As with many Nintendo games, the opening is a prelude to calamity. Things are looking much too relaxed for Luigi, Mario, Princess Peach and the Toads when we set eyes on them on a radiant day. On a bus, they are bound for a hotel whose management has invited them to stay as VIPs. When they arrive at The Last Resort, they are dazzled by the golden hotel’s sparkling walls, high ceilings, and attractive furnishings. Still, you’d think that if the place’s name didn’t give them pause, then the name of its proprietor would. But the crew pay scant attention to Hellen Gravely whose purplish skin recalls the Evil Queen’s attire in Disney’s “Snow White.” Following her suggestion the celebrities of the Mushroom Kingdom repair to their individual rooms. Ever the man of culture, Luigi stretches out on his bed, props open a book and immediately falls asleep.
In the middle of the night, Luigi awakens to the scream of Princess Peach. Shivering with fear, he gets out of bed and goes into the hallway where his surroundings have undergone quite the metamorphosis. Wilted, thorny looking plants lay on the hallway tables along with candles and piles of skulls. Door frames and picture frames are askew and the walls are drably colored and stained with age.
Near the elevator, Luigi confronts Hellen Gravely, who is delighted to tell him that she, in cahoots with his old nemesis King Boo, has trapped his friends in picture frames. To avoid their fate Luigi takes to his heels and runs back down the hallway, diving into a laundry shoot that deposits him in a hamper on the basement floor. Conveniently, on that same floor is a garage where he finds a Poltergust G-OO, the newest model in the line of ghost-vanquishing vacuum cleaners that have been a staple in the series. Alas, Luigi can’t begin exploring other hotel floors because the buttons for the elevator are missing. Only by systematically recovering them from the various ghosts who’ve pocketed them will he be able to rescue his friends.
“Luigi’s Mansion 3” is chock full of silliness. There are newspaper reading ghosts on toilets, a pesky phantom cat and a number of cute bosses such as Beethoven-ish looking apparition who, from the stage of a concert hall, sics dancers, chairs and eventually his own grand piano on Luigi.
With the help of the Poltergust G-OO, Luigi can stun ghosts with a strobe light and suck them up with a nozzle that also has an air-propellant function. A black light on the device can detect ghosts that are hiding as well as otherwise invisible objects. The Poltergust can also shoot a plunger with a rope attached to its end. This allows Luigi to do stuff like open locked closet doors by shooting them with a plunger and using the suction feature to tug on the rope.
The Poltergust’s suction and air-propellent features are mapped to the controller's triggers while the strobe light, black light, and plunger are mapped to the face buttons. There were a couple of moments where I found this layout a tad cumbersome. Using the plunger’s targeting reticule, for example, requires holding down Y on the controller. The reticle’s movement, however, is tied to the right thumbstick. Because of such quirks, I sometimes found myself holding the controller a little awkwardly — using my forefinger or middle finger to press down a face button so I could keep my thumb on the analog stick.
Putting aside the rare need for contortions, the puzzles in “Luigi’s Mansion 3” are quite good and make ingenious use of Luigi’s abilities. I was frequently stumped, though usually not for long. The few times I found myself running in circles, I’d take an extended break and upon returning, usually discover the solution to whatever baffled me fairly quickly. Inevitably, it was never something obtuse, just very clever. As Luigi ascends higher in the elevator the levels become more intricate. One of my favorite puzzles takes place on a film set where Luigi gets to play actor and director.
I played a few rounds of the online ScareScraper mode in which a team of Luigis tries to rid a hotel floor of ghosts, or perform other tasks, before a timer runs out. To proceed through the rooms most efficiently, it helps to have a team that pays attention to what rooms have been cleared and are fast to help a fellow Luigi in distress when he gets stuck in a booby trap. I dig co-op multiplayer so I could imagine dipping into ScareScraper in the future.
“Luigi’s Mansion’s 3” is my kind of haunted house — a place that’s more funny than scary. For anyone who likes Nintendo games of the Mushroom Kingdom variety there are many reasons to book a stay.
Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer. His work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.