It's a tale as old as time itself: a man and his dog, trying to fight the munchies, end up fighting ghosts and zombies while their three walking stereotypes of friends are busy "investigating." Truth be told, who isn't familiar with Scooby, Shaggy and the gang? You don't have to be a die-hard fan of the show to know the characters and their penchant for meddling in the plans of bad guys. So when I decided to take on the Mystery Inc. crew in their latest adventure, "Mystery Mayhem", I thought "Let me open a box of Scooby Snacks and find me some ghosts!" And I wasn't totally disappointed.
The story has our pals checking out a disturbance at the local library. When the Mystery Machine pulls up to the scene they find themselves with some real ghosts to deal with, not just the typical "guy in a bed sheet saying ?Boo!'" Of course, Fred and Daphne find a corner to make out in, Velma finds a book, and poor old Scooby and Shaggy are left to solve the case (and even though I'm just speculating about what Fred, Daphne and Velma are doing, it seem most logical to me). The first thing that hit me, from the opening cinematic, was how well THQ captured the feel of the cartoon. The requisite corny jokes are all in place, with the appropriate laugh track responses. The characters are rendered pretty well, although their mouths don't sync up with their dialogue. You do feel like you've just landed in the Scooby-Doo world as you start out, scouring the library for clues.
Quickly, though, you get bored. I can't really put my finger on it, but it seems that there's a lot of dead time in this game. By that, I mean you spend most of your time walking (or tip-toeing) from goal to goal. Nothing that interesting happens. Yes, you do encounter ghouls and specters that look pretty cool, but once you've fought and captured your first ghost, well, you've already experienced what the rest of the game is.
Okay, so maybe you're thinking, as I was at this point, that this game is not intended for gamers over, say 9 or 10. Sure, that makes sense, but as you progress through the game you come across some puzzles and levels that are definitely too challenging for your typical 10 year-old. I blame the controls for this. The controls during normal walking are decent enough, with the exception of the camera controls that seem to fight you every step you take. It's when you get to levels like the mine shaft ride or the motorbike romp through the bayou that the controls get tough. The margin of error is so small that I found myself having to repeat sections of both of these levels over and over. It takes too long to lean the mine cart one way and then the other, so you often times find yourself falling due to bad response time. At least you can control the speed of the motorbike, although there is no reverse, so if you find yourself heading towards a dead-end you didn't see coming because of the layout of the course, well, you just have to start over.
There's also an ill-conceived level where you are running from a red knight, but for some reason the scene is designed so you can't see where you're running. You're literally running at the screen, with various turns and obstacles popping out of nowhere to trip you up. It doesn't help that you have to run through the course three times, and if the red knight catches up with you and touches you once you go into a scared frenzy where the controls are even tougher and Scooby and Shaggy run faster.
During the cut scenes you get to watch as the Mystery Inc. gang drives from one stage to the next, and the dialogue definitely gets chuckles in the Scooby-Doo way. One of my favorite lines had Shaggy dreaming about an eggplant and marshmallow sandwich. Gross, but funny. The aforementioned laugh-tracks add to the humor as well. Watching these cut scenes really made me want to drive the Mystery Machine, but you never get to.
I could go on with the negatives, but I'll only mention two more. You get to go through the game as Scooby and Shaggy, controlling one while the other follows. You can change who you control by pressing "Y." As Scooby you have a special ability to crawl under some low objects. But there never is any reason to switch to Shaggy! He has no special abilities, which I think is a waste. If the game had presented me with times where I had to be Shaggy in order to reach certain areas, and Scooby to reach others, it would have been a very nice touch. Instead the whole functionality seems pointless. They could just have easily made it so you only control Scooby throughout the game.
The second and final point of contention for me was the repetition of sounds and dialogue. The music in each level loops over and over and over, and doesn't add anything to the experience. But more pressing was the amount of times I heard the same bit of dialogue repeated. The line "That's gotta hurt." ? "It did." played so many times I was eventually able to perfectly imitate the inflection and timing of the sound byte. Every time Shaggy said "Make it stop!" I agreed with him wholeheartedly.
I know it sounds like I'm ripping this game, but it did have some good points. Other than the repetition the sound was very good. The voices were dead on, and some of the things Shaggy and Scooby said where really pretty funny. Near the end of the game, when Velma, Fred and Daphne are under mind control you hear them say in monotone "Must?scare?Scooby?" interspersed with similarly monotone "Jinkies." That was pretty cool. The level where you travel through a movie studio, interacting with different movie sets was very pretty. For the most part all the environments in the game were nice to look at, but it really culminated in the detail of the move sets.
One level I enjoyed, more for the concept than the actual gameplay, had our two starving heroes pitted against each other in a hotel kitchen, seeing who could scarf down more food in a small amount of time. As you gorge yourself you begin to slow down, until finally you have the option to burp by pressing "A" and thus increasing your step. Hilarity ensues.