Scooby-Doo! Mystery Mayhem Review

Developer: A2M Publisher: THQ
Release Date: March 2, 2004 Also On: GCN, PS2 and Xbox

For a company to make a decent licensed game is usually a fluke. For a company to consistently make them, though, shows nothing less than a true commitment to giving gamers nothing but the absolute best. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, and now Scooby-Doo: Mystery Mayhem, have me thinking that THQ is one of these companies.

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Now, I am no more a fan of Scooby-Doo than I was of SpongeBob when that game was sent my way, but it is obvious that true effort has gone into this game to make it both a good game and a game that is true to the cartoon it is based on. For me to be able to tell that without having ever seen the cartoon is saying a lot in itself.

Now, let’s get into the meat of the review. The graphics are pretty good. They do indeed look like a cartoon. Sure, they don’t push the GCN to its limits graphically, but most games don’t, and, in fact, don’t need to. The graphics make the game look just like an episode of the cartoon, and that is all that is truly necessary for a game of this type.

The same can be said for the sound and the voice acting. The music is very forgettable, and the sound effects are just the standard fare for a game of this type. However, the voice acting is done superbly. The main characters sound scared when they need to sound scared (which seems to be about 90% of the time), and the one brainy girl certainly sounds like a nerdish brainy girl. The rest of the sound is average fare, but the voice acting breathes a lot of life into the game.

The story seems to be just a conglomeration of ghost-hunting and more ghost-hunting. It is just a brief excuse, as presented in a few cutscenes, to explain why Shaggy and Scooby are running around doing what they’re doing. Actually, each of the five levels has its own subplot. Don’t expect an in-depth RPG-style story here, because you won’t get it.

Now, the one major area where this game loses points with me: the gameplay. Let me be clear that the gameplay is executed well, but, unfortunately, it is in a style that I don’t like. Whereas Battle for Bikini Bottom borrowed heavily from Mario 64 and such platformers, this game borrows instead from Luigi’s Mansion. Luigi’s Mansion was one of those love/hate games, and I lean more toward the hate end of the spectrum.

The system is slightly changed though. Instead of using a vacuum, you use a book to suck in the ghosts. Yes, a book. Why would they use a book? I don’t know. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about anything like shining a flashlight on the ghost and then immediately start sucking like in Luigi’s Mansion, but you only have to get within range and open the book. You have to be careful not to be too close to a ghost when you try to open the book on it because the animation of Shaggy and Scooby holding the book open takes a few frames to load, and you can easily be hit in that time.

After you finally get the book open and a ghost in its view, you have to rapidly hit a button while holding down the button to hold the book open, with the button you need to press repeatedly dependent on which one appears when the ghost gets caught by the book.

The game even gets cheap sometimes and changes buttons on you in the middle of bringing in a ghost, and if you don’t switch buttons quickly, the ghost will hit you and escape. I was literally hit at least fifty times by ghosts as a result of that during the course of playing the game for the purpose of reviewing it. To make matters even worse, the book has an energy source that allows it to bring in the ghosts, and if you run out of that in the middle of bringing in a ghost, the ghost will escape. Luckily, this won’t happen often, and refills on the energy are very plenteous.

All of this would be fine were it not for the life system. Any time a ghost scares Shaggy and Scooby, they lose “cool”. If they lose all of their cool, they will run around uncontrollably for about ten seconds every time they get hit yelling and screaming like mad. They only “die” if they run into a ghost while doing this, and they will otherwise just continue on with no cool after they’re calmed down a bit. However, later on in the game, they make it so scary things are so plenteous that it is impossible to last long after losing all your cool. The problem with this system is that you lose about one-third of your cool whenever you get scared by a ghost, making it very easy to lose your cool fast.

Okay, I’m done complaining about the gameplay. For the most part, my problems were likely caused by a lack of talent at games in this vein, and those who have played and beaten Luigi’s Mansion would have fewer problems. For the most part, the gameplay is very good with appropriate cutscenes at appropriate times.

So far as replay value goes, there isn’t really that much. Each episode has clues and sandwich parts to collect. Collecting the clues unlocks concept art and collecting the sandwich parts unlocks mini-games. Overall, though, once you’ve collected all that, the only reason to come back is to play the mini-games, and that isn’t really that much motivation.

Aside from a few personal problems with the style of this game, I really have very few complaints about it. Any Scooby-Doo fan would do well to at least rent this game, as would all the fans of Luigi’s Mansion who are clamoring for a sequel.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 4
Final: 6.8
Written by Martin Review Guide

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