Scooby Doo used to enjoy the distinction of longest-running cartoon series, but I, as a cartoon fan, cannot be happier this series was finally overthrown by a production of intelligence, integrity and infamy (i.e. The Simpsons). Scooby Doo was popular when I was a kid, and I didn’t like it then either. How can you compare it to classics like Popeye and Bug Bunny? But before my contempt for the cartoon series begins to sour your opinion of me, this review, and the video game, let me iterate the game is a different story. I actually liked it.
What I liked about the game is that it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s not innovative in any way. It simply delivers an interactive cartoon universe for us to play around in. Like the cartoon, it’s simple, corny, formulaic, and repetitive, proving that it’s much more fun to play than watch. And so far I haven’t seen a Simpsons game that can touch this one.
Scooby Doo! and the Spooky Swamp targets kids, but it packs enough action, fun, and anticipation to keep the older crowd engaged for a spell. At around seven hours, it can be beaten in a weekend. It contains three storylines, which are well-written, considering. The gameplay is variety personified with elements of action-adventure, point-and-click, puzzle-solving, platforming, combat, collecting, and even a two-player co-op mode. Nothing is particularly difficult, but there’s just enough challenge to keep your mind engaged while the storyline unfolds like a mystery novel. There’s even a laugh track.
Scooby and Shaggy are venturing through the swamp when they come upon a young witch crafting a fragrant stew. Motivated more by hunger than adventure, the twosome eagerly agree to help her find special ingredients to complete the delightful brew. The search for these ingredients takes them to places unknown, and thus the adventure begins. But it’s not long before “the gang” gets involved. Enter Fred, Daphne and Velma, the more “reasonable” associates of Mystery Inc. Each character is playable, and each possesses unique abilities not unlike a party in a RPG, but with a whole lot less depth. The characters don’t level-up, although you can purchase quaint accessories for them to wear. Scooby can get into smaller openings, Shaggy can use a grappling hook, and Fred can move heavy objects. Velma is a computer geek and can compromise security systems, while Daphne has a talent for climbing poles. No comment.
I’m not saying this game is the perfect representation of a cartoon series, but it’s just not bad, and that’s good. Depth is something this game doesn’t have, and doesn’t need. You won’t miss it, except during battles. On the downside there is the repetition of battles, requiring little more than the push of one button. Some enemies actually require a two-button combination. For instance an evil gang of incendiary wrestlers have to be extinguished with water before you can put the kibosh on them. The numerous enemies respawn frequently, causing you to lose interest in fighting them. Fortunately, you can avoid them. The only thing you’ll stand to lose is unlocking the various bonuses for defeating all of the enemies in a level.
Collecting items is another way to acquire bonuses, among other things. Medallions will get you a bonus if you collect all of them within a level. Scooby Snacks can be used to purchase things such as fashion and costume accessories. Other collectibles include letters that spell Scooby, puzzle pieces, and the aforementioned stew ingredients. There’s lots going on in this game so it doesn’t get boring, but at the same time it’s like fast food: it will fill you up but won’t nourish you in the long term.
A friend can join in anytime and take control of the secondary character. While you can select any character to play at anytime, another one will accompany the main character controlled by either the CPU or another person.
Since this game is available for the PS2 and DS, the developers have downplayed the exclusivity of the Wii’s control system in favor of standard button commands, aside from a few magic wand moves you can perform for moving puzzle pieces around. Commands are simplified to picking up items, interacting with non-playable characters, jumping, attacking, and throwing. It’s straightforward enough for anyone to get the hang of in a few minutes.
The characters are rendered in 3D with a more contemporary appearance. That classic 70s look is gone. These guys look smaller and younger. The voices are also different from the original, probably because the original actors are dead or using a voicebox to communicate now. The acting is professional, and the lines are good, even funny at times.
It’s not a great looking game. There are only three environments, a ghost town, an Alpine village and the spooky swamp. These places are huge, but like the cartoon, a lot of the background is recycled. The swamp, with the aid of discordant ambient music, succeeds in creating a scary environment that is sure to give kids a chill and thrill.
Scooby Doo! and the Spooky Swamp is an interactive cartoon. It’s more fun to play than to watch. If you don’t believe me, then watch someone playing it.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.1 Graphics
Looks like a classic PS2 game, nothing more. Expect lots of recycled backgrounds. 4.0 Control
Simple and effective control scheme is easy to learn and execute. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Professional sounding voiceovers with cartoon quality sound effects and atmospheric music. 3.4
Relatively short game with little replay value other than collecting missed items.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.