What I Learned in Luigi’s Mansion

I have not been much of a console gamer in the past ten years, or perhaps at all. For a long time, my newest console was the Super Nintendo, which still has wonderful games. I consumed Luigi’s Mansion in two fairly long sittings, so let us see what lessons it holds for our normal topic of MMOs, as well as life in general.

The enemy will always give us the tools we need to defeat him. If you need to melt something, there will be a fire source nearby, probably in the room. If you have no tools with which to defeat the enemy, expect him to throw your tools at you. Luigi’s Mansion does not do the annoying thing of having one room that requires the fire from room 1, the water from room 35, and the ice from sub-basement 4, with only one moment where the item you need is down the hallway instead of in the room. Simplistic, but it eliminates some useless running.

I recently moved into a house designed by video game makers rather than architects. There are rooms on the first floor that can only be accessed by a route through the third floor. I can get to one of the stairwells only by going out back, through the courtyard. There are three elevators in the house, each of which goes between only two floors. Those who have played City of Heroes are very familiar with buildings that have ten sets of elevators, because having one set to cover multiple floors would be very inefficient.

Accentuating this architecture, the key to the room next door can safely be assumed to be in the room furthest away. If we do not add unnecessary running through the items for each room/puzzle, you can always do so with absurd keys. The early levels do an effective bait-and-switch on this: the first few times, the key is within a few rooms, and there is even a note about the room whose key is squirreled away somewhere else. Then you start finding basement keys on the third floor, and the room down there opens the next room on the third floor. Yes, I know, you have done this before and I am whining; we are commiserating together. This is where we express empathy and wonder if excessive running through dead space is good game design.

Ghosts who walk through walls still feel the need to carry or guard keys. This is similar to how rats sometimes carry leather armor and slugs drop copper pieces.

Bugs make it even into console games. Collision detection is apparently very hard. Also, at one point, you need to go find the key to a room that has been unlocked for most of the game. You were wondering why there is one room in which you cannot do anything, including throwing the obvious switch? There is a trigger later in the game that reminds the door that it was supposed to be locked all this time, and once you unlock it, you can use the switch.

When in doubt, try doing everything you can to everything in the room you can access. In this game’s case, vacuum, shake, or burn everything around you until something happens. You know the drill, since most of you have played adventure games.

Cute is good. Cartoony graphics are very effective, especially when many attempts at photo-realism just look creepy. If someone looks about right on a still shot but is 5% off when moving or talking, you really notice that 5%. Mostly you notice that something is wrong with this person’s face… Good call for World of Warcraft.

Camera movement is hard. I recall many points in City of Heroes where the camera will go into odd zooms and leaps around walls and corners, and occasionally you are completely unable to see what you are fighting unless you swing the camera around while fighting with the other hand. You should hear my wife growl at Super Mario Sunshine when the camera is being uncooperative. One of the nice things about Eve Online is that the camera is extremely flexible. You can move the camera all around you, zoom in or out, and then change the direction of the camera: if you really want to, go orbit something while sending the camera in revolutions around you and spin it.

In Luigi’s Mansion, the camera does not move much. A few rooms have 3D interaction, but mostly you run on a flat floor, and the camera moves like a side-scroller. Except when you get to boss fights. Boss fights happen in a 3D arena, even when the fight is pretty much in 2D. The camera tries to move around helpfully to keep you and the enemy in sight. In theory. In practice, you might be anywhere on the screen, some hostiles will be in sight, and your ultimate target may be hanging just off camera. The final fight is absolutely the worst example of camera movement I have ever seen in any game. Visually, the fight is stunning, and it must have worked nicely in screen shots or demo videos. The background is great, and the boss is huge and impressive: most of the time, he takes up about a quarter of the screen. Frequently, he takes up two thirds of the screen, as the camera swings around so that the enemy is between you and the camera. I hope you memorized where the explosives behind him were. Also, in the attempt to keep you both visible, the camera will swing around while you are moving, so that you must turn continuously to run in a straight line. A game that sacrifices quality of play in favor of impressive visuals? I can hear your shock from here.

And with those assorted comments, we return you to your daily reading. If you have a GameCube, it could be worth a rental, probably not a purchase. It has Luigi in the title, which is like Mario, so my wife will play it.

: Zubon

One thought on “What I Learned in Luigi’s Mansion”

  1. Ghosts who walk through walls still feel the need to carry or guard keys. This is similar to how rats sometimes carry leather armor and slugs drop copper pieces.

    HAHA.. that’s great!

Comments are closed.