GAME REVIEW: Luigi’s Mansion
It’s been nearly 11 years since Luigi’s Mansion was released on the Nintendo GameCube and I just now got around to playing it. To be honest, I spent a few minutes with the game years ago but it didn’t immediately capture my attention so I dismissed it as “something I’m not into” before giving it a fair chance. Well, now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve decided to brave a fright-filled night in Luigi’s Mansion and I must say the experience has totally scared away any doubt that this might not be a game for me.
The story begins with Luigi arriving at a creepy old mansion in the woods. It seems that he won this mansion in a contest…one he didn’t even enter (I hate it when that happens). After a run in with a ghost, Luigi is saved by a vacuum wielding man named Professor E. Gadd. The Professor informs you that the mansion appeared out of thin air just days ago and that he witnessed a man in a red hat enter and never return. You’re then supplied with the Professor’s vacuum, called the Poltergust 3000, as you investigate Mario’s disappearance.
Luigi’s method of “attack” comes in the form of a flashlight and a vacuum. You don’t simply jump on the head of an enemy like you would in a Mario game. In fact, you can’t even jump in this game at all. To deal with the ghosts littering the mansion, you must first stun them with the flashlight and then immediately suck them up with the Poltergust 3000. You’re also equipped with a GameBoy Horror (basically a GameBoy Color) that allows you to scan your environment and receive clues about how to capture certain enemies. This gadget isn’t used or needed as often as you’d expect but it’s a nice way to get a 360 degree view of your surroundings.
The controls in Luigi’s Mansion are smooth and responsive however they do come with a slight learning curve. You move Luigi around with the control stick while the flashlight and vacuum are aimed with the C-stick. This can take a bit of getting used to due to the C-stick being inverted. It’s not an overly complicated system, it just takes some practice to be efficient. Also the A-button serves two functions as it’s used to interact with objects and to call out for Mario. At times this became problematic. There were many situations where I was standing right up against a door trying to open it while Luigi just stood there yelling “Marrrrrioooooo?!” Not a huge deal but when you’re trying to elude a few ghosts it can get annoying.
The structure and mood of Luigi’s Mansion remind me of an elementary version the original Resident Evil. You’ll explore the mansion room-by-room and obtain keys to unlock doors to previously inaccessible areas. This is done in a very linear fashion. Keys are earned when you restore light to a room by ridding it of its ghostly inhabitants. The game is broken up into four areas. In each of these areas you have to find and capture portrait ghosts and return them to the pictures from where they once came. Portrait ghosts are all bubbling with their own individual personalities. You’ll find the portrait ghosts partaking in their favorite hobbies/activities which will eventually end up leading to their capture. It’s up to you find out how to interact with their environments to get the ghosts to reveal themselves so you can suck them up. Each of the four areas is rounded out with an arena styled boss-fight for good measure. These aren’t particularly deep interactions but they’re still fun and memorable.
Being that Luigi’s Mansion began as a tech demo to show off the power of the GameCube, you can bet that the visuals are impressive. From time to time you may run into some hideous textures and grainy pixilation but the attention to detail when interacting with furniture and decorations around the house is incredible. For example, you can use your Poltergust 3000 to suck up table cloths, move curtains, open dresser drawers, and even empty rolls of toilet paper. It’s really astounding how smooth and lifelike these animations are even when compared to games released this generation on far-more-powerful hardware. This shouldn’t surprise me though. It’s that meticulousness that separates a Nintendo game from the rest of the imitators.
The real feat here is that Nintendo created an E-rated game that has the ability to be genuinely creepy from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, Luigi’s Mansion isn’t going to have you trembling in bed at the end of the night but the atmosphere captured in the dusty-old mansion does a good job of keeping you from never really settling in. A sparing use of sound effects and an almost nonexistent soundtrack actually enhance the overall mood of the game.
The most significant shortcoming of Luigi’s Mansion is its short length and lack of replay value. The main game will take you about 6-8 hours to beat in full and there isn’t much incentive to keep playing upon completion. Considering I purchased the game for a measly $10, I have no complaints over the value of this package but if I would have paid the $50 asking price when it was first released, I might not have been a satisfied customer. However, I can see how the shortness could also be seen as a positive as this is a game I can easily see myself revisiting every October to compliment the chilling Halloween season.
The interesting thing about playing a game that is over a decade old is being able to see how it has aged when compared to modern standards/conventions, and besides a slightly outdated save system, Luigi’s Mansion has aged beautifully. Most of this has to do with an impressive game engine and the unique vacuum mechanics that lend to a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Even though the subject matter in Luigi’s Mansion is a little darker than the usual Nintendo fare, this game is filled to the brim with the adorable charm we’ve come to expect from these first-party adventures. To be clear though, this isn’t a game that’s quite on par with any of Mario’s 3D outings but it’s a great change of pace that should keep you thoroughly entertained for a few days. I wouldn’t mind if Mario went missing more often.
SCORE: 8 out of 10
Rayman charges onto iOS
Remember that masterpiece of a game that was released last winter called Rayman Origins? Oh, you don’t, eh. What’s that? You were too busy playing Modern Warfare 3 and listening to Nickelback? Good to hear your life is filled with creativity and substance. Anyway, Rayman Origins… it’s one of the BEST 2D platformers of all time. Not only that, it’s also one of the most strikingly beautiful games I’ve ever laid eyes on. If you haven’t played it I highly recommend purchasing a copy with this week’s paycheck. The price has been reduced to about $20 at most stores and I’ve even seen it as cheap $9.99 before.
So why this chatter about Rayman Origins? Rayman Jungle Run is why. It’s a new 2D-platforming game developed for iOS and it’s an absolute blast! Thanks to a responsive single-button control scheme, “Jungle Run” is the most accessible and optimized platforming game you’re likely to experience on a touch-screen device. If you enjoyed Rayman Origins and need something to tide you over until Rayman Legends launches with the Wii U, I recommend picking up “Jungle Run” immediately.
And if Ubisoft continues to deliver experiences of this caliber, it’s only a matter of time before Rayman is king of the platforming world.
Step it up, Mario.
CURRENTLY PLAYING: 1080 Avalanche
I want to start this off by stating that I was a huge fan of the original 1080 on the Nintendo 64 so it’s perplexing to think that it took me until last week to pick up the sequel for the GameCube. Why did I wait nine years since the game was released and seven since the GameCube was discontinued to play this game? I honestly have no answer for that question. I remember seeing ads and hearing people talk about Avalanche but I don’t remember being interested. I guess the important thing is that I’ve finally played the game and it’s a blast.
Avalanche really is a departure from the original 1080 in many ways. The most notable difference is the extreme theme and arcade graphics/presentation. I always thought the original 1080 to be a realistic snowboarding game and while Avalanche has fairly realistic physics, it plays more like an arcade game made by SEGA than it does its N64 predecessor. Many people have made the claim that the game is trying to be SSX but it reminds me more of the over-looked Rippin’ Riders on the Dreamcast.
The courses in Avalanche are pretty spectacular and they offer up plenty of alternative routes and secrets pathways. Initially, I thought Match Mode was the sole attraction of the game but I quickly learned that the other modes (Gate Challenge, Trick Attack, and Time Trials) were much more than an afterthought. You actually have to play them if you want to unlock better boards and luckily doing this doesn’t feel like a chore in the slightest. The unlocking system in the game actually adds to Avalanche’s the replay value.
The only bad thing I can say about Avalanche at this point in time is that the character’s personalities are very generic and their voices/dialog are cringe-worthy. Who cares though? The only time you have to endure their douche-baggery is the five-seconds you’ll spend at the character select screen. Another slight complaint is that there only seems to be six or seven tracks for multiplayer racing but it’s possible that there are more that I have yet to unlock.
With all of that said, I could easily see why fans of the original may not have been immediately attracted to Avalanche because it really does feel like a different game. Regardless though, the fun factor is still high and I’d definitely recommended adding this one to your collection if you ever come across it.
ALREADY FALLING FOR FALL
The absolute best time of the year is about three weeks away and I can’t help but jump-the-gun and start enjoying Fall related pastimes now even though it’s still 90 degrees in Michigan every friggin’ day (F-you, Global Warming).
Scary movie marathons have already infiltrated their way into my life, Sam Adam’s Harvest Collection beer has made it’s way into my fridge and belly, I’ve attended a high school football game, and purchased this year’s iteration of Madden. I’ve loaded my iPhone with music to compliment the weather, started shopping for Halloween decorations, and I swear I’m merely minutes away from wearing a scarf on a daily basis. Well, I probably won’t go that far but I’m sure you get the idea.
Since I’ve been feeling so festive and exuberant over the arrival of the years best season, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite albums, movies, and TV shows to enjoy in the upcoming months.
— MUSIC —
— MOVIES —
— TV —
NOTE: I totally forgot to add “The League” to TV and “Disturbia” to Movies. I’m sure there are so many others that I’m forgetting but can’t think of them at this moment in time.
THE BARGAIN BIN
A few weeks ago my wife and I decided to pick up a new 43” plasma for the living room. Believe it or not, this is the first true HD television to be welcomed into our home. Yes, really. I was against making the technological leap for years because I was terrified of the input lag that’s so prevalent in HDTVs. After researching just about every HDTV on the market under $1,000, I found a plasma that has no input lag - none - and so far it has been a great addition to our house. It also happened to be a good time to shop for games because with the current consoles at the end of their lifespans, there are some great bargain bin games to be found. Every game on this list was purchased brand new for $14.99 or cheaper.
THE DARKNESS II - (GameRankings Score: 81.14%)
The Darkness II wowed me right away with its explosive presentation and surprisingly detailed cell-shaded graphics. It really is GREAT to look at and it has some very memorable moments - most notably an on-rails tour through a haunted-house-type carnival ride. But regardless of visual fidelity, The Darkness II is the definition of a renter. The campaign only lasted about 6 hours and the gameplay was very frustrating due to lack of ammo. I never felt like I could just gun my way through the hordes of enemies the game threw at me; I always felt like I was overpowered and on the verge of death. Some people may like this approach but I don’t enjoy that kind of tension and frustration. Don’t get me wrong, I like a challenge but this is more unmanageable than it is a challenge. Overall it was still a fun game that I can’t really recommend for more than a rental. Luckily, I only payed $15 for it at Best Buy.
KILLZONE 2 - (GameRankings Score:90.44%)
I’ve been wanting to play the Killzone games for a long time now. After we purchased the new TV we realized we forgot to buy an HDMI cable for our PS3. So we went back to Best Buy for the cable and I finally made the decision to pick up Killzone 2 for a measly $15. I haven’t really spent too much time with it yet but I really dug the presentation and atmosphere of the first couple stages.
NOTE: I just read somewhere that Sony may be gearing up to release a Killzone trilogy. Wish I would have known that sooner because I would have abstained from picking up “Killzone 2” last week.
RAGE - (GameRankings Score: 81.81%)
First off, this is one of the best looking games I’ve ever played - PERIOD. The smooth-as-butter frame rate is instantly noticeable and the attention to detail is jaw-dropping. It’s too bad Rage takes place in such a barren and desolate setting. I’ve logged about 4 hours with this one and so far I’m very indifferent to it. I don’t really feel much motivation to move onto the next mission or even explore the landscapes. I do however enjoy the gun-play even though the precision of the weapons feels a little off. I have a feeling Rage is going to collect dust on the shelf until I have nearly no other games to play. I don’t hate it by any means but I feel little motivation to progress.
NAIL’D - (GameRankings Score: 66.97%)
Of all the games I’ve purchased recently, Nail’d has the worst critic score on GameRankings. I find this funny because it’s actually the game I enjoy the most of all my bargain-bin purchases. It sure does have a good amount of glitches and bugs but the fast-paced gameplay is the sort of thing that I get pure enjoyment out of. I picked this game up at Toys R Us for $15 and it looks to have been a very good investment.
YOU DON’T KNOW JACK -(GameRankings Score: 82.52%)
I really enjoy trivia games. It’s a nice change of pace when you want to relax in front of the TV and a movie just isn’t interactive enough. Even though the game spends far too much time cracking cheesy jokes and showing drawn-out cut scenes, it’s still very fun. The problem with You Don’t Know Jack is that my wife beats me… EVERY DAMN TIME. I don’t mind losing the occasional game here-and-there but I get frustrated as all hell when I consistently lose (which rarely happens). So even though I like this game, I have a feeling it may turn into a frisbee in the near future.
BRINK - (GameRankings Score: 69.38%)
Last Friday I ordered Brink from BestBuy.com simply because it was on sale for $4.99. I remembered this game had a lot of hype previous to it’s release but it failed to meet expectations when it hit shelves in May of 2011 so I figured I’d pass. Well, it’s hard to pass on any brand-new $5 game. The game is due to hit my mailbox later this week and hopefully I’ll have something to share about it.