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May 19, 2004
Scooby Doo! Mystery Mayhem - Review
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The Wild West.
It’s a wonder that the characters of Scooby Doo ever managed to get along with each other; there’s such a contrast between all of them that under any other circumstances they’d all be at each others throats. I mean, there’s a jock (Fred, although he dresses kinda strange for one), an attractive yet mindless girl (Daphney), a nerdy feminist (Velma), and an scruffy scaredy-cat (Shaggy) who freaks out whenever he’s without his dog (Scooby Doo). But hey, it is a cartoon after all, so we’ll let these little inconsistencies slip under the rug for now... although it *is* frustrating how they can never see the jeans and shoes protruding out from the ghostly sheets walking around. Anyway, Mystery Inc are back for their second adventure on the PS2 in Scooby Doo! Mystery Mayhem, this time developed by THQ instead of the previous developer A2M. Has the developer switch worked in Scooby’s favor? Read on to find out.

For those rare few that haven’t seen or heard of Scooby Doo, the series is about a group of older kids and their dog in a group called ‘Mystery Inc.’ who go around solving mysterious crimes. Easily identifiable by their hippy-style van, the ‘Mystery Machine’, they usually discover that the creepy ghosts responsible for haunting a library/museum/school were in fact the previous curators/cleaners/owners draped in sheets. Mystery Mayhem doesn’t step too far from this tried-and-true formula, with Mystery Inc. initially sent to investigate ghosts and strange happenings at an old library.

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Basic cartoon style graphics.
While searching around the haunted library for clues, Scooby and Shaggy discover the Tome of Doom; an old tattered book, which has the ability to suck in ghosts. This comes in handy throughout the game; you simply open the book and ghosts get sucked in; in a similar vein to the original Ghost Busters. While the game plays itself with 5 episodes (each episode is a separate ‘mystery’), Shaggy and Scooby pick up lost pages from the Tome of Doom throughout each episode; each page adding a type of monster/ghost that the Tome can consume. Having cleared each location of monsters/ghosts, and collecting all the clues, Scooby and the gang conveniently capture each villain (who always curse at the end about getting away with it if it weren’t for those rotten kids and their dog).

Unlike A2M’s PS2 platformer Scooby Doo: Night of 100 Frights (released during 2002), Mystery Mayhem is a 3rd-person adventure game where you are put in control of Shaggy and Scooby. In each episode, you are required to explore the level (be it in the library, a film studio, or an abandoned mine) and collect clues relating to the mystery being investigated. Collect enough clues and you can return to Velma, who will start to piece them together and begin to sort out an explanation to what is going on.

Mystery Mayhem controls in a simplistic 3rd-person manner; much simpler than involved adventure games (Mystery Mayhem is aimed at the younger audience). The left stick moves Shaggy/Scooby around, while the picture buttons are responsible for actions such as open/close doors and objects, climbing, and to switch between Shaggy and Scooby. The actual gameplay is similar to that in Luigi’s Mansion for the Gamecube, with the action of clearing rooms of ghosts and monsters before you must progress (fortunately there’s a storyline to back it up unlike the somewhat disappointing Gamecube game). Because of this however, the game tends to follow quite a linear pattern of progressing through rooms, and finding set objects and clues. Given that the target audience may be lost on a complex in-depth game though, this is probably a good thing.

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Classic.. Scooby.. Moment.
For a children’s game, Mystery Mayhem isn’t easy to fault; it’s bright and welcoming, has a simple yet addictive storyline, and has straightforward objectives that are easily followed. For the more hardened gamer, the game isn’t without some issues; the controls are a shade mechanical (character movements don’t flow evenly when navigating the levels), and the camera has more placement issues than you would normally expect. But hey, the inner child in me took over while playing Mystery Mayhem, leaving the faults at the door and leaving be free to solve the not-so-mysterious mysteries within.

Visually, Mystery Mayhem captures everything that you see in the Scooby Doo cartoons; from architectural design and character design, all the way down to the paintjob on the Mystery Machine. The developers have chosen to model the characters with untextured shaded polygons, providing the characters with the desired smooth cartoon look and feel. While the screenshots aren’t exactly evidence of the PS2 being pushed to its limits, the frame rate is smooth, and the animation and motion of the characters is top grade. Animation has been emulated down to the smallest details; from Shaggy’s slinky, slightly-hunched walk, to the way Scooby and Shaggy move when they’re disguised as ghosts or professors.

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Is dat a ghost??
Like the visuals, the sound in Mystery Mayhem mirrors that found in the Scooby Doo cartoons. Voiceovers are present all through the game, as well as sound effects taken straight from the screen (“Zoinks! A g-g-g-gh-GHOST!”). My personal favourite is the canned laughter track that is played during cutscenes after Shaggy has made yet another not-so-funny joke (normally about food). While the jokes may not be hilarious, they are in the same mood as the original Scooby Doo cartoons, which add to the nostalgia of the game.

First and foremost, Scooby Doo! Mystery Mayhem is a game directed at kids; that said, if you’re a big enough kid at heart you’ll most probably find it entertaining for at least a few hours. I’m still amazed at how well the developers have captured the spirit of the cartoon’s characters, stories and surroundings, with regard to both how they look and feel; it’s just a shame that the game was rushed out to coincide with the Scooby Doo 2, as the visuals and controls could have been tweaked a little more. A solid game, which the younger crowd should love; look out Inspector Rex! Scooby Doo’s back in town!

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSModels are far from intricate, but the animations are well done.
SOUNDShut your eyes and it’s just like a Scooby Doo Cartoon! Brilliant!
GAMEPLAYLinear gameplay, which is soon over before you know it.
VALUESome extras to unlock, but not much replay incentive.
OVERALLWhile it isn’t a game that all people will enjoy, kids will definitely have a blast with Scooby Doo! Mystery Mayhem. Scooby-Dooby-Doo!

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