During his more than four decades on television, Scooby-Doo, America's hungriest mystery-solving Great Dane, has adapted to all generations of children.
There was the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in 1969, featuring the gang of teens. And when executives thought Fred, Daphne and Velma were passé, they phased them out in favor of Scooby's nephew Scrappy, the most maligned mystery-solving canine bar none.
Scooby's television legacy continues to evolve with Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated, which again features the full gang, now airing on Cartoon Network. Unfortunately, his video game legacy is still stuck in the mud (not to be confused with sludge, as seen in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo's "The Sludge Monster From the Earth's Core").
Scooby just doesn't translate well to video games, and despite the efforts of Warner Bros. Games, the recently released Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp falls as flat as its predecessors.
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It's tough to do a mystery game. Perhaps the best of all was Myst, in the 1990s. Scooby-Doo doesn't have the subject matter or the target audience of such a thrilling mystery.
In Spooky Swamp, the gang becomes embroiled in a mystery involving a girl they encounter in a swamp and the brew she's creating in her cauldron. The game sees them venture to ghost towns and other locales, all while encountering more strange characters. It's based on the same game engine and designs used for 2009's Scooby-Doo First Frights.
To its credit, Spooky Swamp holds the flavor of the Scooby-Doo series quite well, with voice actors familiar to the series' fans and a plot that's similar to those in the canine's hundreds of TV episodes and films.
The problem: Detective games are lame.
In previous Scooby games, including Mystery Mayhem and Unmasked, Scooby and Shaggy hunt for clues and gather Scooby Snacks (because every child's game must have you collect something). Eventually, you gather enough clues for Velma to solve the mystery and Fred to devise a trap for the monster, leading to the standard "meddling kids" line by the criminal du jour.
Spooky Swamp again uses the Scooby Snacks crutch, but it allows for more action. Each member of Mystery Inc. has an attack. Scooby wields sausage links that can break objects and attack enemies. Meanwhile, Daphne knows karate, Fred is a boxer, Shaggy has a slingshot and Velma throws books.
It's nice that you can play as any character, but such attacks are uncharacteristic of the Scooby franchise. Sure, there's an action figure of a karate-chopping Scooby, but the gang, mainly Scooby and Shaggy, are known for their flight, not their fight.
I wish I had a better suggestion for a Scooby video game. The Great Dane has entertained people, including me, so much that he deserves as rich a legacy in gaming as he has in television. But this isn't it.
Spooky Swamp is an effort to shoehorn Scooby into a media that's just not for him. To its credit, the game offers a great deal of customizing to keep its target audience — children — occupied. You can spend your Scooby Snack money — I'm not sure why it's a form of currency — to buy hats and clothing for Mystery Inc.
It would have been a nice nod to fans to include clothing that has been seen in the series, but most of these just seem to be standard wares that would show up as options in any game.
It's that kind of touch for fans that can elevate a TV- or film-based game. Unfortunately, Scooby still doesn't have his great game. To paraphrase Shaggy: A great game of Scooby-Doo, where are you?"