Saturday, October 23, 2010

12 Months, Sixty Dollars and a PS2: October


Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights
by THQ

Waaaaaaaaay back in March, when this project was in its infancy I saw the game I wanted to do for October.  It was the perfect Halloween game and from a genre I am not too familiar with.  The game was one of those horror games like Resident Evil where everything was really dark and creepy and there was a mystery plot and lots of opportunities to be startled.  My wife told me to go ahead and buy it, because it may not be there seven months later and I might miss out, but I told her “no, that is not in the spirit of the project.”  Part of the fun of this is going to MUST HAVE MUSIC AND MORE every month and picking out a new game for the project.  So I let it pass, but every month I would check for it to see if it was still there.  Back in August when I picked up the Excalibur game, I saw, to my dismay that it was gone.  My wife was right (there, I said it in print).  Little did I know that my loss was also my gain.

You see, Halloween-esque games are slim pickings right now and there wasn’t much to choose from when I strolled into the second hand last week, but I wasn’t leaving without a game that would get me in the mood for trick-or-treating (do they still do that, or have over-protective grown-ups ruined that also?).  So what I ended up with was Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights.  I was doubtful.  This was obviously a kid-game.  There would be no challenge. The game would be based on the newer incarnations of a character that I loved as a child and thus I would hardly recognize the franchise any longer.  Worst of all, the game play would be watered down and trite.
I love it when I am wrong on all counts.  Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights is some of the most fun I have had during this year of PS2 games.  As I said above, I loved Scooby-Doo as a kid, so there is a natural draw here for me, but the plus is that the game is everything an old school fan could want.  From the classic monsters: The Creeper, Red Beard’s Ghost, the Green Ghost, etc. to the classic opening (redone in pretty decent 3D) to the laugh track and classic Scooby background music, you feel like you are playing the cartoon.  And I’m sorry, but what the hell more could you possibly want from a Scooby-Doo game?

The game is a pretty basic platformer with lots of levels to explore, power-ups to find, and monsters to defeat, but it is totally, and perfectly Scooby-Doo themed.  There are Scooby Snacks to collect, you save your game at the Mystery Machine, your pals Shaggy and the rest of the Scooby gang are on hand to help out, you’ll visit classic Scooby-Doo locales like a spooky lighthouse and, of course, a haunted mansion.  In typical Scooby fashion, there is a simple plot revolving around a girl, her missing uncle, and a new monster known as the Mastermind.  Most, if not all, of the monsters I loved as a kid from the original cartoon are in the game either as boss fights or just regular enemies.  Heck they even got Don Knotts to do voice work!

Nostalgia aside, the game is just fun to play.  The platforming is solid; the level design is smart, if not terribly complex.  There are a lot of areas to explore, and new areas become available when you locate the missing uncle’s various inventions that allow you to jump higher, bash into things, or float through the air.  While the game isn’t super hard, there are plenty of areas that present a challenge to even the most veteran gamer (I’m looking at you Creepy Cannery, and Wreck on the Deck).  Apart from the theming, all of your basic platforming elements are there, lots of traps to avoid, plenty of mini-puzzles to solve by hitting switches or finding keys, and of course, several tedious jumping puzzles.  No platformer is complete without a heaping dose of tedious jumping puzzles. Best of all, there is a lot of replay value.  On top of the levels being fun, there are monster tokens littering the game that, when collected, unlock monster profiles and Scooby trivia in the gallery section.  After getting a few, you’ll be stricken with Pokemon Syndrome and working toward that 100% completion.

Even though this game is nearly a decade old (2002), it is still worth its original retail price.  Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights delivers in every possible way.  There is a reason it went to Sony’s Greatest Hits line the next year following its release.  I have no doubt that this game will get repeated play in my house for years to come.  $5 extremely well spent!

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