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Who Ya Gonna Call? Luigi!
November 18, 2001, 04:08 AM PDT


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It has become a Nintendo tradition to launch its game consoles with a headlining title featuring mascot hero Mario. The fat, Italian plumber has countless fans, is undeniably the most popular of Nintendo's many mascots, and always seems to land feet-first in the very best the company has to offer. But there is another. Mario's green-suited brother Luigi, who first appeared in the original Mario Bros. for NES and has taken a backseat to his sibling ever since, is finally getting the respect he deserves. Hence, Luigi's Mansion, one of the great launch titles now available for the Nintendo Gamecube.

Luigi's Mansion is an entirely straightforward 3D adventure. As the plumber apprehensively explores a giant, menacing mansion in search of his brother, his weapons a flashlight and vacuum cleaner work hand-in-hand: the light stuns enemy ghosts and the cleaner sucks them up and into Luigi's back-bag, where they remain unthreateningly. It's a rather simplistic premise for sure, and one obviously inspired by the Ghostbusters feature films, but it's cute and enjoyable all the same.

Spirits manifest each dark room of the big house. It's Luigi's job and therefore the player's, to rid each room of the ghosts and restore order and subsequently light to the area. Luigi earns cash bonuses and usually receives a key that unlocks a new area of the mansion after he bests the immediate space. Some rooms are all too easy to successfully complete as they require little more than for Luigi to point his flashlight, stun a few ghosts and then suck them up with his vacuum. Others are decidedly trickier and may require the completion of a room puzzle.

For example, in one area, Luigi comes into contact with a female spirit who, applying makeup to her face, sits transfixed before a mirror. The plumber can't immediately get her to turn around and therefore he can't stun her with his flashlight. But observation of the room uncovers a set of window drapes nearby. If players walk to them and suck them back with Luigi's vacuum, a gust of cold wind will burst into the room, chill the ghost and she will get up to close the window whereupon she becomes vulnerable. It's these types of room puzzles that are most satisfying. The problem is that there aren't enough of them, and even the selection that's available is often too simple in nature to prove overly challenging.

Luigi himself is manipulated with the analog stick and the flashlight and vacuum with the camera one. The two-stick control scheme is a change of pace for Nintendo games as it's not immediately intuitive; in truth, it takes some getting used to. But once players become familiar with the setup it works quite brilliantly. It feels very good to tilt the light up and down, left and right while watching the resulting beam on surrounding walls and environments. And the best part is that because it's a dual control scheme Luigi can move about the mansion as he shines his light onto objects or sucks ghosts in with his cleaner.

There are of course other intricacies to the scheme. Pressing the A button near an object will make Luigi examine it. It also makes him open doors or call out for his brother. B turns the flashlight off. R activates the suction of the vacuum cleaner. L blows out whatever Luigi has inside the cleaner. X goes into a first-person examination mode. Y brings up a map of the current floor Luigi is on in the mansion. And Z serves as an items list. Each element is deeper than one might initially suspect. For instance, the L button becomes very useful later in the game because Luigi gains the ability to blow both fire and ice out of his cleaner and certain puzzles require that candles be lit or fires be quenches in this manner. Meanwhile, the first-person view mode becomes helpful in finding hidden areas; in fact, it must be used at least twice in the game or Luigi cannot proceed further.

This, though, is really the end of the rabbit hole. The play itself is moderately paced. Luigi explores room, hallway and room in search of ghosts and more ghosts. The process of stunning and then sucking in spirits is refined and proves to be quite a lot of fun. There are several different kinds of ghosts to fool around with too, which keep the variety somewhat fresh. But the game's frankly too easy and becomes repetitive at times. Going from room to room in search of keys is made all the more simple due to a map that highlights the next area of the mansion that has been unlocked. And players expecting the next Mario game are sure to hope for something more beyond the next door that unfortunately never materializes. Instead, a few more ghosts separated only by the occasional quickly beaten puzzle or boss fight encounter greet Luigi. And then poof the game is over. With no reward and with virtually no reason to replay it. All in all, this game is a great purchase for any diehard Ghostbusters / Nintendo fan. For more information about Luigi's Mansion and the Nintendo Gamecube, visit nintendogamecube.com.


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