Genre: Graphic Adventure Developer: Sunsoft Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1 Released: 1995
The recent reruns of Scooby-Doo on Boomerang have taken away my evenings. Between the original series and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, I have unofficially been named “keeper of the remote” while my toddler daughter gets her fill of the Mystery Inc. gang. Having never really been a fan of one of Hanna-Barbera’s most enduring franchises, I decided to get with the program and see what I’d been missing.
So, I went off and found a copy of Night of a 1,000 Frights and was pleasantly surprised at how true it was to source material (I’m a believer now; Casey Kasem is a GOD among men). I then remembered that my beloved Genesis was also allowed to partake in the Scooby goodness and quickly got to playing his only Sega 16-bit adventure. All misgivings about Acclaim’s involvement aside, what Scooby-Doo Mystery provides is some down-home graphic adventure fun that does the brand justice while making for a great way to kill an afternoon. While that may not be reason enough for the curious gamer to spend the ever-increasing prices it commands on eBay, it does make it a great addition the Genesis library.
What makes it so much fun to play is the way in which Sunsoft approached the franchise. They could have made it another of the standard run-of-the-mill side-scrolling platformers that were glutting the Genesis at the time, but they instead decided to go old school. Graphic adventures did get a bit of attention on the Sega CD, with such gems like Snatcher and The Secret of Monkey Island, but its cartridge representation was really slim pickings. Thankfully, Scooby and the gang do not disappoint.
Instead of a single, complicated adventure, Mystery offers two smaller quests in the same vein as the classic cartoon. In Blake’s Hotel, Daphne’s uncle invites the group up to his inn for a weekend of skiing. As you’d expect, the area’s haunted (by a local tribal spirit, no less), and its up to those “meddling kids” to solve the mystery. Ha Ha Carnival, the second story, sees the gang’s trip to the local amusement park ruined by a phantom who’s scared off all the customers. Guess who has to set things right?
Though they differ in plot, both adventures play exactly the same. You control Shaggy and Scooby (how much you want to bet Fred’s off “hunting for clues” with Daphne again) and interact with your environment through a series of options at the bottom of the screen. Shaggy will tell you if something can be used in a certain way or combined with another item in your inventory, and that’s really what makes the game so much fun. Rather than just stand there blithely awaiting the next command, Shaggy actually seems like he’s really trying to explore with you.
Not that you’d need so much help since Mystery isn’t all that hard. There are a wealth of environments to explore, people to question, and goodies to pick up. Along the way, you’ll have your fair share of run-ins with the villain, which usually result in a chase in typical Scooby-Doo fashion. The humor and charm of the cartoon is everywhere, and fans will be pleased to see their favorite Great Dane and co. accurately portrayed. One great example is the very first puzzle in Blake’s Hotel, which has Shaggy and Scooby pestering the cook for a late night snack until he finally relents. Good stuff!
As happy as I am with the visuals and gameplay, I’m sorry to say that the audio doesn’t hold up. No, scratch that. The audio is simply terrible. It begins to grate on you as soon as you boot up the Genesis, with perhaps the single most boring rendition of the Scooby-Doo theme in history. When one considers just how late in the Genesis’s life span the game appeared, it makes no sense for the audio to be so terrible. In fact, I don’t know why Acclaim and Sunsoft simply didn’t opt for releasing a Sega CD version. Imagine these graphics with some redbook audio tunes and all the original cast doing the voice work!
That notwithstanding, even those who aren’t huge fans of the series will enjoy Scooby-Doo Mystery. Graphical adventures have long been popular, and anyone who’s played Maniac Mansion or Full Throttle knows how rewarding it is to explore and solve a mystery on your own. All that goodness has been carried over and I commend Sunsoft for their effort. I’m glad they decided to go with this format. It might turn off those looking for something faster and more action-packed, but to be truthful, they simply don’t know what they’re missing.
If you plan on getting ahold of Scooby-Doo Mystery, you should hurry. Complete copies are starting to get really expensive, and it’d be a shame to miss out on such a great game. It’s not all that long and lacks decent sound, but the visuals and great gameplay more than make up for these shortcomings. I would have liked a larger cart with more quests, and I simply cannot fathom how a 1995 release still uses mammoth passwords for continuing (seriously, Scooby‘s is a good fifty characters long!), but what can you do? Unless you want to tackle the collect-a-thon platformers of the current generation, Mystery remains a refreshing use of a classic license. Not to be missed.
SCORE: 7 out of 10