Zoinks! Scooby Doo, Shaggy, and the rest of Mystery, Inc make their return to video games this month with Scooby Doo and the Spooky Swamp. This co-op, third person action adventure game features plenty of action, collectibles, and puzzles for gamers to enjoy. While clearly intended for a younger audience, I enjoyed my play through of this newest Scooby adventure. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Thinking With Their Stomach
The story of Spooky Swamp centers around Shaggy and Scooby. One day at the Mystery, Inc clubhouse (which happens to be in the middle of a swamp), the duo gets hungry -- like, really hungry (dude). A very enticing scent fills the air, convincing Shaggy and Scooby to follow the scent deeper into the swamp. They meet Lila, a young witch. She's stirring up quite a stew in her cauldron, for reasons unknown, but she needs two ingredients that only the Mystery, Inc team can get for her. Shaggy and Scooby agree to find the two ingredients with the understanding that once the stew is complete, they will get to eat it because it smells great.
Spooky Swamp takes place over just three areas, with a total of three primary objectives -- get ingredient one, two, and then give them to Lila. The total experience is only about six hours, but, if you're into collectibles and milestones, or have a friend to co-op with, you can spend a lot more time with Spooky Swamp. About eighty percent of the game is spent outside of the swamp and in what I would call the two main areas of the story. Once is a small villa, the other is a town in the midst of a blizzard. In both cases, you will face a half dozen or so different enemies, and lots of them. There are also a variety of puzzles that you have to solve in order to get through the story. You will talk with several NPcs, primarily to run quests for them in exchange for information, or a key to another area.
The controls are nicely done and very accessible. There are some motion controls involved, but Torus was smart about how they used them. The Wiimote's motion controls are limited to 'safe' functions including using your Wiimote like a flashlight (although it's actually a camera and a magnifying glass) and for moving items on a 'dedicated' screen (i.e., putting scraps of paper together to form an image). The Nunchuk controller is also; you move around with the stick, change characters with C, and press Z for picking up objects or interacting with NPCs. On the Wiimote, A is to jump, B is to attack (or throw an object). The control scheme works very well.
Much of the gameplay is made up of battling enemies, and this is pretty simple. Other than pressing B to attack, you can pickup objects and throw them at an enemy or perform a ground pound attack by pressing A and then B. Different enemies require different tactics, such as the wrestlers in the villa that require you first throw water on them before you can attack them normally. Between the two main areas, enemy types are similar, but their appearance is very different. There are a few boss fights, and these are broken into three phases (one phase for each section of their lifeline).
One interesting point to make is that most enemies do not have to be confronted. They will approach you, but your CPU partner actually does a decent job of attracting a lot of attention. In the first main area, I fought every enemy I came across, but I realized that this was unnecessary, so I sped through the second area much quicker. Given that enemies tend to respawn anyway, I was less compelled to spend the extra time fighting them off. The only benefits to beating up all of these enemies is that you can reach the milestones that the game establishes for you at the start of the 'level.' These include defeating 150 of the weaker, common enemies and less of others, but, there's not much in it for you so why bother?
Besides those milestones, bashing enemies and objects in the game gives you Scooby Snacks. This is the game's currency and you can spend said Snacks to purchase alternate clothing for your characters. You will also find additional clothing throughout the game. The clothing is cosmetic only and doesn't effect gameplay, so I wasn't all that interested, but a younger audience may have more fun with the ability to put clown shoes on Shaggy, for example.
In addition to combat, there are 'puzzles' to solve. Some of these tasks are literally puzzles, like taking scraps of evidence found in the game world and re-arranging them to create some kind of image. Other tasks include finding missing machine parts and tossing them into a container so that you can flip a switch. There are some platforming puzzles that require hot-swapping to Fred so that you can move a crate around to make a new path. Other times, Daphne will have to climb a pole to reach an object, and Velma will do a button matching sequence to open a door or operate a device. Overall, I thought Torus did a pretty good job including all five members of Mystery, Inc. Each of them have their specific purposes, and they all play slightly differently in combat, as well. Given that you can bounce between either of the two active characters (those two on screen), and change either one to one of the three standby characters, you can have any combination of two characters on screen at once, which is pretty cool.
Another element of the game that I thought Torus did well on were the mysteries. There are a total of three mysteries, the first two that you actually can try to solve (i.e., before the big villain is revealed, you can choose between some of the NPCs you met in that level to pick who the culprit is). Having mysteries makes an awful lot of sense for a Scooby Doo game, so it was good to see that it was a vital part of the story. Also, it's worth noting that Scrappy Doo does not make an appearance, which I was pleased about.
With that, let's get to the summary...