We're more used to seeing chainsaws in gory games like Doom, but don't worry, as it's not nearly as gruesome in Luigi's new adventure on the Nintendo Switch. That's what we learned at Nintendo's Spanish offices by playing the latest Luigi's Mansion 3 preview build, among other things of course.
But let's start from the beginning. The demo, which was more or less shown at Gamescom (only in video form), was finally available privately to the press. It's made up of two sections taken from Floor 7, including The Garden, which has a sinister boss waiting for us as well.
As expected (and most likely as a beautiful tribute to Super Mario Bros. 3's World 7) this floor is filled with plants and pipes. The overgrown vegetation covers grounds, walls, and ceilings, with grass so pleasant it looks like taken from any Zelda game, and with all sorts of pots, flowers, and sprouts. The most impressive of them all is the hulking tree growing in the middle of the hall, maintained by a watering can-wielding spectre. This spans several floors, because the seventh floor itself is a multi-tiered structure including many spaces and rooms.
It's a really nice contrast to the armours and jousts of the medieval floor we played at E3, both visually and in terms of the situations, encounters, and puzzles found within. In Los Angeles we learned basic controls, but with this session we further mastered Luigi and Gooigi with the Poltergust G-00. And here's our first warning: those controls require some training for you to feel totally comfortable with movement and aiming, and even then you'll fail here and there in the beginning.
Naturally, it's not the same as getting used to Luigi with the final game (Nintendo promises modes with additional aids and clues to ease things if needed too), but it's true some angles prove to be tricky for aiming. The system is as we described back then, and just like it should be, with left stick moving the character and right stick hoovering around, twin-stick shooter style, but with the caveat that the camera moves back and forth, albeit in a very smart way. Sometimes this makes the perfect alignment complicated between ghosts, environment objects, and the Poltergust, however.
To the rescue come motion controls, which in certain situations fell smoother and more natural, as you gently tilt the controller or the handheld console as you would with a real vacuum cleaner. Also in terms of controls, we appreciate that the action mapped to the X button (revealing ethereal, invisible elements by scanning the surroundings) can alternatively be triggered by pressing L+R at the same time, so don't be afraid about a potential 'claw' effect or cramped hands. Otherwise it's just a matter of getting accustomed to it, and when you do, you'll find a fantastic game which throws one great idea after another at you. At least that's how it feels after our first encounters.
For instance, a snake jumped at us from among the weeds, being inadvertently sucked onto Luigi's big nose. How could you get rid of it? You could press ZL+ZR to scare it away with the new Burst move, but a more unique way would be calling Gooigi (by pressing right stick or having a second player in), so that your slimy buddy can hoover the snake from a better position.
In each and every room we had fun with all the many interactive elements of the environment. As the series' trademark, everything rumbles and shakes due to the Poltergust's action, and with lovely visual effects, in this entry we seem to find even more reason for exploration and interaction. How about suctioning the hanging limb of a tree to use it as a jumping vine? And hoovering the leaves covering a ghost's face to then torchlight-shock it? Why don't you try blowing some air into a bathtub's water taps so that the water level rises and you can reach the delicious watermelons inside? And we haven't even mentioned yet that you can leave Gooigi on hoovering mode before getting back to controlling Luigi.
Also as a tribute to SMB3's World 7, other than the overgrown scenery, the Garden hides a bunch of pipes, which should be the dream of any mustachioed plumber. The most interesting part was when, after vacuuming the piles of beautiful petals covering a bathroom's floor, we managed to filter Gooigi through the then-revealed drainpipe, so that he could reach the secret treasure chest underground, as well as use another pipe to show up at the tube to grab a star-shaped gem, one of the six collectibles there are. By the way, all the gold and coins you keep hoovering can then be invested to buy 'something', but Nintendo wouldn't tell us what as of yet.
Another pretty great moment was when we realised we could suction a heavy, blunt object, to drag it around, and then use the new Slam feature to destroy parts of the scenery. But that is nothing compared to the circular saw, which was the clear highlight of this Floor 7, and the game mechanic the level puts to good use.
Luigi finds it idle on a workbench, so he immediately suctions it to work as an attachable extension of his own hoover. From then on it's all glorious, total destruction of the room. Couches blow up in feathers and springs, nightstands and wardrobes are reduced to splinter, grass is clean-shaved, and pesky roots and thorn-covered stems that get chopped down at the drop of a green hat. It's an absolute pleasure, and another demonstration of what Next Level Games is capable of in terms of physics, particles, and shredder effects. You could even say some plants end up 'dismembered', with their 'limbs' sliced off, but it's just that sort of chopping satisfaction that never feels violent or inappropriate for kids.
For some of the sections we were joined by a second player for some multiplayer fun, and by this we mean the story mode's drop-in/drop-out co-op option, and not the separate PvP experience. As such, at any given moment, a friend can enter the world as Gooigi. This means double the hoovering power to take the ghosty enemies down, along with a smoother and faster solution to the puzzles. It really seems like a well-considered addition, so we can see ourselves sharing the adventure, be it all the way or for the occasional bits.
Last but not least, we skipped to the seventh floor's final boss. Same as with the medieval boss, it takes several steps/stages and some good patience. Even though we had the two ghostbusters, with one of them wielding the fearsome circular saw, the truth is it proved to be a tough and somewhat tedious encounter, as you need to wait until its long-necked Venus Fly-Trap stretches its stalk in an attempt to catch one of the growing pumpkins, and then swiftly introduce that neck/stalk to the saw, so that the ghost is revealed and you can together slam it and suction it. The design for this boss is good enough, but its behaviour is a bit monotonous, to the point of annoyance.
But all in all we had a great time. When it launches, Luigi's Mansion 3 might have its initial difficulties with controls and perhaps a couple of irritating foes, but we know how Next Level Games works with content and all the rest is looking incredibly smart, charming, and rewarding. This Halloween adventure might very well become one of the most unique and likeable games of the year, and therefore another must-have for the Nintendo Switch.