Rev up the Mystery Machine and get ready to eat your weight in Scooby Snacks, because its time for another adventure with that lovable and ever-hungry canine sleuth, Scooby-Doo! Scooby-Doo! Unmasked is the latest game outing for Scooby and the rest of the Mystery, Inc. gang, and for once it looks like it may actually live up to it’s source material. I’ve been mostly impressed with the way the property has been handled since it was reinvigorated a few years back on Cartoon Network, and this game comes off as a good blend between the new Scooby-Doo cartoons and the old-school charm of the originals (let’s not even mention Scrappy-Doo, Scooby-Dum, Vincent Price, or those two horrible movies, shall we?).
The story plays out just like an extended cartoon episode would; The familiar opening music and sequence segues nicely into the gang cruising along at night in the Mystery Machine, on their way to visit Fred’s cousin, Ted, who works at the famous Monstrous Fright & Magic creature effects shop (hmnn… sounds familiar…). Naturally, once they get there, the shop is in ruin, Ted is nowhere to be seen, and the owner, Winslow Stanton (another familiar name…) is laying the blame squarely on Fred’s absent cousin. Fred vows to clear Ted’s name and the gang embarks on, you guessed it, solving the mystery they have conveniently stumbled upon.
Scooby-Doo! Unmasked succeeds very well in portraying the look and feel of the popular TV series. The cell-shaded 3D graphics are an excellent fit, here, and the character animations look like they were lifted right from the show. Scooby even cowers in fear when you let him idle in place for too long. The environments retain the simplistic structure and day-glo colors of an average episode, and even the characters created expressly for the game look like they could have been in the cartoon. Even the loading screens for each level carry the style over. A2M did an excellent job in bringing this world to life.
Equally impressive are the voices, sound effects, and music of the game. Talent from the latest incarnation of the series is here in full force, and although I occasionally flashed-back to the classic episode with Batman and Robin, Adam West as Winslow Stanton added that extra touch of 70’s camp to help hearken back to the glory days of ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?”.
I especially liked that the game started out just like an episode, theme song and all. As for the sound effects, it’s obvious they had access to the Hanna Barbera SFX vaults when making this. Between the sound, music and graphics, the game really feels like an interactive episode.
As one might expect for a game geared towards kids, the controls are pretty basic. When Scooby is just Scooby, you are limited to a couple of jumps, a couple of attacks (spin and slide), and a few combinations of the two. Of course, the big gimmick of the game is when Scooby dons any of three costumes which open up a variety of special moves. There are a few frustrations, mostly with the camera and how it moves as you move, but otherwise its a pretty tight and basic experience.
As a platformer, Scooby-Doo! Unmasked isn’t out to break new ground, in fact it pretty much rolls out every hackneyed convention in the book, from repetitive platform jumping, to collecting, swinging from ropes, hanging from ladders, etc. For a kids game, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can get a little boring and tedious at times. Level design, while basic, is nicely varied, with the occasional off level like water-skiing down an underground river or flying a biplane. Unfortunately, these levels are far and few between, and the game could have been served better by adding a bit more variety.
There are six different types of items to collect, the most prolific of them being, of course, Scooby Snacks. Every 100 Scooby Snacks gathered replenish one health ‘medal’, but they also act as a sort of breadcrumb trail to unexplored and newly unlocked areas. For a man and his dog who perpetually have a case of the munchies, however, Scooby Snacks won’t always cut it, therefore each level is peppered with various other food items such as marshmallows, cabbage, and eggplant. Once you gather a few of these recipe ingredients its time to visit Shaggy and his portable kitchen to whip up some truly atrocious dishes just like they do in the cartoon. Assemble the right combination and you add a new health ‘medal’ to your bar.
Of course you can’t solve a mystery without clues, and finding these is essential to progressing through the game. Find as many as you can and bring them to Velma, unlocking new areas of each level as you go along. Find enough clues and Velma will start to piece together the solution to that level’s mystery, unlocking a boss which Scooby of course has to defeat before moving on to the next level. Trap pieces and costume coins, and ‘mubber’ round out the collectible items, trap pieces unlocking monster profiles which give tips on how to defeat level bosses, costume coins unlocking, naturally, costumes, and ‘mubber’, well ‘mubber’ is arguably the most important item Scooby accumulates next to clues.
‘Mubber’, as Stanton Winslow describes it, is the soy-based wonder compound that is the heart of the MLM creature effect technology. It is edible, comes in three flavors, dissolves instantly when exposed to UV rays, and has multiple uses. All of the enemies in the game are in fact robots that are coated in the stuff, from the spiders and rats, to the end-level bosses themselves. ‘Mubber’ is also used in the creation of the three costumes that Scooby can don during the course of the game which confer him special abilities. First, there is the Kung-Fu costume, turning our lovable dog hero into a master of the martial arts (say, how about a Hong Kong Phooey game after this?). Then there is the Robin Hood costume which equips Scooby with a bow that can shoot plunger arrows. Finally, there is the bat costume, turning Scooby into a gliding creature of the night. A ninja costume makes a brief appearance as well, but it’s more of a Kung-Fu costume variant. These costumes add some much-needed variety to the game, but I can’t help but think that they could have done more with the concept by adding a couple more costumes to the mix.
All in all, the gameplay isn’t anything to write home about, but its at about the right difficulty level for my 7 year-old to enjoy with a few intermittent bouts of frustration.
Simply put, the game is rather short. Of course, a child will take a little bit longer to get through it than an adult will, and that is probably a good thing. Half of the enjoyment is just simply interacting with the cartoon world Hanna Barbera created all those years ago, and this game plays well as an extended interactive episode of the show. You could squeeze a little more time out of it by obsessively collecting every item, but let the kids have their fun with this one and move on to the next game.