Reviewed: June 19, 2002
Released: May 22, 2002
Scooby-Doo was always one of my favorite cartoons (right behind Johnny Qwest) and I never missed an episode. Of course that was 25 years ago when the episodes were new and the Cartoon Network wasn’t saturating the viewer with Scooby marathons or 2-hour feature movies. At some time during the past two decades I guess I have outgrown Scooby, although I still enjoy the subtle Scooby jokes and references like the hilarious Mystery Machine segment in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
THQ now brings our favorite canine and his mystery lovin’ friends to the PS2 in Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights, a typical 3D platform romp for kids and maybe even adults who want to relive their childhood.
Call it luck or a masterful piece of marketing strategy, but this game arrives within weeks of the new CGI Scooby-Doo feature movie, which is sure to spark unprecedented sales. The Nintendo GameCube version is scheduled to arrive this Fall, probably just around the time Scooby makes his DVD debut. Brilliant – simply brilliant!
Night of 100 Frights brings back all the classic characters from the original cartoon series along with several familiar villains including the evil Mastermind, the main baddy in this adventure who has captured Fred, Daphne, and Velma, leaving Shaggy and Scoob to save the day. Explore 12 huge levels full of goodies and ghouls with plenty of nifty gadgets, Scooby Snacks and those famous towering club sandwiches.
The designers have managed to capture the very essence of the show by including the original opening song, classic character banter, and even a laugh track that gives you the illusion that you are playing an actual episode. The levels include plenty of creepy locations and are stocked with 20 classic monsters from the series. You will even run into guest stars such as Don Knotts who will aid you in your adventure.
Scooby plays like a typical platform game from the late 90’s. The control scheme is fairly intuitive, and you can make Scooby run, jump, swing from tires, and even dig for buried treasure. Some advanced moves like the double jump require you to find an “invention”; in this case the Springs, before you are allowed to double-tap the X button for increased jumping power.
You can find other items that will help you in your adventure. The Slippers let you move silently past zombies, ghosts, or other monsters, and the lampshade lets Scooby strike a pose and assume the shape of a lamp. The resulting effect is quite hilarious as monsters will often catch Scooby out of the corner of their eye then look at the lamp, first with an ! then a ? then return to their evil doings, which usually consists of walking back and forth across a pre-programmed route.
As with any platform game there has to be something to collect and in this case the obvious item would be Scooby Snacks. These doggy treats are scattered about the levels in single form and in boxes. You will need to collect a lot of these, as they are required to unlock doors granting you access to new parts of the game.
Another trademark platform feature is Scooby's ability to dispatch enemies by jumping on them; a combat tactic that can be traced back to the original Mario Brothers game. Of course things get "sticky" when Scoob is walking on tar and can no longer jump.
This game will test your memory as well as your dexterity. You will frequently discover locations, items, or puzzles that cannot be accessed or solved right away. This means you will do a lot of backtracking through the various levels. In the first level there is a key just out of reach. You cannot get it without the Springs that you find several levels deeper into the game. All of this backtracking is made easy by the use of conveniently located Rorp Rates…err... Warp Gates.
You are eased into the game by a training mission that takes place in a playground environment. Completion of this level will prepare you for all of the basic Scooby moves and give you enough Scooby Snacks to get you started on your quest. You will also learn about a few of the hazards you will encounter during the game, acquaint yourself with many of the power-ups, and learn how to monitor your health, which is cleverly represent by Scooby’s dog tags. Lose a tag – eat a sandwich or as Scoob calls it, “raried resure”. Once you get the shovel you can start digging for buried treasure whenever you see a flower poking out of the ground.
The graphics in Scooby-Doo are a unique mix of classic animation background art with CGI characters. During the opening movie and in-game cutscenes I had flashbacks to that Simpson’s episode where Homer and Bart entered the 3D world behind the bookcase and were being rendered in high-tech 3D graphics.
The overall visual style does a great job of capturing the magic of the series while introducing some new-tech graphical flair. The characters and environments are well modeled and rich with color. Special effects are subtle like dust clouds, paw prints, blowing curtains, etc. There is nothing too flashy, and it all feels perfectly natural for the premise of the game.
Once the game begins, it looks pretty much like every other platformer released in the past few years with one notable exception. This game has absolutely NO CAMERA CONTROL. Your right stick does nada and there isn’t even a “center view” button to snap the camera behind our canine hero. You are at the mercy of the programmers’ predetermined camera views at all times.
For the most part, these angles were acceptable, but there were numerous times that I wished I could spin the camera around or change the elevation to get a better angle on that jump into the Z-axis of the game. Pick-ups cast shadows that you can use to judge their location in 3D space, but there were several instances where I’m posing as a lamp and a zombie walked right into me when I was sure it would pass by. Some scenes are just really hard to judge.
If you are reading this review chances are you can already sing the theme song word for word. When the game’s opening movie started I was instantly taken back in time. The opening is perfectly recreated with the flying screeching bats coming out of the haunted house followed by the cheery theme song. There is also plenty of classic creepy Scooby music and eerie sound effects that accompany the entire game.
The voice acting is topnotch with many of the actors from the series reprising their roles. Not only are the main characters voiced with the current voice actors but several stars from the original series return to add some authenticity to this project. Fred is voiced by the original actor from the 70’s as well as several guest appearances by favorite stars such as Tim Conway, Don Knotts, and Tim Curry.
Perhaps one of the most interesting innovations is the inclusion of an actual laugh track. This totally creates the illusion of playing an actual episode but there are a few problems in its execution. The first is that the laugh track plays way too often, even when something not that funny happens. Second, is that it’s not a good laugh track. It sounds like they got three or four guys in the sound studio to laugh into a microphone. How hard would it have been to get a recording of an actual “crowd” laughing? It’s still a cool idea – just not as cool as it could have been.
Scooby is going to give kids around 20 hours of gameplay while adults will blaze through this title in 8-10 hours. There are lots of classic Scooby areas to explore, great items to discover, and thousands of snacks to munch on. The gameplay varies with many challenges and boss battles, and Shaggy will often appear to help out in some interesting and often humorous ways.
There’s no real reason to replay this game once you have finished it, but since most Scooby fans have seen each episode a dozen times there’s no reason not to replay this game (a dozen times). Some mini-games or secret levels would have extended the gameplay, but as it is we are left with only a few secret areas and some bonus DVD features.
Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights is a fun platform title that is a bit light in content and certainly not as challenging as the newer platform games like Maximo or Jak & Daxter. Once you get used to the lack of any camera control you can settle in for a classic Scooby mystery presented in true TV style, complete with cheesy dialog and a cheesier laugh track.
Scooby is great for kids and the thirty-something crowd trying to recapture their lost youth. It’s certainly a better alternative to watching those reruns on the Cartoon Network.