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Scooby-Doo The Motion Picture

Reviewed by MaxH Has anyone seen the Scooby Doo live action film yet? Well, I have and I liked it a lot for reasons I won't bore you with now. This movie spin-off from developers Helixe attempts to accurately recreate the movie's plot and characters and even sets. And it succeeds quite well. Little digital photographs of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lilard and the gang accompany any speech boxes, the story (For the most part) follows that of the film, and the locations match up quite impressively. Unfortunately, despite the movie gloss, it's not really very good. Basically, ghosts are haunting the spooky island theme park and it's owner, Emile Mondavarious (Accompanied by a digital photograph of Rowan Atkinson) calls the Mystery Inc gang to come and sort it out. Once there, the gang has a minor argument and split up, each member trying to solve the mystery independently of the others. You are left in control of Shaggy and Scooby (It's your choice which, they both have the same skills and you can switch at any time). Scooby Doo is an isometric 'adventure' game of sorts, which apparently offers numerous puzzles, mini-games and combat situations. It starts off quite promisingly, you walk around talking to hotel guests to get clues, eventually learning that all the room keys are missing. Talk to people by the pool and you discover that they keys are at the bottom of the pool, which Velma can drain if you can find her. Find Velma and she has lost her glasses which you need to find. And so on. For the first couple of chapters it's just a case of wandering up to hotel guests or more specific characters (Including a creepy Janitor called Old Man Smithers. Fans of the show should get a kick out of that) and pressing the A button. And, for the game's entire run, this is as complicated as the game gets. Sometimes a character will ask you to find something for them, but these always come in the form of large flashing boxes placed conspicuously in the middle of rooms. So if you're in this for the puzzle solving, prepare to have your intelligence insulted. Once Fred and Daphne have been found, the combat parts of the game are introduced. Basically ghosts or monsters will run towards you on site, and you can hit them with the B button, and then block their shots with the L button. enemies usually take upwards of six or seven hits each to kill, so combat becomes quite tedious. the best part of the game is yet to come. The mini-games! There are four very simple mini-games to be found in Scooby Doo (all of which can be played at will from the main menu) three of these are very simple (But sometimes very difficult) puzzle games that require fast thinking and good logic. the fourth, and probably most monotonous, is a simple chalenge of pushing buttons as a little box moves over the matching symbols (A system identical to Parappa the Rapper's). These are nothing to get too excited about, but they are surprisingly well designed and fun, and provide welcome breaks from the rather dreary pacing of the main game. For the first half of Scooby Doo, things are quite pleasant. The excellent presentation and easy mix of item searching and hotel guest-interrogating is quite mindless, but it's harmless fun, and the combat is kept to a minimum. The story is also interspersed into the game at regular intervals and there are definite goals set to you (Many of which can be completed in any order you like). So with all of this, although it's quite average, it at least gives you a solid sense of progress, and there's nothing to really complain about. But things rapidly deteriorate past the halfway point. Helixe totally scraps the amiable (although admittedly unexciting) hotel exploring 'puzzle' sections in favour of complete combat. It becomes inexplicably dull and a real chore to get through the game. The plot also takes a dive and stops making sense at this point, so it's quite obvious the developers gave up on what was quite a nice little average licensed game (And, as many know, I have quite a fondness for such games). The item finding and cool mini-games are still here, but the boring, unsubtle combat just ruins it. Also, for a Scooby game, there is a distinct lack of character. There's one genuinely funny moment in the game, and a few smile-worthy character lines but mostly everything is just so generic. To get clues from hotel guests you will usually have the cycle through the six or so pre-set comments that EVERY single character makes. You'll be sick of "I missed lambada lessons for this" or "some honeymoon" the first time you hear them, never mind the fiftieth. And, although pretty, the game has countless clues that it was developed in quite a hurry. The horrifying drop in game quality halfway through if probably the biggest clue. And the many corridors that put up temporary invisible walls is another. And Helixe obviously haven't realised that if you lead an enemy over to a wall, it will get stuck there, unable to attack, so you can kill it without any bother.There are only three different locations in the game as well, and no gameplay features whatsoever apart from what I've mentioned. So there's a shocking lack of variety here. The quality of the graphics is quite high. The detail in your surroundings is impressive, with characters being made out of polygons (That cast shadows and become lighter when standing near windows, which is cool) rather than the usual sprites. Everything is bright and colourful and fits in with the film's style well. It's a shame there are no outside locations, but what's there is good. My only problem with the visuals relates back to what I said about lack of character. The main characters are recognisable, but badly animated. Or, more accurately, not animated at all. None of them have faces, and only shaggy's walk has been captured authentically, everything looks very bland. The 3d-like environments may be impressive (and resemble the film sets) but they are a bit un-cartoon like. And the fact that Velma turns into a hideous glowing white hunchback who looks like she is dragging two corpses behind her whenever you use the sneak move (although, that is never) is quite disturbing. The sound is barely worth mentioning, so I won't be going into detail. Very mechanical tunes that attempt to be creepy but fail (And repeat themselves a lot) and very placid sound effects that don't fit at all. The jingle that plays when you complete a goal is good though. Scooby Doo will last quite a long time, for a movie tie-in on handheld at least. Expect to waste a little under seven hours completing this. This is a real shame in the end. What started out as a mindlessly average game soon floats into the realms of tedium, offering nothing new beyond the first level and eventually throwing away all the fun bits anyway. It's still playable and fun in parts (and, sadly, is the best Scooby game I've yet to play). But the sheer drabness of it all manages to overshadow any fun ideas and concepts the game may offer up. Only buy it if you need something easy to wile away seven hours and have the same love for licensed tat that I do. I'm guessing that's none of you.

Overall: 3 out of 10

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