Review: Scooby Doo: Mystery Mayhem (PS2)

Game: Scooby Doo: Mystery Mayhem
System: Sony Playstation 2
Genre: Action / Puzzle
Developer: Artificial Mind & Movement
Publisher THQ
Released: 3/2/04

You know, I never really understood the practical fascination some people have with the Scooby Doo cartoon series. It’s just another one of those cartoons Hanna Barbara was pumping out featuring befuddled teens, loveable animal mascots, mysteries the FBI and the CIA SOMEHOW could never solve and the Harlem Globetrotters were thrown somewhere into the mix. You probably remember these shows, right? Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, Space Ghost, The Super Friends (with Wendy, Marvin, and Wonderdog…yeah), Captain Caveman, Josie & the Pussycats, and a SLEW of others that could probably fill their own column. All of them were campy as hell, and pretty average at best. So what made Scooby Doo all that different?

Now the original Scooby Doo series was okay, but its countless reincarnations made the show unbearable to watch. The introduction of Scrappy Doo. The reductions of the cast. The movies that made no sense. That f*ckin’ FLIM FLAM brat in the “13 Ghosts” miniseries. And then came the mid-late ’90s resurrection of the cowardly canine. The “new” movies with rehashed plots, and “new” TV show that’s the same old crap dressed in the skin of better animation. The fact that the Cartoon Network is constantly pushing the dog and his cronies down our throats is maddening. I can’t go for 24 hours without seeing shows, commercials, or what have you with that damn dog. I’ve grown to HATE that dog.

Needless to say, when I volunteered to write the review for Scooby Doo: Mystery Mayhem, I was taking one for the team.

For the record, I tried my damnedest not to let my previous hatred for all things Scooby Doo interfere with the review of the game. After all, there have been semi-enjoyable games out there based on horrible franchises before, right? So sit back, relax, and enjoy as I tear apart objectively look at…


THE OFFICIAL 411GAMES REVIEW


STORY

The Scooby Doo series has been home to the most basic, clichéd, predictable story formula ever seen on TV. The scary thing is that the developers got the formula down to a T.

So the story goes like this: when Mystery Inc. investigates a haunted library mystery (I think its the 18th one so far), they come to find there are REAL LIVE GHOSTS haunting it. After splitting up for a while, Scooby Doo and Shaggy come across a mysterious book called the “Tomb of Doom” (oy vey). And by a fluke accident, they find that the book can suck up the ghosts terrorizing the place. Now its up to them to get rid of the ghosts, and any other evil villains in masks they find along the way.

The game is split up into five different levels, and really five separate stories when you look at them. Each one has the same basic formula: drive to the haunted place, split up, look for clues, run into ghosts, run into the guy in the mask, catch the ghosts, capture the guy in the mask, remove the mask, foil the plans, share a humorous moment, and BINGO! You’re on to the next mystery.

Granted that for the purpose of the game, there are certain things to loosely connect the mysteries together, like the Tomb of Doom, and a couple of characters that show up in between sections. But even without the connections, the separate missions are pretty solid on their own.

Perhaps this is where I found the downfall in the story. Instead of one linear mission, you’re given five different nuggets to slug through, with practically identical plot points like in the TV show. The only differences are the locations, the people in the mask, and why they dressed up so ridiculously. These points aside, the set-up stays true to the Scooby universe in many ways.

Story: 7/10


GRAPHICS

For the most part, the cast and characters of the TV series made the transition into 3D without too much trouble. The mouths on each character are about three times the size that of the cartoons, but we can ignore that fact for the most part. Still, the models themselves aren’t perfect. During the cut scenes especially, we’ll see little polygon bits stick out of Fred’s underarm, or Shaggy’s leg, and disappear just as quickly to reveal NEW polygon bits in other weird places.

As far as your environments go, most of them are pretty…well…dark. Not just “setting the mood because it’s a spooky place” dark, but “can’t see what the hell you’re doing without setting the brightness on the TV to 95% or higher” dark. Whenever you’re exploring a cave, or a graveyard set, or other things along those lines, you better pray you can see beyond the murky blackness and brownness around you. On the other side of the coin, the areas that are well lit are very nice looking, with large amounts of color and detail.

Being a 3D game, you may expect the camera to be pretty finicky. However, I really didn’t have to many problems with it. The camera stays behind you 80% of the time, and you can position it well manually with the right analogue stick. There are times when it moves out of place, or zooms in too close, but they’re actually few and far between. I can honestly say I had no problems with the camera.

Graphics: 6/10


Ro, Raggy! Ron’t ro it! Rit’s rot RAT RAD a rame!


SOUND

As for the SOUND category, however, I had plenty of problems.

First, I’ll focus on the music. It starts out well with the original Scooby Doo theme song, but after that, the in-game music gets pretty bland and repetitive. About 80% of the tracks are low-key remixes of the main theme, and are played so low sometimes that you don’t know music’s playing. The music doesn’t even pick up that much when you’re catching ghosts! You just get a xylophone diddy as you suck the ghosts away. (No, not like THAT! PERVERT!)

Then come the voices. OY, do the voices grate on my last nerve! I will say that all the teenagers are spot on in terms of voice quality, but that’s just the problem. I find their voices to be VERY annoying on the TV show to begin with. Especially Shaggy’s which is why he hangs around Scooby for the entire game, I believe. And the jokes he cracks throughout the entire adventure make me want to rub my eyes out with a cheese grater and set fire to the remains. We hear little gems like “Hey Scoob, I’m a ghost wrangler! Get it?” every 30 seconds. Yeah.

To add to that, Scooby’s voice is the absolute WORST Scooby voice I’ve ever heard. Think of a prepubescent Scooby just starting to go through puberty. THAT’S your Scooby voice…ugh…

What I DO find humorous about the voices is that characters will speak when they’re NOT EVEN PRESENT! Shaggy and Scooby travel everywhere together, but will get separated every now and then. However, during certain occasions, you’ll hear your missing partner speak to you as if they’re beyond the grave! Now THAT, my friends, is worthy of a “Zoinks!”

But to make matters worse, the voices are not the worst thing here. That honor goes to…

The Laugh Track

Yes, the rocket scientists who made the game thought it would be a more authentic Scooby romp to include a laugh track reminiscent of the original shows. While the idea is good in theory, it is LARGELY misused here. It’s used during the cut scenes after someone cracks an unfunny joke in order to make it seem funny. It’s also used at the beginning of the game after they tell you how the controls work. No jokes, just information like this:

“Press the X button over there to crawl under the bookshelf.” (Cue laugh track)

There is a permanent dent in my wall made by my skull to get these moments out of my brain.

And that’s not even the WORST of it! There are a few mini-games to go through in certain spots, like mine-cart and motorcycle riding. (We’ll get into the details of them later.) So lets say you mess up by either falling down a pit or into the water and drowning. The laugh track will play and TAUNT YOU FOR MESSING UP! “HA, HA!” the game will cackle. “YOU KILLED A GOOFY TEEN AND HIS MUTT! YOU LOSER!”

Or maybe it’s just laughing at me for reviewing the game. I haven’t decided which yet.

Sound: 3/10


CONTROL

When you play the game, you control Scooby and Shaggy simultaneously. One follows the other as you move with the left analogue stick. A strange thing is that you can’t jump here. Instead, you use the X button when you’re next to specific obstacles in order to perform various actions, such as climbing, operating heavy machinery, etc.

The O button is used to switch characters, but this action is completely and utterly worthless. Why? Because except for Scooby’s ability to squeeze through small spaces, both Scooby and Shaggy have the EXACT SAME MOVES! In fact, Shaggy doesn’t even have any unique moves of his own! He’s essentially an inferior version of the damn dog. Granted there are some team-animations like climbing, but that’s the complete extent of the two-person gameplay.

The Square button operates the “Tomb of Doom”. When you see a ghost running around, you can open the book and suck the ghost it by mashing the buttons that appear on screen. You know what this means? It means that they ripped off the Luigi’s Mansion play mechanics for this game! Yes, you run around a haunted place scared out of your wits, and you capture ghosts in a vacuum book! Did we really need another one of these games? I mean, Luigi’s Mansion was enjoyable for being the first of its kind, but WHY the bad rip-off now?!?

Well, there IS the difference in the fact that you need to “power up” the book by collecting balls of ectoplasmic energy around the levels. But even then, they made this task too easy by including a “demon head” around nearly every turn that can fill you r book up completely without EVER having to collect the small spheres.

Also, holding the R1 buttons will bring you into “sneak mode”. While sneaking about, there is apparently less of a chance of ghosts seeing you, even if you’re right next to them. Truth be told, the only time you’ll really need this function comes at the beginning of the game when you don’t have the ToD yet. After that, all you need is to open the book for your ghost problems to be solved.

Pressing the Triangle button will call up your stats, including your energy meter. It’s not a “life” meter by any means. It’s a “cool” meter. Every time you get scared by the ghosts (or several inanimate objects…yes, you can LOSE THE GAME by getting scared by a falling tree branch), you’ll “lose your cool”. (I’ll leave out the joke that these two aren’t “cool” in the first place.) Once your cool meter is at 0, you won’t “die”. Instead, you’ll run around in a panicked state for a few seconds with little control. If you can survive those few seconds without getting scared again, you’ll still be able to walk around the level…until the NEXT time you screw up. Lose it completely, and you’ll have to start again from the last save point. You can recharge the cool meter by eating (what else) Scooby Snacks found throughout the levels.

Finally, pressing the L1 button will call up a list of tasks for you to accomplish. Those you’ve done already will be checked off. It’s actually a good way to keep track of your progress and not get too entirely lost.

Overall, the controls are fairly responsive. I say fairly because there seems to be a slight delay sometimes between a button press and the action taken. But without the ability to jump, and the fact that you control two guys that are 99.9% the same, it takes away from the overall experience.

Control: 5/10


You can take damage from that. And it never even touches you…ugh…


REPLAY VALUE

There ARE things the developers gave you to try and trick you get you to come back.

In each level, there are several things you can collect. For starters, there are five “clues” in every level. Collecting them will unlock game art and storyboards used for the game. The clues are completely optional, and have no bearing on the missions. (Yes, “clues” to solve a mystery are optional. Try and figure that one out.) You can view these in the Extras menu. Also, there are five “sandwich ingredients” per level. Collecting these and making a sandwich will unlock special mini-games outside of the main game. But I have to tell you that many of these mini-games aren’t worth the time to get. They are simply extensions of the Mine Cart level, Motorcycle level, and other odds and ends with nearly no originality added in.

In any case, don’t worry if you missed an ingredient or two when going through the missions. The game gives you the option to go back into any previously completed level to find what you missed. Too bad you need to collect all the other items AGAIN along with that.

Aside from mini-games and whatnot, there’s not a whole lot else to keep me playing this disc. In fact, as soon as the end credits finished for me, it went STRAIGHT back to GameFly.com. It took all the willpower in me to not burn the sucker in a religious sacrifice to the almighty Eggplant Wizard.

Replay Value: 5/10


BALANCE

This game is pretty much geared towards small children in the presentation and game design. So if you’re looking for a challenging game, you best look elsewhere.

For the first four levels out of the five, the game is horribly easy as in what you need to do. In fact, the only difficulty comes from the tediousness and frustration you’ll experience by backtracking through the same areas at a minimum of FOUR TIMES APIECE in order to advance. I was about ready to throw my controller through the window and chew on the broken glass than have to go through the Castle movie set one last time.

The last level is where the difficulty is sent careening from “What Difficulty?” to “Mildly-Difficult”. It’s still a bit easy, but the jump will catch you off guard as you have to learn how to sneak again, and discover actual STRATEGIES on how to get past obstacles instead of simply bumbling around and mistakenly stumbling on the solution. Long story short, the game balance stinks.

The same goes for boss battles. In fact, these are some of the most RIDICULOUS boss battles I’ve even been a part of. You never actually “fight” the bosses. You either suck up the ghosts surrounding them (since they are the villains in masks), or just run away from them. Hell, all you do to the second boss is run as fast as you can away from him. He’ll lose health by…sigh…running out of breath. (The sad thing is that it mimics the Scoobyverse exactly in this regard.) So the boss battles might as well not be bosses at all.

Balance: 4/10


That does it. I will officially have NIGHTMARES tonight!


ORIGINALITY

Okay, you have a game that mimics the TV series 95% perfectly, gameplay lifted from Luigi’s Mansion, and sneaking sessions that probably came from Metal Gear Solid. Would YOU call this game original? Especially since it went WAY out of its way to try NOT to be? I didn’t think so.

Seriously, I can’t find very much (if ANYTHING) even remotely unique to this game. I can get the same cornball antics from Shag and Scoob on the Cartoon Network. I can capture ghosts with Luigi’s Mansion. I can sneak around in damn near EVERY game that’s come out since 1998. Making sandwiches and not dying when I run out of health, there’s nothing here that can’t be done in other titles.

Originality: 2/10


ADDICTIVENESS

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t a game that I’d want to play again. In fact, it got SO ridiculous that the only thing keeping me playing was the sheer bliss that I’d feel when I got to tear it up in a review!

On a more objective note, there really isn’t much to keep you from returning it. Unless, of course, you LIKE playing the same episode five times in a row with only the locations and faces changed.

Addictiveness: 3/10


Metal Gear Scooby: Lack of Substance


APPEAL FACTOR

The sad thing is that this game WILL appeal to certain people. Scooby Doo has a big fan base, AND the game has been released on all three of the big systems, after all.

The main audience I can see playing this is the young crowd. The game is pretty easy on the whole, and the controls aren’t that complex. Plus, the campy jokes and sight gags won’t be as lost as they were on me. And perhaps older Scooby fans will give this one a go, if only to reclaim some of their lost childhood.

Appeal Factor: 6/10


MISCELLANEOUS

The worst thing about this game is that its simply another way to feed the cash cow that is Scooby Doo. The episodes are set up like the TV shows so you get suckered into watching more shows and movies. They even ADVERTISE their latest movie, video, and DVD releases in the bonuses section. That’s just shameless self-promotion and wasted disc space. I don’t think I’ve come across a game with as much blatant advertising as this one in a LONG time.

Miscellaneous: 3/10


Must’ve been looking at the final draft of the game.


THE SCORES

Story: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 3/10
Control: 5/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Balance: 4/10
Originality: 2/10
Addictiveness: 3/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10
TOTAL: 44/100 (Reviewer’s Tilt: 45/100)