And I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!
Every so often, Mike Gamin or Neal Ronaghan will send out an email to the staff, saying that new games have come in and they need reviewing. I usually volunteer for the games nobody else wants, both because I get to the party late, and also because I hate myself. So imagine my surprise when I start playing a game I'm dreading only to find that it's excellent. Such is the case here, with Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp, a game that's also appearing on the DS and PlayStation 2. Here we have a high-quality platformer/brawler with tons of voice acting, actual humor, and lots to accomplish and collect. It's lengthy, entertaining, and engaging. Scary!
The adventure begins with Scooby and Shaggy venturing out of the Mystery Inc. clubhouse, following their noses toward the unmistakable smell of deliciousness. This is essentially your tutorial, but lays the groundwork for almost the entire game, which consists of collecting Scooby Snacks and other pickups, switching characters, using character-specific moves, brawling with baddies, and talking to other characters. Eventually, they meet a Rastafarian cook who's making a legendary soup, but needs Shaggy and Scooby to travel the world in search of ingredients. Of course, our boys say yes, so they gather everybody in the Mystery Machine and head off to the different levels of the game.
The game is all about the characters. Holding down the C button accesses the character wheel, from which you can choose what two characters to have onscreen at any time (after the first fifteen minutes of the game, it is unrestricted). Tapping the C button switches between them. Everyone has a specific talent. Scooby can get through doggy doors. Shaggy can use a grappling hook to rappel across gaps. Fred can move heavy objects. Daphne can shimmy up poles, and Velma can hack control panels. Each member of the team also has pros and cons when it comes to combat. Shaggy and Velma attack from a distance with weak projectiles, but Scooby, Fred, and Daphne get up-close and personal with their attackers.
You can also customize the look of the characters with costume parts you find during the adventure. Many of them have to be purchased with the Scooby Snacks that are littered throughout every landscape. In addition to dog treats, you can look for sandwich ingredients, ghosts, letters that spell out Scooby, and medallions. There are a set number in each level, and finding them all unlocks lots of bonus content. Furthermore, defeating different amounts of specific enemy types gives you even more bonus content. Sometimes the number is a little steep (150 Banditos? Wow), but the rewards are usually worth it. There is never a shortage of things to do in this game.
Meanwhile, Scooby and the gang are trying to solve mysteries at each location. This eventually involves a lot of backtracking. It's not really a problem until you start getting to the end of the mystery because by then you have seen all the level has to offer, and there aren't really any new areas to explore, just new errands to run. The mysteries themselves, however, are well-written and interesting. Sometimes you'll be finding scraps of papers that you must then use the Wii Remote to piece back together (like a puzzle). This task could have easily been recycled too often, but the developers held back, and each puzzle is a unique experience. One downside to the backtracking is that it's sometimes easy to go to the wrong location because you don't remember where the Clocktower is because you haven't been there in awhile. Luckily, pressing the – Button brings up your current objective, which often reminds you where your goal is.
The combat is honestly pretty shallow (press B to win), but sometimes you'll have to mix it up. For example, one enemy is a flaming luchador. He can't be injured while he's on fire, and is extremely powerful to boot. You have to find a jar of water to throw on him to put out the flames—making him helpless in the process—before beating the tar out of him. It's a little thing, but I appreciated the variety.
There's also a drop-in/drop-out two-player co-op mode where a friend can pull up a Wii Remote and Nunchuck and take control of the other on-screen character, allowing cooperation or grief.
I was pretty impressed with the look of the game. Characters animate well and their character designs are usually spot-on. Even though each area only has four or five enemy types, they're all pretty funny, and have unique phrases and personalities. The voice acting is superb and there's tons of it, not just from enemies and NPCs, but Scooby and the gang, too. Also, every voice fits beautifully. There's even a laugh track. Since I've never seen the new show, I can't comment on whether or not those voice actors are being used here, but if so, I think I need to check this show out.
I really can't say enough good things about Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp. Aside from the sometimes overly-done backtracking, there's not a lot to complain about.
Overall, this is a fantastic game, especially if you like following the
misadventures of Mystery, Inc.