"In all honesty, I am probably not the best person to be reviewing Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights, a harmless platformer drummed up by the vapid zombie brains at THQ whose video games based on flavor-of-the-month franchises put premium gas in their SUVs every day and giant shrimp cocktails on their dinner tables every night. Being as my stance on corporate shillery is somewhat less tolerant than Joe Consumer's, I barely stifle the urge to snap it in half like a toothpick (I have to keep..."
In all honesty, I am probably not the best person to be reviewing Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights, a harmless platformer drummed up by the vapid zombie brains at THQ whose video games based on flavor-of-the-month franchises put premium gas in their SUVs every day and giant shrimp cocktails on their dinner tables every night. Being as my stance on corporate shillery is somewhat less tolerant than Joe Consumer's, I barely stifle the urge to snap it in half like a toothpick (I have to keep reminding myself that it's a rental), place it inside the Gamecube, turn it on, and wait for the ridiculously transparent merchandising aspect to carry me off to the funny farm. The greatest extent to which I've ever been interested in Scooby-Doo is in the rumors that their resident human encyclopedia and nasal dork chick Velma is a lesbian, although Linda Cardellini's performance in the disposable, eponymous 2003 summer flick that my little sister seems to enjoy viewing repeatedly makes me want to believe otherwise.
Debates over the cast's sexual orientations aside, Scooby's adventure starts with a verbatim transplant of the famous theme song and its corresponding animated montage, which somehow manages the incredible feats of actually having worse animation and poorer sound quality than its hand-drawn older sibling. The game immediately gets off on the wrong foot after you see how 3D models can be grossly misused for the purpose of recreating nostalgic cartoon sequences, and it only gets more boring from here. Every other piece of the plot and the game hereafter will bring about a roll of the eyes and a breathy sigh, and not necessarily in that order.
Following the introductory debacle, the game kicks off with introductions to Daphne's winsome but not-as-retro-hot cousin Holly and the senile, often confused groundskeeper, voiced by Don Knotts, fresh from his successes as half of the Apple Dumpling Gang and as bug-eyed naive landlord Mr. Furley. Together, the two of them are there to explain the situation in which the dank and gloomy house is haunted by a legion of ghosts, movie monsters, and all manner of lesser demons and crazy villains in removable rubber masks. Chained by the shackles of routine, the quartet of meddling kids smells something fishy and splits up to look for clues, leaving Scooby all by his lonesome to methodically wander the 14 separate sections of the premises chowing down on Scooby Snacks and finding commonplace objects that will help him slowly dig further into the mystery of the hackneyed mansion.
Some will no doubt appreciate the fact that the game stays true to the series' roots with meticulous attention to detail, and indeed there are clever moments within the game that elicited a smile even from a gamer as jaded as myself, like the short tidbits of canned laughter whenever Scooby slips in a puddle of oil or the Don Knotts groundskeeper makes a noise that somewhat indicates worry. Sure, as a presentation piece, the whole thing easily shines. However, it copies everything about Scooby-Doo - right down to the plodding, predictable pace of each episode and the fourth-grade dialogue. Playing this game makes me feel like I'm watching an episode of the television series, and although in the case of Scooby-Doo such a goal is inevitable and probably, as far as the development team is concerned, desirable, that's not something I want to be reminded of. Scooby-Doo should work on its own merits as a game rather than as an extension of an outdated, unfunny cartoon series, and sadly it does not.
Part of the problem is in the hunt for items that will help Scooby perform miraculous stunts such as ramming headfirst into mummies and Frankensteins and sending them flying, or making a physics-defying double jump over a jagged hole in the rickety mansion floors. These items are not particularly fun to track down in the first place, but mix this with the the fact that the search for each one is made as tedious and in many cases idiotically long and difficult as possible, and you have a game that adults will gladly retire to the bargain bin and children will cry over like so much spilled milk. Sudden epiphanies like the skeleton in the hall closet and Old Man Waters's inexplicable AWOL don't advance the plot as they do in the show; these cheap little trinkets do. So what if you can bounce higher with springs on your hind paws? Who cares that you can get to a faraway ledge that you couldn't before now that you have an umbrella? Scooby-Doo slinks by on cheap tactics such as this rather than true story advancement, eventually leading you to correctly predict each new turn as you collect another special item for your repertoire.
As the journey rapidly becomes duller than a pencil during the SAT, the game loses any spark of interest that may have been initially ignited. Reduced to becoming a running dog (pun intended) for the sake of forcing the game to a standard outcome, there proves to be nothing that makes the game worth your while. Fringe benefits like monster tokens, coins that depict haunts from Scooby's televised past and which you can later view in a gallery to read information and useless trivia regarding them, may enhance the replay value for young interested fans, but they do little to add even a modicum of the fun that this game could sorely use. Fans who wanted an accurate emulation of their beloved Great Dane's adventures will get one. Casual gamers who don't care about that will get it anyway, and those looking for a game with some meat to chew on will find little more than the shavings left after the bone's been picked.
For fans, the biggest draw will be the game's visual style, which is a perfect match against the drab, dreary look of the cartoon. Colors appear faded and marred by environmental features like fog and humidity, and everything is represented as accurately as a fan could hope for (barring that awful remake of the theme song). Everything about the game looks perfect, and the game has the appropriate sound effects to match the perfection of the graphics. All the voices are as over the top as they ever were, and you'll even hear the goofy sound effects from the series when you do things like jump with your foot springs or slip in a puddle. Best of all is the laugh track, the one feature that proves once and for all that the developers meant business when they set out to copy the essence of Scooby-Doo. Although the cartoon tries and more often than not fails to strike a balance between a realistic-looking cartoon and a cartoony-looking cartoon, the game makes the crime-solving hound feel right at home in three dimensions, where everything simply feels right and causes the game to be just a bit more enjoyable for it.
Control, however, detracts somewhat from the experience by making it feel like you are carrying him around as you control him; like there are invisible men lifting him in the air when he jumps, and dropping them when he lands because they cannot handle his massive dog weight. The camera is not the most helpful of viewing devices either, and thus the two problems combine to culminate in some positively frustrating moments that will annoy adults and infuriate children. Scooby is a clumsy galoot with cinder blocks on his feet and a pound of lead in his stomach, which turns jumps that are simple by appearance into feats that take precious hours to accomplish because of the long plummets that will put you back in inconvenient places. Once again, the game falls flat on its face, essentially turning itself into one of the many cornball pratfalls Scooby or Shaggy makes on a pair of roller skates or a ladder.
Sadly, there's not anything that makes Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights worth much to anyone who's not interested in the series. Like the show, it's bland, predictable, and you'll forget about it thirty minutes after you walk away from it. The game tries its hardest to inject humor from the likes of Shaggy and a melange of assorted cameos, but still, I've never seen anything quite as perfectly mediocre as this game. It gives it its all, and it doesn't quite trip at the starting gate but doesn't have the push to be anything better, as if it knows that licensed titles are destined to be little more than bargain bin litter. Though mostly true, it isn't always the case, and it's this sort of mentality that contaminates the other parts of the game and brings it down like a five-year-old with strep throat. Nothing to see here; show's over.
In the meantime, there are plenty of other interesting things to do. For instance, we could ponder all the juicy rumors regarding Velma. You know, behind the brains and the orange knee-high stockings, I always thought.....
Community review by snowdragon (March 20, 2004)
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