Scooby-Doo! Unmasked Review

Developer: Altron Publisher: THQ
Release Date: September 12, 2005 Also On: GBA, GCN, PS2 and Xbox

Coinciding with the release of the game of the same name on the consoles is the GBA version of Scooby-Doo: Unmasked. Containing the same plot and many similar gameplay elements of its console brother, one would think that the handheld version of the game would not be worth a look from those who have the console version, or vice versa. Yet, somehow, the GBA version oversteps those bounds and makes itself a game that, while not exactly a killer app for the GBA, is a better game compared to the capabilities of the system it’s on than the console version.

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Like the console version, the plot revolves around Mystery Inc. and their efforts to locate Fred’s cousin Jed who has disappeared. Like the old cartoon (or so is my understanding), each of the environments in which you will play will contain a stock mystery with a predictable outcome, but platformers have rarely if ever been overly worthy of commendation for their story, so the faithfulness to the Scooby-Doo style of story is of itself worthy of commendation even if not overly depth-filled.

Anyway, so far as the graphics go, the ones in this game, while not at the top of the charts in terms of detail, does its best to convey a 3D cartoon on a 2D screen. Overall, the graphics are quite good in most regards, both in the foreground and character design and in terms of the backgrounds, which look very appropriate to the environments which they represent. I have no major complaints in this category that I am aware of.

So far as the sound, the sound effects are the sort of cute type sound effects one would expect to find in this game. An enemy being defeated sounds more like a balloon deflating than something dying, for example. However, such things don’t constitute a major complaint. There isn’t much voice acting in this game, as the cut-scenes are done in this game by text due, I assume, to memory limitations, but what voice acting there is, like Scooby’s telltale “Scooby-dooby-doo” is done as well as can reasonably be expected for a GBA game. Also, the music does a good job of conveying the Scooby-Doo style of non-serious horror, and some small elements of it are even semi-addictive, such as the song that plays for the roller coaster rides. Overall, quite a good job was done with the sound in this game.

As far as gameplay is concerned, the brunt of this game is in the form of a typical 2D platformer containing nearly every platformer cliché known to video games, from platform jumping and defeating basic enemy types to the collecting aspect. Collecting makes sense in this game though since the items that Scooby is searching for are clues, and clues always play an integral part in the Scooby-Doo universe. It also contains some mild puzzle solving, although most of the puzzle solving relates somehow to the use of the costumes that Scooby can acquire throughout the game. The same three costumes that are in the console version of the game are in this version as well, with the difference that they can be put on and off at will, adding the mechanics of losing a costume if you die while wearing it and also going through some UV lights while they are inactive as you lose costumes by going through an active UV light while wearing one in this game as well.

Each of the four statuses that Scooby can have in the game have their points of usefulness (the fourth being the lack of a costume), as there are things that require each. Many of the puzzles revolve around using one costume to get to a point, then doing something there with a different costume. You can store up to four costumes in your inventory at a time though, not counting your default form, so it is easy to get one of each and cruise through the game.

But cruise through the game you will. There are only eight actual platforming levels in the game, as well as four boss battles. Other than the two training levels though, the levels are quite lengthy, however, and I more than once spent twenty-five or more minutes in a level just getting through it, not because the levels are difficult, but because they are lengthy. This lengthiness of the levels though makes the game roughly equivalent in length to such platformers as Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, not counting time for repeated attempts at the levels in that game. However, I more than once found myself having to quit and take a password in the middle of a level because of a lack of time, so I’d say that the game should have subdivided the levels just a little more.

Yes, that’s right, the game has a password system. The use of such an archaic save system, even on the GBA, is not necessary, as is evidenced by a vast majority of the GBA games in existence. Even worse is the fact that when copying down the passwords, some of the letters won’t look right, causing you to write down the wrong letter and thus get the password wrong upon your return. Such problems can usually be avoided by guessing where you made your mistake though, so this problem is not severe.

So, yes, this game is reasonably lengthy for a GBA platformer, but it lacks difficulty. With the exception of the end boss, I had to fight none of the bosses more than once, and what few times I died in a level somewhere were usually because of a mistake on my part more than the necessity of doing something difficult. To make matters even worse, when you’re in a level and you enter a screen with a food item or a clue, Scooby will get a little thought bubble above him to clue you in to that fact. Even worse, when the item in question is a clue, when you’ve progressed through the level a little to a certain point, the game will briefly take control from you and show you exactly where the clue is in comparison to your location, leaving you only to need to determine how to get there. Even with the food items, they are not hard to get to if you just explore a little. What we’re left with is an already easy game that babies the player, fully appropriate for a game that is in all likelihood aimed at kids, but still unnecessary.

On top of the actual platformer, there are four mini-games that you will have available to you in each of the four environments except the first one. They are the same games in every environment, although their difficulty increases in the later environments. The first is a rudimentary puzzle game similar to columns that has you lining up food items that fall from the top of the playing field (a grill) in rows of three and trying to match the one that Scooby or Shaggy is thinking of a certain number of times. This game is optional, but winning it will result in Scooby being allotted an extra unit of health.

There’s also a clue mini-game where you go through the clues to determine their truth or falsity, a roller coaster mini-game that is basically a test of your ability to follow on-track markings to avoid obstacles, and a reveal mini-game that requires you to press highlighted buttons to reveal the criminal in each of the environments. These last three are required in each environment and are completed in the order I described them between the second level of the environment and the boss battle. These do take away from the tedium of all the platforming, and the puzzle game in particular is entertaining for a little while.

Scooby-Doo: Unmasked is basically a platformer with a few mini-games added in for diversion. The game, while insanely easy, is still fun, although you likely won’t be inclined to play it again after you’ve beaten it. It lasts about as long as many GBA platformers as well, so, despite the fact that most of it is cliché and simple, it is still well worth a look for fans of 2D platformers, of Scooby-Doo, or of both.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 6.7
Written by Martin Review Guide

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