Scooby Doo Mystery – Review
1995 – Acclaim / Sunsoft
When I decided to write about and review games for the site, I got excited. I had an even better reason to pop in some games I always wanted to try but never got around to. And, as I was mainly a SEGA guy early on, there are more Nintendo titles on my list to try. Mind you I’ve had an NES and SNES for years now, and have played many of the most popular titles, but haven’t dug as deep into the library as I have for the SEGA Genesis.
So I have a stack of SNES games that I want to get to and decided to grab Scooby Doo Mystery off the top to review. I like Scooby Doo, I’m not a crazed fan, but the few seconds I had checked out of the game in the past looked pretty good. My initial thoughts were that it looks like an old Lucas Arts style graphic adventure game like “Day of the Tentacle” or “Monkey Island”. I didn’t expect it to be at that caliber but even something close would be fun.
I was wrong.
I wanted to like this game, I really did, but it did everything it could to stop me and succeeded. Let’s get into it.
In Scooby Doo Mystery for the Super Nintendo, Shaggy, Scooby and the Gang have to solve four mysteries. You take control of Shaggy and with Scooby in tow, you set about looking for clues. The other members of the gang, Fred, Velma & Daphne are along for the ride and will help out in various ways.
The four scenarios will have you visiting familiar Scooby locations. You start on The Ghost Ship, then visit The Fun Fair, the Spooky Swamp and finally the haunted Bradshaw Manor.
The cast of characters and crazy antics that they always end up in are very familiar to almost everyone. There are great characters, great locations, great villains, great music and great cameos. Watching the cartoon also provides a formula for the story: The gang has to visit some spooky place (either the van breaks down, or some distant relative is having ghost problems). The gang talks to the locals who describe the problem (normally 3 local characters are introduced). They start snooping around and are confronted by a monster. At some point there will be a chase scene when the music kicks in and Shag and Scooby run all over the place and hide in funny locations. Velma figures everything out based on all the clues they find. They set up a trap for Shag and Scooby to lead the monster into. Finaly they reveal the monster to be one of the 3 local characters met at the beginning fo the show. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
This sounds like the making of a good Scooby Doo game! The developers were handed a Scooby Snack on a platter, but rut-roh, they dropped the ball.
Each of the four episodes starts the same way. The van is driving down a road and the gang are inside discussing the upcoming mystery. The problem here is that right off the bat, the game ignores the shows formula. You never meet anyone involved in the “mystery”. Word bubbles from the van will name someone but you never see them or hear from them. Once the van stops the game switches immediately to the gang all standing at the first scene. You never meet Old Man Jenkins or whoever the final villain will end up being. What good is a monster reveal, when you don’t know the person anyway?…
Pretty soon the monster will pop up on the screen and warn the gang to leave, then quickly pop away in a puff of smoke. Fred normally tells Shaggy and Scooby to get busy looking for clues. You job is to find them and bring them to Velma, who will reveal more about the mystery with each clue you bring to her. Sometimes she will tell you to take whatever you found to Fred who may do something with it—normally open up another section of the level. And Daphne just hangs around looking good and gives you a Scooby Snack every now and then. All the other gang members will spread out and stay in one area where you can easily find them.
The map for each episode is made up of several side scrolling areas or rooms. You walk left and right and the area can be several screens wide. There are doors or passages either in the back or in the front that you push up or down to use which take you to another section. Sometimes a “clue” is required to access a new section. You often need to travel back through the same sections.
Now to get a clue… The “clues” in the game are laying right on the ground. The first one will most likely be on the screen when you start a level. Once you pick it up you take it to Velma, who will tell you what it is and normally remove it from your inventory. The problem here is that the clues are laying right out on the path, there is no looking for them. You will often be told that you just need item “X” to do something, you walk to the next screen and item “X” is right there on the ground. This happens over and over. You don’t even need to know what your looking for or need. Just walk through each scene and pick up the three or four things you see. You can even wait and bring them all to Velma at once. It’s a walking and picking things up simulator.
There are a couple clues that are hidden better and you have to use Scooby’s nose to find them. If you hold down the Y button and walk, Scooby will put his nose to the ground and sniff for clues. Once you are in the right area a clue will pop out of the ground. It seemed neat at first, but then becomes a chore. On the first level there is a sign that says “Search Here!”, then after that there are a couple times when Fred will say “There’s gotta be a clue buried around here somewhere” as a hint to sniff around. When he says this, the clue is normally a few feet from him. And then there are a couple clues that you get no information on. You will end up walking the length of every screen on the level in the very slow sniff mode to make sure you didn’t miss something. It gets old quick.
But I mentioned the monster that pops up at the beginning, what becomes of him? Well he disappears and is replaced by various “enemies” and I use that term loosely. At first I didn’t even realize they were bad. They are small, harmless looking rats, that run back and forth on the screen. Sometimes they throw in a scary unicycle or a parot, but mostly it’s the little rats. When you touch them, your Scare Meter (red bar) at the top center of the screen fills up rather quickly. If it fills all the way up, you lose one of your three lives. There are numerous issues with the enemies. First off there is no audio associated with them. They make no sound, when you touch them they make no sound and neither do you. They do not interact with you or attack you in any way, they just walk back and forth. I didn’t even realize my scare bar was filling up. Their hit box is also off, just getting close can “scare” you. Every now and then the real (fake) monster will pop back up on the screen and the same problems apply to him. There is no “pop” or music change or sinister laugh when he appears, nothing, he’s just there. Shag and Scooby don’t react or anything, just silence, it becomes very noticeable. The monster can even pop up right on top of you, quietly, and fill your meter up almost instantly, with no way for you to react, you just loose a life in silence. It’s odd because they do have a monster sound when he first appears at the beginning of the level but never use it again.
But you can attack the enemies! Well, sort of. On each level there are a couple clues you pick up that are not clues, but rather an item you can throw. It might be a rock or a can or some other random bit of junk. And actually hitting something with it, like a little rat, is nigh impossible. It’s a joke. When you throw, the item has a set path it will fly toward the ground, it is slow and will only “hit” a very tiny spot on the ground where it makes contact. You basically have to stand outside of the rats path and try and time the throw, normally while he is off screen, so that the can will hit the exact right area at the exact right time he is passing. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. And it’s worse or doesn’t work at all for other enemies. It’s so bad it makes you wonder if the developers ever played it. Most of the time the best thing to do is jump over them, which brings us to…
Jumping over the enemies is your best and most used technique. But when I say best, that means it’s the best bad option of nothing but bad options. The enemies move fast, sometimes very fast and Shaggy’s jump is slow and imprecise. You will often jump or run-jump over an enemy and it will look successful. But with the poor hit-box detection you actually just filled half of your meter up. Mind you, there is no sound to any of this, just the background music, you might not even notice. It’s very frustrating.
Jumping is also used in some platforming. There is a small section in each episode that will have you jumping from platform to platform. This part works OK. The collision of the platforms can be a problem. Don’t try to land on the edge as you will most likely fall through the platform, aim for the center. And god forbid they throw a rat in the mix. There is no ducking or changing the trajectory of your throw garbage, if the map doesn’t allow you the right position to stand in, you will never hit the rat.
There are also two mini games that appear every now and then. A sandwich stacking game where Shag is throwing food out of a fridge and Scooby tries to catch it, and a Whak-A-Mole screen with monsters. Both are lame and quickly over and gain you nothing.
The graphics of the game are what initially caught my eye. The characters are large, colorful and are very well drawn. Each member of the gang is here and they all look like their cartoon counterparts. Shaggy and Scooby are side by side at all times. You control Shaggy, and Scooby follows along. Running, jumping and sniffing animations are all very nice. I also like that when a new area is opened up, all the gang members will walk to the new location on there own and take up their new spot.
The backgrounds are for the most part very nice. Some episodes can get a bit repetitive, for example, all the rooms of a pirate ship look the same for instance. But overall I had no issue or complaints about the graphics. It seems to be where the developers spent most of their time and budget.
Here is an area where the game whiffs. The music from the cartoon is iconic. If you’ve ever watched more than one episode you know the tunes. And the game starts out pretty good. There are two songs straight from the show that the Super Nintendo does a good job of recreating and are perfect for walking around and looking for clues. But then there are other songs, I’m looking at you Fun Fair level, that are not from the show and are down right bad. It’s clear the composer is not at the level of the folks that wrote the original Scooby Doo tunes. They’re not just different, they don’t fit at all, and are even jarring, with odd chord changes and such that make it sound like a mistake. And then it will flip back over to a nice classic Scooby tune. They missed the boat, as there are two or three more classic tunes they could have added that would have been great.
As for the characters and other sound effects, they are almost completely absent. There are one or two voice samples that are used every now and then, but not enough. And as I’ve mentioned before most everything else is completely silent.
The game is not hard, at least not in a challenging way. The clues are right there in front of you, if you don’t see them just walk a few more feet. The rats and monster will silently kill you many times, but once you know the order of picking up the clues, it’s just a matter of walking. You can fly through each of the four episodes in 15 minutes or less once you’ve been through them. And once you do there is no reason to ever do so again.
There are some areas like a slide side game at the Fair, or some of the platforming that will kill you, but not due to skill, just poor design.
More things I hate:
Before closing this mystery up I wanted to mention other crappy things about this game.
The map. You hit the Left Shoulder button to bring up the map. You are presented with a scroll that at first is very confusing. It shows a path and you see icons that are familiar (like an ice cream van you just walked past), but they don’t appear to be laid out like you see them. You can go stand next to the ice cream van and turn the map on, and your icon or any of the other gang member icons are nowhere near the van. In fact none of the character icons are ever placed in there actual location, but rather off to the side of the area. And to top it off, to close the map you don’t press the Left Shoulder again, but the Start button… It’s dumb.
The map also scrolls between four sections. So if you take a path down in the game, that would extend below the map, you can see an arrow representing the path, and if you scroll down you will see the new section. Seems legit. But in some cases, like on the Fair episode, when you take a path up, there is no room “up” on the map, so your new location is show to the right. Again, it’s dumb and unnecessarily confusing.
The traps. So after you give Velma enough clues she will solve the mystery. Fred will then jump into action and come up with a trap plan. This normally consist of three more items you need to pick up. Many times you already have picked them up. But sometimes you can’t pick them up yet. And it’s stupid. You will start one episode with a cannon in a circus tent and a line of gun powder. I’ve seen enough cartoons to know where this is going. So then you start walking around the level and see things on the ground like always. On this level you see a cannon ball and matches pretty quickly. But if you try and pick them up, Shaggy says “Gee Scooby, I have no idea why we would ever need that” and you can’t pick it up. So you keep walking right over them until you pick up other things and solve the mystery. Fred then tells you you need a cannon ball and matches. Fine, but it’s not the same for each episode. You can pick up trap items early on others, it’s just dumb. And when you do actually set that trap off, the monster just appears on screen, walks casually past you and stands on the “X” marks the spot, it’s sad.
No intro. The intros for the four episodes are not good. Like I mentioned there are no other characters ever shown. When the gang pulls off the monster mask, they reveal someone you’ve never seen or heard from before. You get the same van driving shot with different trees and a different building at the end. In episode four, Bradshaw Manor, you get a couple different mansion shots, like they were planning on doing nicer introduction scenes but never got around to the other episodes.
No chase scene. Another thing missing from the Scooby Doo formula is a good chase scene. They try and do a little one in the first episode but no where near what they should have done. They could have had a long platform level where Shag and Scooby are being chased by the monster. They could hide in barrels or suits of armor and such, leading him to the trap. But no.
This game was a disappointment. It is boring and frustrating and no fun. In fact one of the funniest things in the game is on the Fair level, to travel between areas in the fair there are tall gates that say “More Fun This Way”! It’s ironic as there was never more fun over there. Nice graphics do not make a game. This game has the feel of a game that was going along well and then rushed to completion. If feels like the last half of the work was done by the “B” team.
The game however is playable and not a complete train wreck. But, unless you are a die-hard Scooby fan, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Some mysteries are better left unsolved.
Trog Score 2/5