might seem like it from the packaging, this isnít really a scary game, itís more on the spooky side than anything else - thereís no blood or gore. Its short length is Luigiís Mansionís biggest problem, but itís still fun while it lasts. Most players should be able to get through the entire game without looking at a strategy guide. The game is still a lot of fun but it gets a bit predictable. What makes this worse is that the size of the game just isnít as ambitious as other Mario titles. On the bright side, fighting and collecting the ghosts is a lot of fun, and the mansion itself is full of surprises and brilliant little touches that keep your interest level high throughout. While its flaws are evident, this is mitigated because the gameís so much fun that picking it up and playing it nearly irresistible. This is a solid GameCube launch title with just enough visual polish to plant itself firmly into the current general expectations for the abilities of new consoles. Miyamoto fans should be in nirvana and should eat-up all the little in-jokes, while everyone else will enjoy the spooky trip to Luigiís Mansion.