17 Dec, 2009

Scooby Doo: First Frights Review

PS2 Review | Scooby don't.
Many will probably remember with some affection watching the Hanna-Barbera Scooby Doo cartoon back in the day and its various iterations since. Unlike many old children's properties which have undergone facelifts in order to remain, uh, hip and relevant, Scooby Doo is still pretty much the same. Scooby and the four teenagers of Mystery Inc. still drive around in their Mystery Machine van solving mysteries, and the villains still say 'And I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!' Nice to know that some things don't change.

First Frights presents Scooby Doo just as you remember it. The gang is still the same. There's Scooby himself of course, dog sleuth extraordinaire, whose only discernible desire in this world is to consume as many Scooby Snacks as possible. Then there's Shaggy, whose constant need for food and lackadaisical attitude points to the influence of one illicit substance or another (trivia: his real name is Norville!). Making up the crew is nice guy jock Freddie, fiery redhead Daphne and endearing nerd Velma. The look of First Frights isn't quite in line with the old cartoon - the characters appear more juvenile in keeping with the game's target audience – but otherwise the feel is very similar, down to the laugh track. The voice acting pretty much sounds right too (the current voice actors for the show are used in the game), though the dialogue is unsurprisingly irritating. Shaggy says 'like' a lot, we know, but at least jam the word into a part of the sentence where it makes partial sense.

Feel the tension.

Feel the tension.

Structured over four 'episodes' comprising of three or so levels a piece, you'll make your way through locations like a school and circus in gameplay that is lifted directly from the LEGO co-op games. You'll always be a combination of characters, often Shaggy with Scooby, Daphne with Freddie etc. Just like LEGO, in co-op you'll take up a character each, and in single player the AI will control the other character. Fortunately the AI is at least competent enough to pull switches when its meant to. But that's about all it will be doing. Unlike the LEGO games, First Frights' gameplay is dead boring. You'll be smashing items for Scooby Snacks (the equivalent to LEGO's studs) and killing enemies over and over, all by pressing one button repeatedly. Sometimes you'll have to pull a lever with another button or jump across a gap. Each character has an environmental ability: Velma can operate machines, Shaggy inexplicably possesses a grappling hook, Scooby can get through vents, etc. Given that it's a kids game, the fact that the characters sometimes vocalise what they're supposed to do next will be helpful to the youngest of players. 'Levers together!' barks Scooby. Thanks Scooby. Disappointingly, even the platforming elements are pretty minimal, which is perhaps meant to disguise how unreliable the jumping mechanics are.

And that's it. Sure, it's a kids game, and it's meant to be simple, but it's unlikely even kids will remain interested for long unless they're some kind of Scooby fanatic. It's all very basic, bland stuff. The one thing we found to be slightly innovative was that you don't have a health bar, rather you have a bravery meter that goes down when you're attacked. But there are also plenty of items to restore bravery littered around the place, so it hardly plays a part in the game. You find clues as to the identity of that area's assailant but these simply pop up and disappear again with absolutely no ramification on anything, other than to assist with the obligatory guess at the end of the episode as to who the baddie is (and it's never less than entirely obvious).

Not pictured: Scooby snacks.

Not pictured: Scooby snacks.

Visually, the PlayStation 2 version of the game we reviewed was about what you'd expect; functional, rudimentary and cartoony. The presentation is basic, though the cutscenes do a good job of making it feel like you're watching an episode of the show. There is a poorly implemented version of the 'free play' mode where you'll come upon a couple of environmental triggers that the characters couldn't use on the original playthrough. For your trouble you'll earn more Scooby snacks which can be used to purchase some extra costumes for the characters. Well, it's something.

If you're a parent wondering whether the game is worth purchasing for your kids to play, the answer is: probably not. Given that this game is a direct rip-off of the LEGO games, only much less fun, you'd be much better advised to pick up one of those games instead. The benefit of the co-op means that you can play with your child, but again the LEGO games are far superior to this one. This is a game definitely aimed at the lower end of the age bracket. If it's the case that Scooby Doo himself is the drawing point of the title then by all means give it a go; it’s a playable game that does nothing to strongly offend. But there are better, smarter and more fun titles out there that look down on First Frights and laugh. Oh, how they laugh.
The Score
A Scooby Doo game that borrows the mechanics of the LEGO titles but forgot to borrow the fun. 4
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 years ago
A pity it's so bad. I kind of like the art style.
4 years ago
Played this one in a dingy corner of the wb booth over at e3.. it's actually surprisingly fun.. don't take it too seriously and just enjoy it for what it is and you'll enjoy youself..

liked it more than lego indiana jones but maybe i'm just weird.
4 years ago
oh and i should add that you should play the wii version over the ps2 one..

the review doesn't touch on what kids would find appealing in this game and that's 'playing a cartoon episode' while unlocking fun stuff like different costumes.. for example a space man suit for shaggy.. the only 'annoying' thing for me was that scooby is armed with a string of sausages.. as if he'd use that as a weapon.. it'd be eaten before fred told him to hit the bad guy with it icon_razz.gif
4 years ago
Question: Did you work on the game?

I gotta tell ya, I've been playing games since before I can remember. Funny thing is, I have fond memories of all the games that the older gamers do. I've never bought in to the "but it's for kids" line of defence for kids titles as a result.
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