Just as parents nowadays still whip out dog-eared boxes that hide long-neglected board versions of Life and Monopoly and exclaim, "I haven't played this for years, let's have a family night!" I have no doubts that future generations will reminisce with their children about the good ol' days of playing You Don't Know Jack or Scooby-Doo: Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom on their computers (of course there will also be the usual nostalgic misgivings, such as, "We didn't need these hologram games to have fun when I was a kid, we made do with 3D). SouthPeak Interactive and Engineering Animation have teamed up to bring the young cartoon crime busters from the early 70s into the computer generation with a multimedia production that is a multimedia cross between Clue and Mouse Trap.
In what has become a rarity in today's marketplace, SouthPeak has included a free miniature Scooby Doo comic book in the packaging. Since I do have three Scooby-loving sons, it was a mighty struggle to see who would obtain ownership of this prized gem. Let me just say that when the smoke had cleared, I stood victorious, clutching the comic in my sweaty paws.
Scooby Doo: Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom is a mystery/adventure game that puts the entire gang--Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred--at the Gobs o'Fun Amusement Park, where they must attempt to discover the identity of a phantom whose nocturnal hauntings have closed down the park. The game gets off to a rocking start, and the entire family will be singing along as the original Scooby Doo theme song blares from your computer speakers. The foundation for the story is then set as we view the opening scenario from an actual episode of the show. An elderly couple (the trembling voice of the elderly woman is a hoot) has been forced to shut down their amusement park. Now it is up to you to choose a character and scour the park searching for incriminating pieces of evidence.
The game is played much like an episode of the cartoon series. You must find clues and collect sufficient data to confront one of six suspects. Once you think you have solved the crime, you can then spring one of nine different traps--similar to those in the Mouse Trap board game--comprised of items found from various locations in the park. A successful guess will be rewarded with an animated video of the villain's capture. Guess wrong and--zoinks--you will have to start over. The game does become more complicated, though, and I would strongly suggest playing a few games by yourself until you get the basics down--otherwise you may find the early going frustrating.
Scooby snacks have been hidden throughout the park and can be used to enlist the help of the canine sleuth. The snacks are invaluable as they can be used to perform additional tasks during a turn, to thwart opposing players, or to bribe Scooby to pose as bait to set a trap. The phantom will also occasionally chase players, who must then win a "Phantom Chase" game or risk capture and the loss of a turn. The multi-player feature increases the fun level and the difficulty as you must now choose between activity-limited or time-limited turns (we opted for the activity-limited). There is always the option, though, to choose from three levels of difficulty so the game can be enjoyed equally by the youngest or the oldest members of your Cartoon Network brood.
The game passes from board game to multimedia experience with its sparse, but effective, use of voices and sound effects during gameplay. The game "board" is viewed from a third-person, three-quarter overhead point of view that is broken into nine regions of the park. Each area contains a park ride and clues or trap pieces for the player to collect. If there is a major shortcoming in the game, it is with the park rides. All of the favorites are here: the Screamer roller coaster, the Water-Logged flume ride, the Bumper Car Derby, the House of Hee-Haws, and more. Yet, in what is one of the cruelest acts ever perpetuated in a computer game--you cannot ride any of the attractions! The park, you see, is closed due to the apparitions, but even if you successfully capture the phantom--you still can not enjoy the rides. This is an experience akin to putting a snack on Scooby's nose and then telling him he cannot eat it! It's tantalizing, it's right in front of you, but you cannot enjoy it.
The decision to purchase Scooby-Doo: Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom is a no-brainer, especially for parents who cringe at the sound of Pikachu's cutesy voice. At a retail cost of $19.95, it would make an excellent Christmas gift for the young adventurer on your list. The ability to play alone, multi-player, or over a LAN line, combined with random villains, clue locations and trap components in every game, make it the ultimate in replayability. So break out the Scooby snacks and ice-cold milk and prepare to hunker down for an evening of computer sleuthing.
Final grade: B+.
32 MB RAM
45 MB free hard disk space
2 MB Video Card