Just in time for the latest live- action Scooby Doo movie, here's the latest video game bearing the pawprint of everybody's favorite Great Dane. If you were expecting a sequel to the previous Scooby Doo game, Night of 100 Frights, you may be disappointed. While that game was like your basic Mario Bros. title, with lots of running around, collecting Scooby Snacks and unlocking new levels, this one plays more like a real mystery, with different chapters and lots of suspicious characters.
Velma's friendly neighborhood librarian has found his stacks spooked by ghosts. The Mystery Inc. gang investigates and find themselves embroiled in a whodunit that leads to a Wild West theme park and a movie set, along with visits down to the Bayou and to a secret high-tech lab. Of course, Fred suggests that Shaggy and Scooby split off from the gang, and most of the action involves them trying to relocate Fred, Daphne and Velma. Scoob and Shag collect clues along the way -- although it's never very clear exactly why -- and they also find ingredients to their beloved giant sandwiches. If they collect all the ingredients on a level, they unlock a mini-game. More important, they also find the Tome of Doom, which allows them to capture ghosts, mummies, zombies and other baddies.
The game scores points for its storyline and the many animated scenes that tie it all together. Some of the levels are really clever, and they take some puzzle-solving skills to overcome -- especially the Roman Colosseum set in the movie studio level. But overall, the game's kind of small-scale, especially when compared to Night of 100 Frights. My 5-year-old son doesn't care; for him, anything with Scooby Doo in it is a sure winner. He handled most of the challenges, including the multi-button-pressing required to capture ghosts. But the scenes where you had to steer through an abandoned mine on a runaway cart moved too fast for him.
This is a fun game, but it can be solved too quickly. Perhaps that's why it's priced $10 lower than most new games. In the end, I'd give the edge to Night of 100 Frights, because of its scale and because it throws all the fun monsters from classic Scooby Doo mysteries at you. Still, for die-hard Scooby fans, Mystery Mayhem is a must-play game.
Publication date: 04/22/04