Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp
Developer: Torus Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-2
Words By:

Scooby and Shaggy set out from Mystery Inc.’s clubhouse in the swamp to investigate an alluring smell that’s been wafting around. One of the first things I discovered was that Scooby can’t swim, and just gets spawned back on shore if you fall into the swamp, which is kind of disappointing. Moving Scooby with the nunchuck and pressing ‘A’ on the Wiimote to jump, initial exploration is simple and fun. If you forget what you’re supposed to be doing you can just press ‘-’ for a reminder. Initially at least, the adventure seems nice and friendly to play.

The scent trail is indicated by icky green smoke so it’s easy to follow. Pressing ‘C’ swaps control between Scooby and Shaggy, and they each have their own attacks mapped to the ‘B’ trigger—Scooby slashes at enemies with his string of sausages and Shaggy has a slingshot for more distant attacks. You can also do a ground stomp by jumping then pressing ‘B’.

You’ll soon find special areas in which Shaggy can use his yo-yo to swing across seemingly impassable gaps and Scooby can use special tunnels marked with an ‘SD’ logo. Somebody’s been very untidy and there are Scooby Snacks scattered all around the place for you to pick up, and a certain number of hidden objects to look for too. You discover a dojo where you can practice your combat skills and earn extra Scooby Snacks. A mysterious voodoo lady named Lila turns out to be the source of the yummy aroma (well, the stew she’s cooking is) and she gives you a camera to take photos of clues and things you discover, like new characters, items of interest and wandering ghosts.

You get Fred to take you to a new area called El Muncho, it’s a Mexican-style ghost town, inhabited only by a few nutty locals and their equally crazy Sheriff. It’s here that you find that you can control the other members of the gang too and that they have their own unique abilities; Fred can move heavy items, Velma can hack electric gadgets with a simple Simon-type minigame using the D-pad to follow a colour sequence, and Daphne is a surprisingly agile little thing as she can clamber to spots the others can’t reach. Once the mystery is solved here you go back to Lila, who gives you a magnifying glass to use for more investigative stuff and then the gang move on to a third area, a snowy ski resort called Howling Peaks. Gameplay consists of simple combat and exploration, with a few “I wonder how you get to that?” moments to keep the brain ticking over. Every now and then there’s a “boss” character that might require a bit more than a couple of taps of the ‘B’ trigger to defeat, but progression is really nice and easy.

Visually it’s quite a tidy game for the Wii, with stylish cel-shaded graphics with loads of destructible scenery and even undergrowth that moves as you brush by it. The characters are based on the “kids” generation of the series and there are only ever two of them on screen at a time which means a rather fiddly selection process to change from one to the other, but given the hopeless path finding capabilities of the solitary AI character (they’ll fall down any possible hole available and respawn back with you) if the game engine had three more to worry about it’d probably pack up and go home. The fixed camera makes the gameplay nice and simple but it also throws up the usual problems associated with fixed cameras, for instance sometimes if the graphics aren’t spot on you get a strange perspective when the character looks like it’s behind something when it’s not. There are also a couple of amusing but annoying chase sequences that have you running out of the screen; these add a brief bit of variety to the gameplay but frankly were done better donkey’s years ago in games like Crash Bandicoot, and are so flawed as to even let you run completely off screen.

The voice acting sounds authentic and the spooky music accompanies the gentle gameplay perfectly. There are plenty of corny in-jokes for fans of the series complete with canned laughter to let you know when something was supposed to be amusing, although the French frog’s “jokes” push the term ‘humour’ beyond its normal limits.

Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp is a relatively harmless little romp featuring one of the best-known kid’s cartoon characters of the ‘70s, its gameplay however won’t be keeping many 40-50 year-olds entertained as it’s far too simplistic with its over reliance on ‘fetch & carry’ tasks. Clearly aimed at the younger end of the market it will provide a good few hours of entertainment, with only some clunky selection controls and one confusing bit where the game seemed to mislead us as to what we had to do with the magnifying glass to complain about. The save facility is also a bit vague, meaning you might think you’ve done a task but have to do it a again when reloading, and you are also always returned to Mystery Inc’s hut in the swamp making for some unnecessary trips just to get back where you actually were when you saved the game. This sort of thing could possibly frustrate younger gamers. The optional 2-player drop-in/drop-out co-op mode could see this being one for mum or dad to play with the kids, but be aware that you’ll need two Wiimotes and 2 nunchucks in order to play it.

Best Bits

- Simple gameplay will suit kids.
- Easy combat and exploration.
- A good one for parents to play with their kids.
Worst Bits

- Some awkward selection menus.
- The usual fixed camera problems.
- Some awful “jokes” that should have been drowned at birth.

by: Mal Function

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