The Scooby-Doo franchise has been around since 1969 and has enjoyed modest success over the years. There have been several version of the cartoon as well as spin-offs, holiday specials, variety shows, direct-to-video movies, and a few live-action movies as well. Most people are familiar with the Mystery Inc. gang and their lovable great dane Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp is a sequel to Torus Game’s First Frights, which was released in conjunction with the DVD release of Scooby-Doo! the Mystery Begins, a live-action movie. Spooky Swamp uses the same unique animation style featured in the first game and follows Mystery Inc. as they solve a mystery that all starts with an empty stomach.
Shaggy and Scooby are at the Mystery Inc. clubhouse that was introduced in the feature film Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. They catch a whiff of something delicious coming from the swamp outside, and decide to follow their noses to see if they can get a taste of whatever is responsible for the delectable aroma. What they find is a witch brewing a potion that is missing some key ingredients, and the mystery begins from their. The plot starts out simplistic but gets much more convoluted as you progress through the game.
The gameplay consists mostly of controlling on of the members of Mystery Inc. and combating various enemies, while searching for clues and collectibles. To help, each character has a different ability: Shaggy can use his yo-yo to swing from certain areas, Scooby-Doo can utilize the various doggy doors throughout each location, Velma can use her intellect to operate devices, Daphne can climb poles, and Fred can push heavy objects. You also have access in certain areas to a magnifying glass and a camera to help collect clues. Using a pin board to organize the clues you find on your adventure, you get a chance to identify the villain of the adventure.
The combat is pretty straight forward. You have a single attack, which varies depending on your character. Both Velma and Shaggy have ranged attacks, and Scooby, Fred and Daphne are melee fighters. In addition, each character can jump and perform a ground-pound attack. To keep things a little varied, there are certain enemies that require you to use items to defeat, such as the wrestler who is vulnerable to water that you can find in buckets. Overall, there isn’t that much strategy to it.
The game tries to mix it up a bit with some sleuthing sections and chase scenes, however most of the game will be running around three main areas and collecting various objects such as keys, clues, masks, Scooby Snacks, dog collars and letters to spell S-C-O-O-B-Y. While the game is a little repetitive and boring for the older fans of the franchise, the younger crowd will appreciate some of the nice little touches that are added to make the game more accessible. For example, you will never die if you fall into the swamp or off a cliff. This is a really good idea since you will probably fall a lot as you get used to the camera angles in the game. Also, you can switch between characters on the fly. If you lose all your health, you will respawn quickly, but you will lose some of the Scooby Snacks you have collected.
One downside to the game is a lot of backtracking with no map. The game isn’t too difficult that this poses a serious problem, but if you put the game down for awhile there is only a little snippet that tells you what you are supposed to be doing, so you will have to wander a bit as you get your bearings. The enemies respawn each time you enter an area, and they get a little more menacing as you progress through the story and your character’s abilities never grow in strength. However, even with the added challenge, there will be times where you are going back through the same area just to get a little bit of information, then it’s back again to find more. It can get a little tedious if you are used to rich level design, but it’s fine for the younger audience.
The game features drop-in/drop out co-op so if you need a little help in a section, a friend can easily jump into the game with you and just as easily drop out. It is not split-screened co-op, so you may battle with your buddy when trying to explore certain areas in the game but the easy co-op is a really nice feature of the game.
The character design is a departure from the animation from the series, but the characters all have the look and feel of their television counterparts. The voice acting of the Mystery Inc. characters is really good. They all have the nuances of the characters they are imitating, and if you are a real fan of the series, you will notice only slight differences.
The music is decent, if not forgettable. It captures the essence of each area you are exploring, but doesn’t use any of the familiar themes associated with Scooby Doo. Some of the sound effects are there, but they are not abundant or accurate enough to make you feel like you are truly inside a Scooby-Doo mystery. There is a laugh track to accompany some of the bad jokes made during the game, however the comic timing of the game itself is a little off.
The design of the game as a whole is a hit or miss affair. There is little pressure or consequence, which I find a nice change of pace from the games I’ve been playing lately. I can recommend this game for younger audiences that enjoy the cartoon, but there just isn’t enough in the game to hook anyone else. A parent or guardian may be able to get into the mix with the children, but I don’t think you will find too many adults playing this on their own. To be fair though, it’s not a bad game, it’s just a little shallow to suggest it to experienced gamers, even if you love the show.
Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp is rated E10+ for everyone 10 years and up and is available now for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation 2.
A review copy of the game was provided but did not affect the outcome of this review. This review was based on the Wii version of the game.