Scooby-Doo! First Frights (Wii) - Review by Chris
Scooby Doo is a character that everyone the world over can recognise. He and the rest of the Mystery Inc. Gang have been around for decades now, inspiring not only TV shows but various other forms of paraphernalia to go along with it. More recently, there have been movies based around the gang as well as games but as of yet, there hasn't been a title in either of those categories that has been able to do the license justice, which is shocking given how appropriate it seems the Scooby Doo license lends itself to the games industry. That being said, developer Torus Games have teamed up with Warner Bros. Interactive to take another stab at the license resulting in a very mixed and confused game.
Scooby-Doo! First Frights take place prior to all of the current source material and it follows the gang in there teen ages, as budding crime solvers, as they set out for the Keystone Castle International Food Festival. However, like the cartoons, things don't go quite to schedule as they should do and they are once again left with another mystery on their hands. Splitting itself into 4 episodes made specifically for the game, the gang will be embroiled in 4 mysteries as they work their way from the starting of St. Louis High to their inevitable finishing at Keystone Castle. Yet, while you would think that given the cartoons' focus on the finding and solving of clues the same would be said with the game but this is not the case. First Frights seems to have an identity crisis as it feels far from what you'd expect from a game carrying the Scooby Doo name.
Each episode is split into a collection of linear levels, a chase sequence and a boss battle before the final unmasking of the terrorising antagonist. In total, there are 20 levels which, after a short cutscene briefing what is and has been happening, will see you controlling one of a pair of the Mystery Inc. Gang with the ability to switch between the two almost seamlessly, with there being some issue with the switching mechanic that doesn't make it as streamlined as it should be. Controlling the characters, you'll move them through the levels, destroying crates and other environmental jargon to find clues as to who the culprit is. But this forms the minority of the gameplay as, for the most part, you'll be made to fight your way through legions of enemies in some basic brawler style gameplay. It couldn't be any further from what you would expect, and while it isn't necessarily bad, it is mind-numbingly repetitive. At points, you'll have to defeat specific numbers of enemies before you can progress but owing to the basic attack system you have at your disposal, which compromises of a standard attack and a special attack for some of the characters, it becomes a chore and from the initial fight, you know very little is going to change later on. With each episode come specialised enemies, with there being a decent variety in them, but the way in which they are dispatched is always the same: bash the attack button until they fall. Characters do have various costumes available to them which gifts them character specific attacks, such as Shaggy gaining a laser pistol or Velma being able to roll over enemies while wearing a sumo costume, but they are so outlandish that again, it feels slightly disrespectful to the license and even unlocking these in levels doesn't gift you with them permanently as you have to buy them yourself from the menu's extra option with Scooby Snacks you've collected. Even some of the standard moves go against the characters, with Shaggy carrying a slingshot and Daphne being able to climb drain pipes.
The developers have tried to liven up the experience by providing a chase sequence, which sees you taking control of Shaggy and Scooby and having to run towards the camera and away from the ensuing evil. Yet, unlike the chases in the cartoons, this feels decisively lacklustre and the same excitement you get from seeing them is lost in the bog standard platforming which you'll have to complete here to finish. Boss battles, the culmination to each episode, fare slightly better than the rest of the gameplay, usually revolving around figuring out and manipulating the specific ways in which you have to take down the bosses. For example, the boss of the first episode will require you to disrupt his stage performance by turning out the spotlights and cutting the wires making him fly. It's here that the game at least shows some imagination and while it does feel the most natural to the license, it's still far from the trap setting antics we've come to love.
The game's 4 episodes and 20 levels don't last particularly long, with the entire game being able to be completed within around 4 hours. Torus Games have taken some tips from the Lego series of games and allowed a free play mode for levels completed so you can go back and collect things, with this and the entire game playable in drop-in/drop-out cooperative play, you missed but these collectibles merely surmount to more Scooby Snacks for buying costumes. An achievement style system of trophies is implemented but you don't get anything for achieving them and as such they become redundant.
Thankfully, the game doesn't force any motion controls on you, even though you can use the Wii-mote and Nunchuk but the Classic Controller is also supported. The controls themselves are very easy to get to grips with and are suitable for the style of game. The game could do with some camera control though, as they game isn't particularly great at keeping up with your movements.
The visual presentation of the game is perhaps its strongest point. Making use of a cel-shaded style, the game's environments, while being clichéd, look the part and are highly detailed. Character models have been done well with only slight issues with animation on some characters and some characters could have done with some more polygons to ease the sharp edges. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from some slowdown both when the screen fills up with enemies but also when, strangely, there is very little happening on screen. All in all though, it looks good.
Those hoping for a more classic sounding soundtrack in line with the earlier cartoons will be disappointed. The developers have gone for music that is more akin to the modern iterations of the show which isn't particularly great as it does nothing to help build any tension, although this doesn't solely fall to the music as the game makes it obvious from the beginning who the culprit. Voice work fares better, roping in the current voices from the show and it's done to a high standard but the use of a faux audience to chuckle at the limp gags takes things a step too far.
Its strange developers haven't been able to make a truly great game based around Scooby Doo because the premise is there. Scooby-Doo! First Frights feels alien and if the names were changed, it could be any other bog standard brawler. As it is though, it acts as a decent game, which gets a couple of things right but many things wrong. Younger games will definitely enjoy it for its short duration but it's something that will ultimately annoy fans of the license, with it being so far from what you'd expect that it's hard to see anyone who isn't familiar with the show becoming a fan after playing this.
Pro: Decent, if basic, brawler gameplay, visual presentation and voice work are good, drop-in/drop-out coop is a nice touch
Con: Repetitive gameplay, not particularly lengthy, ignores the source material almost completely
Final score: 6
|Publisher:||Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|