Tried-and-true game mechanics, interesting locations, various character abilities
No co-op, poor video compression, load times
Imitation, so it is said, is the sincerest form of flattery. Time and time again specific games have managed to inspire an entire genre, whether it was StarCraft opening the RTS floodgates or Grand Theft Auto III creating the “sandbox” concept. The LEGO series of games have not been as imitated as those games, but their uniquely particular brand of kid-friendly action adventure does seem to have one devoted apostle: Scooby-Doo. Warner Bros. Games has produced a handful of LEGO-esque titles in the last couple of years, most of them pretty fun. This DS title, too, works the formula to some effect, although the real fun seems to remain on the console rather than the handheld.
Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Swamp for DS is essentially LEGO Scooby without the LEGOs. Players run around completing objectives with a party of two characters from the iconic cartoon franchise. Instead of bits and other LEGO pieces, players collect Scooby Snacks and Scooby medallions. Players can switch between the two main characters on the fly, while a trip to the menu allows players to swap out the two main characters with other characters. The big five — Fred, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, and, of course, Scooby — are all playable, and each brings some different ability, whether it’s Velma’s technical skills or Scooby’s ability to get into small places.
As with earlier Scooby games, gameplay traverses a few mysteries, each with its own set of suspects and clues. The player must meet objectives, find clues, and ultimately finger the correct suspect. Getting to these locations entails generous portions of platforming, puzzle-solving, questing, and combat. Around the fringes are the usual assortment of unlockable costumes and other extras whose value will depend entirely on one’s devotion to those meddling kids and that dog. In total, the game isn’t good for much more than 6-8 hours of play.
This DS version of the game (it’s also available on Wii) has strengths and drawbacks. Aside from the obvious benefit of portability, the touch screen is put to use moderately, whether in touch-based minigames or the touch-based menu. Unfortunately, though, DS’s liabilities also show through: the graphics look low-res, even for a DS game, and the CG cutscenes are so badly compressed that they are a distraction.
There are also other problems that ought not be on DS but nevertheless are. The most stupefying issue is the load times. That’s right — load times on a system that is famous for not having load times. Getting from the menu to gameplay takes 3-5 seconds, as does getting from one major area to another. This sort of delay is a hazard of disc-based media, but its presence here (and bear in mind the graphics aren’t all that great) is a head-scratcher.
Another big impediment to the game’s overall fun factor is the lack of co-op. Games of this type are best played with a friend, but neither local co-op nor online co-op is an option. As was the case with LEGO titles for DS, Scooby titles just aren’t as interesting when they have to be played solo all the time, and this makes Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Swamp seem less compelling than its Wii counterpart.
A final liability pertains to the menu system. Players can only swap between two characters at a time. In other words, if Scooby and Shaggy are on-screen, those are the only selectable characters. Accessing the rest of the gang requires going into a menu, swapping out Scooby or Shaggy, and then returning to the action. Conversely, returning the replaced Scooby or Shaggy to the lineup requires another trip back into the menu. This is a cumbersome process that should have been avoidable, and it is also hampered by small load times for all the character profiles in the menu.
Torus Games has made a passable DS title, but passable is about as good as it gets here. The mechanics are tried-and-true and the actual gameplay is pretty sound. Unfortunately, the game also hurts itself with long load times, the lack of co-op, fuzzy graphics, and a weird menu system, among other issues. For the Scooby die-hard, this game is probably still worth picking up, although it lacks enough really outstanding elements to be worthwhile to the larger gaming crowd.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.