With Halloween around the corner, my son is asking me for “spooky” games we can play. Seeing as Resident Evil might be a bit soon for a five-year-old, the gem that is Luigi’s Mansion makes a return to my life once more. Not in the recent release of the 3DS version, but by digging out my dusty Gamecube copy. The game was one of the choices you got when buying a Gamecube bundle during the console’s release. Console release games don’t tend to stay with me very long (Smash Bros Melee was my ultimate motivation for acquiring a Gamecube, but you learn to be grateful as a twelve-year-old) but 16 years later, I’m truly appreciating this game for what it is.
The game’s premise opens up to Luigi locating a Mansion he’s won in a recent competition- But to his dismay, he finds the entire building to be haunted by ghosts. Classic. Luckily, your new neighbour Professor E.Gadd fills you in on the mansions’ situation and is even kind enough to give you the Poltergeist 3000- a vacuum that hoovers up ghosts that you can then restore into paintings, of course. Then, like the kindly neighbour he is, trains you on how to use it via a quick tutorial in a convenient training simulation in his lab, then sends off a very reluctant Luigi to fend for himself in his newly acquired mansion.
If you take a step back from Luigi's Mansion you’ll notice it’s actually a very simple game- locate and vacuum up all the ghosts in the room until the room’s candles light up with a satisfying sound of positive gamification, followed by moving on to the next room. As well as enjoying its calming simplicity in a time when hectic Battle Royale games are peaking, it’s also the classic Nintendo charm that keeps me coming back. Hitting A when near an object will make Luigi give it a whack or shake, usually for drawing out Boo’s or for money- that you cruelly are never able to spend until the very end of the game when your house essentially gets valued. But whilst aimlessly walking around, the same action makes Luigi call out “Mario” in various tones of curiosity, disbelief and frustration as he tries to track down his lost brother. There’s also the Japanese gibberish that back’s Professor E.Gadd’s voice text.
No room is ever the same either, which keeps the game from seeming over-simplistic. Each ghost tends to have a different way of revealing their heart to you and therefore becoming vulnerable enough to hoover up. One ghost- A Butler- completely freaks out when you light his candles using the flame elemental medal you gain later on. A Dog ghost gets distracted by the bone of his owner you acquire to have a chew on, a pianist that gets upset and vulnerable when you hoover up her sheets of music (as well as when you answer her Mario-Music Trivia wrong) and so on. A surprising amount of creativity and humour for such a small-seeming game. Like how each Boo greets you with some awful pun upon discovery (GameBOO Advance) satisfying my shameful Dad humour to no end.
My five-year-old son felt pretty guilty about hoovering these ghosts up though as a fair handful of them don’t seem to be bothering anyone at all. So, it comes in handy that the aim of hoovering these suckers up is to them put them into paintings in the Professor's gallery, which you can view at any time to admire your recent Ghost-bustings.
The only bone I might pick with this game is its controls. The left stick moves Luigi around the area, whilst the C-stick rotates the angle you point your torch or vacuum at. The movement of the C stick is incredibly slow and sometimes a little infuriating when a ghost jumps you from behind and you’re trying to pull a 180 in time to flash-light his heart. Maybe if there was an option to change the sensitivity of this like in most shooters, it might make the game a tad easier, but already I can hear myself being a hypocrite, as it’s the simplicity of this game that made me love it so much.
Overall, this game has aged incredibly well and is still fun to play even if you weren’t there for it. I will have to be patient as my child grows up before introducing the Resident Evil series. Unless Nintendo and Capcom join forces to make a Leon’s Mansion, where you have to hoover up mutated cultists and call “Ashleyyy” in an overly cute, American accent.