Let's make it clear: Luigi's Mansion is no Mario game. On the other hand, it is hardly a slouch, either. The game is certainly original, with intuitive control, unique gameplay, clever puzzles, and technically amazing graphics.
Luigi's Mansion feels like a Miyamoto-influenced game because of its gameplay structure. For instance, you have to figure out how to make ghosts appear and how to dispose of them. These puzzles lock you in a room until you have solved them. Fortunately, the ghosts, rooms, and puzzles provide enough variety. Although repetition never really becomes a problem, gameplay length and lack of replay value do hamper the experience.
On the other hand, the actual ghostbusting is very unique. Using the GameCube's dual analog sticks, you can maneuver Luigi and use your vacuum at the same time. This may present a small learning curve for some gamers. Once you make the ghosts appear, you have to shine your flashlight on them to freeze them. Once they are frozen, you can start to vacuum them. They will put up a fight, however, so you have to run around the room, avoiding traps and continuing to suck them up, until their health reaches zero.
Luigi's Mansion can be described as a graphical masterpiece. Even though the graphics do not make your jaw drop initially, the little things will impress you. How about real-time lighting with you flashlight? How about accurate physics when using your vacuum (e.g., blowing curtains)? How about comical, detailed cinema scenes? The sound is improved noticeably over past Mario games, too, with a realistic-sounding musical score and high-quality, well-placed sound effects. My only question is, why did Nintendo opt not to use spoken text?
Mario? Mariooo? Where are you? Although Luigi's Mansion is good, it is not a "killer app" for GameCube like Super Mario 64 was for Nintendo 64. In fact, this spin-off title comes across as being too short and not having enough replay value. If you are a huge Mario fan like me, however, then you will want to own it for the unique gameplay and Mario references. Luigi's Mansion is not for everyone, but it is a good game for some.