Monday, October 31, 2016

Plug n Play Game Corner: Scooby-Doo and the Mystery of the Castle

Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you? ...Oh, here you are. Crisis averted! Call off the search! Everyone can go home! ...And now that we've found him, we can talk about his first and only foray into the Plug n Play game universe: Scooby-Doo and the Mystery of the Castle!


Game: Scooby-Doo and the Mystery of the Castle
Manufacturer: Jakks Pacific
Release Date: 2005
Genre: Action-Adventure

Yep, it's Halloween again. The time when we get together to celebrate and laugh maniacally!

...At the people who still think that Halloween is about black magic and evil spirits, when it's actually about overcoming fears by dressing up as ridiculously as possible as those things and either getting too sick off cheap candy that you can't even think of any other horrors or holding parties so flamboyant that Mr. Undead Zombie and Ms. Ghostly Ghoul would be ashamed to go within 100 feet of us...

Seriously, these people trying to call Halloween a time of darkness and evil, especially the modern day incarnation, are the living symbols of "too much time on their hands." ...Especially since Halloween has traditionally been seen as a time to STOP evil from entering the world through the rituals I just described... If they seriously have all that time to spare, they should be finding something worthwhile to do. ...Like filling their homes with cheap Lego sets and game systems and over-analyzing them on a snarky, demographically-confused blog nobody reads! ...But I digress.

But if you really want something to be scared of, then


...You still there? Or did I scare you off or offend you to the point you're leaving to post angry comments on my channel labeling me as the prelude to the antichrist(which, hey, go ahead; lord knows I need the views...)? ...Well, for everyone left, let's talk about Scooby-Doo!

What is there to say about Scooby-Doo that hasn't already been said? It's one of the most famous and quotable cartoons ever made and arguably the most well-known and longest running of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Since its start in 1969, it's practically never been off the screen, with 12 TV show incarnations, 6 spin-off shows, 15 TV specials, 27 direct-to-video/DVD animated movies, 2 theatrical and 2 direct-to-DVD live-action movies, an upcoming animated theatrical release, and not one, not two, but THREE stage productions! This is a franchise that is in NO danger of running out of steam!

I think its longevity and huge fanbase can be attributed to its very simplistic cartoon formula that still holds up to this day: A monster appears, the Mystery Gang are caught in the middle of it, they decide to solve the mystery since... they don't have anything better to do, they find some clues while running into the monster a few times, and they finally trap and unmask the monster who turns out to be someone we saw at the beginning of the episode and who "would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids and their mangy dog!". ...So you could make the argument that they could have trapped the monster at the start and gathering clues was redundant since there really wasn't a mystery behind who was in the costume. ...But then we wouldn't have the comedic antics of Scooby and Shaggy breaking the laws of reality as they're chased by the monster of the week, nor the teased-to-the-point-of-nausea relationship between Daphne and Fred, nor the faux-science and social awkwardness of Velma, so we can overlook the fact they basically waste everyone's time to play detective...

And what also works to the franchise's benefit is that this is a very malleable formula, allowing for different settings, animation styles, casts of characters, and even slight tweaks to how the universe's logic operates. It can be continually updated for modern audiences and given different treatments for different experiences. You want a series that focuses more on the darker aspects of the Mystery Gang's universe? There's Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated(or Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island to a lesser extent.) You want a series that focuses more on the cartoonish elements of the show? There's A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. You want an example of where the monsters they're chasing are REAL? Take your pick of about half of the direct-to-video/DVD movies(Zombie Island, Witch's Ghost, Goblin King, etc.) You want the characters to act like stoned idiots with fart jokes, awkward slapstick, and obnoxious editing and computer effects comprising the majority of the run time? ...You don't? Then stay away from the live-action movies...

Even how the characters are presented doesn't affect how the formula works. Besides the above-mentioned live-action movies, there's been a movie where the cast are puppets, and even a recent release where they're animated in Lego(which I may have to feature in the future)! As long as the formula's present, the character representations can be whatever anyone wants them to be!

There have been spin-offs where they try a new approach to the franchise--13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue, Laff-a-Lympics, the Shaggy/Scooby/Scrappy TV movies of the late-80s/early-90s, etc.--but the series that follow the classic formula are what we remember fondly today (and, when compared with the Scrappy appearances, we'd much rather remember...) So as long as the shows and movies don't lose their focus, the series looks ready to go ad infinitum, which is fine by me!

And, like any popular(or even unpopular) series, there's been a number of video games, dating all the way back to the early 80s on the Intellivision to the present on the Xbox One, all of which attempt to capture the look and feel of the show. Though, strangely, only the early games(Scooby-Doo: Mystery, Classic Creep Capers, Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom) actually had elements of mystery and puzzle solving, while the games afterwards took the form of third-person platformers. You'd think with the technological advances in video gaming throughout the years, they would produce more games based around deduction and investigation. ...But instead, they decide to treat the Scooby-Doo series like Crash Bandicoot... And that's probably why, even with the more recent games, none of them are very good. They're not terrible, but I can't recommend any I've played either(especially Classic Creep Capers...)

Perhaps the franchise's sole venture into the Plug n Play market can break the mediocrity?

Presenting the most creative console we've had on this blog yet! Not only is it shaped like the gang's van, but the paint and attention to detail is stunning!

It really does look like the Mystery Machine! The colors and patterns are all there, the name is on both sides of the van, and they even molded tires onto the bottom! It's a little squished from top to bottom, but, hey, as long as it still runs.

But what I'm most impressed with is the perspective work they did with the 4 human characters. On the front, you can see the "meddling kids"(who are actually, what, 25?) reacting to something bursting out of the Mystery Machine. ...Or Shaggy and Fred reacting, anyway. Daphne and Velma seem more scared by Fred breaking eye contact with the road. Maybe this is the last pose of Mystery Incorporated before they barrelled off the road into a deep ravine?

And on the sides, they actually drew the characters so they're still facing in the direction they are on the front, just from a different perspective! It's a little awkward to look at both the front and a side of the van at the same time since it gives the impression there are two of each character, but it's interesting they went to all that trouble and it looks good.

And on the back, they molded Scooby's top half popping out of the back of the Mystery Machine to also gawk at whatever burst through the roof of the van. ...Why he's trying to climb on top of the van just to scream, I don't know, but it looks nice, and that's all that matters. So there!

The thing they're all screaming at is this abominable green apparition... which I can't make out. The face in the center is a given, but are those tendrils above its head or does it have large, rabbit-like ears? And is that line near the bottom a leg or a puff of smoke or ectoplasm or what?

And they remolded it on the back in a much clearer, more proportionate form! ...So it's a ghost with two unsymmetrical sides and a face on both? ...This is rapidly leaving the realm of a Scooby-Doo monster and approaching Lovecraft levels of messed up! QUICK! Cut to the game before we all go insane trying to comprehend the form of this spectre!

And yes, this is what lights up when you turn the game on. ...Slightly...

Once again, we have a game published by Jakks Pacific, who did the previous Bikini Bottom 500 and Bob the Builder games featured here. However, instead of HotGen, they've teamed up with Jolliford Management Ltd. to bring this to us.

My information on this company is more limited than usual, but from what I could find, they were a game development company located in the Republic of Cyprus, a country near Greece, that only lasted from 2004 to 2014.

 During that time, they apparently only helped develop two games: this and the GBA-exclusive game adaptation of the Will Ferrell breakthrough: Elf. ...And with credits like those, I can only see greatness emanating from this game...

This is also a game that came out in 2005, further proving that the Elmo's World game had no excuse for looking as bad as it did.

And strangely, according to the first screen, they released this under their "Game Key" subseries. I'll get more into that when I feature a Game Key game, but this console has NO slots on it to insert any type of external device!

Apparently, the first model was made with a slot and it was removed later since they never developed any expansions, but I can't find a picture of one with the slot, so I'll have to take their word for it.

When we finally get to the title screen, we're given a major clue as to if it'll be a good game or not. Because, as with the Bob the Builder and Grand Puzzleventure games, they included a MIDI of the What's New, Scooby-Doo? theme song! And a VERY well produced one at that, covering the entire theme in the SNES-style we were given in the prior two games! Makes quite a difference from the Elmo's World stock Atari music, doesn't it? ...And I promise that's my last comparison to Elmo's World. ...In this post.

As with the Puzzleventure game, this console is comprised of 5 games meant to be played in a linear fashion that loosely tell a story:

Race to Fontecastello
The River of Frights
Searching the Castle
The Mysterious Doors
The Dungeons of Fontecastello

But uniquely, even though you can choose to play each game separately, if you manage to get through the game from start to finish without getting a game over, it tallies up your scores from each game and posts a high score at the end. AND SAVES IT! So finally, we have a Plug n Play console that gives a reason to keep score! ...I just wish I knew that before I named myself "AAAAAA"...

And, like Puzzleventure, the "Hard" mode on this console is a lot harder than is to be expected with these Plug n Play games.

The game's "story" is told through these still images of the characters and backgrounds. In Race to Fontecastello, we see Shaggy and Scooby off having a picnic somewhere. Meanwhile, Fred and Daphne are reading a note/map they found... somewhere, and they rush off to the Mystery Machine to pick up the rest of the gang.

...Why was the gang separated? Where did they find the note/map? What did it say? What are they racing against? Why did it open on Shaggy and Scooby when Fred and Daphne are the ones driving the van to retrieve everybody? ...If you find out, please tell me, because I don't know. Maybe the story is contained in the manual, but since I don't have it, and new copies are going for around $50, we may never know(though if you have a copy, I'd really appreciate some scans.)

And what's nice is that, before each level, you're given a screen with scrolling instructions that tells you the goal and what the controls do. It's easy enough to figure out on your own, but it's a help to younger players.

The first game takes the form of this isometric scrolling "race". Maneuver the Mystery Machine around obstacles and try to make it to the end of the road before time runs out. So it's a bit like Atari's "Slot Racers", only with the perspective of Sega's "Congo Bongo." ...And there are your obscure game references for the day!

 It progressively gets creepier, with Level 2 introducing ghouls, Level 3 introducing more off-road hazards, Level 4 introducing ghosts, and Level 5 introducing... whatever this crawling rock-thing is...

In theory, this doesn't sound TOO hard, and it may not be on "Easy" mode, but on "Hard" difficulty, it takes quite a few tries before you make it through... For starters, the first level is one of the worst-kept roads in existence! Not only do you have to deal with crazy drivers who drive on both sides of the road

But littered across the highway are ENTIRE OVERTURNED CARS! And they're not just in the road or off the the side, there are a few that have literally SUNK into the tarmac! ...Is the castle located near Perfection, Nevada? Am I going to have to look out for giant worms on top of everything else? Or is this just the most vehicular crime-ridden area since Carbombya from the original Transformers cartoon? ...And there are your obscure TV references for the day as well!

And there's no post-hit invincibility either. If you get hit and can't get away in time, your health can deplete within seconds!

The isometric perspective especially makes this difficult, as you see things coming from the right side of the road slightly sooner than the left, so you can swerve out of the way of an oncoming obstacle in the right lane only to get clobbered by something barreling toward you in the left!

And since the obstacles are randomly generated, you can easily find yourself boxed in by the road hazards, which usually spells instant death.

AND ON TOP OF ALL THAT, the game throws a few constant hazards your way. Starting with Level 2, you get this cop car on your tail, which tries to get you to pull over by knocking you off the road. ...Maybe all those cars previously were rebellious motorists who were victims of an overzealous sheriff? So what's the most logical course of action to take when being chased by the law?

Go Mario Kart on them and throw a banana peel at their car, causing them to careen out of control and most likely crash and burn. ...I would LOVE to see someone try that in real life.


Heck, I'd love to know what would happen if it worked.

It has come to our attention that we've been trying to ban the wrong games...

Still more believable than the Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy "controversy"... But I digress.

This ghost thing in levels 4 and 5 also sometimes gets behind the car, forcing you to speed up or get sucked in, and this one only goes away when it feels like it, so no power-ups banish this obstacle...

Of course, the power-ups don't even help that much. There are three power-ups: a Rocket(which speeds up the car), a Banana Peel(which gets the police off your tail), and a Light Bulb(which causes ghosts in front of you to vanish.) You can only carry one at a time and once you pick one up, no others appear! So if a cop car starts chasing you and you don't have a Banana Peel, you're forced to use what you have on hand and then pray that a Banana Peel will show up before it drains your health! And power-ups don't appear all that often, so it's likely that you'll end up unavoidably dying a few times because you can't defend yourself...

So as you might have gathered, this first part of the game is the most complex and frustrating to complete. But, like Puzzleventure, once you have the first level down, the rest is basically a walk in the park. ...And that's the last comparison to My Little Pony I'm making in this review. ...I need to play more games...

In the River of Frights, The Mystery Machine comes across... something, causing Shaggy and Scooby to bail out, where Shaggy somehow finds himself in the middle of a foggy river.

Here, the game takes a more "Frogger"-like quality, where Shaggy needs to jump from log to log to get to the end, avoiding frogs and gators and staying one step ahead of the Black Knight... which is now following him...

As the levels get harder, Shaggy is forced to jump onto the gators to get across. Just remember to jump off the gator before it closes its mouth or you'll take damage.

This segment is pretty straightforward. Just jump from log to log, or gator to gator, and get to the end of the stream. Sometimes Scooby will throw a treat your way that heals you, so grab those every chance you get. Sometimes he'll also throw a banana peel or stork to repel the black knight or frogs, but I never had any problems with them during this segment, so as long as you keep hopping, it's all good.

Oh, and something I forgot to mention earlier? Littered throughout each level are these Scooby Snacks. Collect 25 and you'll receive an extra life. Grab them at every opportunity. You'll need them for later levels...

So with that obstacle out of the way, Shaggy and Scooby catch up to the Mystery Machine at this haunted castle, where they meet... these people. Their role and relevance? Never explained. And this somehow leads us into Searching the Castle.

And let me answer the question you've had since the beginning of this game: No, it's not based on any episode of the TV show. Unless it's based off some obscure Flash game Cartoon Network or Kids WB had on their site at some point, it's an original "story" made for this game. Again, the manual may explain more, but since it's super rare, I don't know if we'll ever find out...

 I don't really have a comparison for this section. I want to call it a generic platformer or adventure, but since there's no platforming or adventuring, I don't know what genre it's in. The goal here is to get to the other end of the level, climbing ladders and avoiding rats, spiders, bats, skeletons, and ghosts.

The smaller obstacles are easy enough to avoid. Just have Scooby leap into Shaggy's arms(who apparently is immune to small creature damage) or duck to avoid flying things.

However, running into one of the bigger monsters means instant death. Hope you bogarted a few dozen Scooby Snacks before this point...

You can hide from the bigger enemies by ducking behind this furniture, but this is frustrating since the game is very picky about where you need to stand to perform the action, so it's much faster and easier to simply avoid the monsters by going around them.

By the way, I want you to take a look at this ghost. ...And then tell me that it IS a ghost and not a Klansman's pajamas. ...Yeah, I thought so too...

And be careful of some end-level traps, as there's a giant spider who would LOVE to drain you of your fluids while you're avoiding smaller spiders...

Anyway, after you've guided Shaggy and Scooby through the castle, they come to a fork and decide to split up... for some reason. While Shaggy decides to take the road marked "Dungeon", Scooby heads in the direction of "Books", leading to The Mysterious Doors.

For this level, I think I know the perfect comparison:

...Ok, it's not THAT bad, but it's a level where you guide Scooby through doors, hoping to find the right pair that leads to the exit and not horrifying, flesh-tearing, bone-crunching death at the hands of mummies and ghost dogs(which look more like ghosts than the previous level...) The similarities are hard to overlook.

Again, a very straightforward level. Open a door, see where it leads, open another door, see if you get any further, repeat until you reach the exit.

Sometimes, you can find these crystal balls, which helpfully show you where each door leads and help single out the doors that lead downward-right to the exit. There are also skeleton keys to lock doors you're worried may have monsters spring out of, but if you're fast enough, it's unlikely you'll need them.

What makes this level tricky is that the monsters can also randomly use the doors, allowing them to pounce on you if you're standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. And woe be unto they who end up trapped between a wall and a monster who has just sprung out of the nearest door, as one touch means death.

Again, I hope you're collecting those Scooby Snacks...

And don't worry, the game's not a jerk. When a monster's in front of a door, it waits for it to leave before Scooby walks out. Otherwise, there would probably be more deaths than anyone thought possible for this part...

 So after successfully navigating the fiendish door puzzle, Scooby gives a look of... Terror? Relief? Uncertainty? "If I don't find a bathroom in the next 2 minutes, ghosts won't be your major problem?" And then we cut to Shaggy in the other room as he explores The Dungeons of Fontecastello.

And it's not an adventure game without a maze level... Here, Shaggy needs to wander around the dungeon, collecting keys to unlock the gates to the exit while avoiding ghosts. ...And I literally have nothing else to say. Wander around, find the keys, repeat 3 more times while looking for more keys.

Later levels have these disappearing platforms in the floor you have to carefully time before stepping over and flipping the switch to keep them open, so... there's that.

 But on the final level, things get real... For it's here that Shaggy must now face the game's main antagonist: The Black Knight! So what cowardly but clever strategy does Shaggy have to take down this dastardly* villain?!

*At least, I assume he's dastardly. We're never shown what exactly he's done to make him a target of the Scooby Gang, so as far as we know, they just thought his black knight costume looked tacky...

He runs around the room and flicks four switches, powering on a giant electromagnet that was just... down here for some reason, and capturing the knight. ...Hooray...

So with the monster captured, Shaggy unmasks the crook, revealing... that guy from earlier. Name? Crime? Motive? Never explained.

They just throw a quick "Congratulations" screen at us, and the game ends. Good times...

...Ok, now I'm just sick of how we're never told who the villain was and what he was after! If the game's not going to give a backstory, I'll give him one!

This is the story of an old man named Henry Turtledove. He was a famed British History novelist who was disgraced after he miscounted the number of original American colonies in his latest book The Life and Death of Private Higgins: The Forgotten Postmaster.

Before sinking into despair, he learned of a treasure hidden in a castle that once belonged to Lord McTurtledove, his distant ancestor. Using the last of his savings, he purchased the castle and hired his nephew, Jason Pigeon, to help him find it, disguising himself in an old suit of armor to scare off any intruders.

A breakthrough occurred when Henry found a map hidden in an old library book, seemingly leading to the location of the treasure. Unfortunately, Jason, not being the brightest bulb in the box, decided to return the book to the library, accidentally taking the map with him, which blew out the window as he was driving. It was happened upon by Fred and Daphne, who decided to have a treasure hunt of their own.

However, Henry soon realized the mistake and, as he was rushing to the library to retrieve the map, noticed the Mystery Machine going the other way, the map in Shaggy's hands. He quickly parked the car and grabbed his suit of armor he put in the trunk to scare the librarians with, where he waited at a dark corner for the van to arrive. When they saw him in the middle of the road, his moans and squeaky armor freaked out Shaggy and Scooby, causing them to flee for their lives and he to chase them.

After losing them in the stream, he rushed back to his castle, hoping they would arrive in search of the treasure. As luck would have it, they did, with Shaggy still holding the map. It was he that Henry chased, completely ignoring the others.

The look on Scooby's face was that of confusion, as he was expecting the Knight to be after him.

Finally, the Knight had Shaggy cornered in the dungeon, where it would only be a matter of time before he had him cornered and could retrieve the map! ...Unfortunately for him, the previous occupant was a government scientist who experimented with magnetism, whose research grants were cut after only one project. Using the magnet, Shaggy was able to apprehend Henry and unmask him. Technically, he didn't do anything illegal, so no charges were pressed and he was given his map back. Unfortunately, tragedy struck again and Henry Turtledove realized he was ruined forever, because, upon closer inspection, it turned out that the map WAS...

An elaborate prank by Calvin and Hobbes.


Thank you, thank you. There's your video game creepypasta for the year. ...Better than "Sonic: Genocide City" anyway... ...But that's a given...


Design: This is the most creative console we've had yet on this site. It looks exactly like the Mystery Machine, with an Eldritch Horror bursting out of the top. The paint job is there, the logo is there, and even details like the tires, which have no major point, are there. The artwork on the characters is amazing, not only painting them from the front reacting to the monster, but painting them on the side windows as well, the angles changing with the perspective. And the Scooby-Doo on the back is well molded... though why he's sticking out of the Mystery Machine is a mystery to me. The molding on the ghost is questionable, but the confusing perspective may have been intentional, so not much to complain about there.

Controls: I love going back to the Atari joystick-style game control, and I think this console is the best designed for this I've shown so far. It fits snugly in the hand, the joystick is small and smooth enough to either wrap your hand around it or control it with a finger, and the only button is in easy reach of one's thumb. Everything in the game was responsive and fluid and I really can't think of anything to complain about.

Music & Sound: Just by hearing the instrumental version of the show's theme at the beginning, you know this game is going to have high sound quality. The rest of the music isn't the most memorable, but it does sound suitably creepy while also capturing the mood of each game(ominous for the first level, fast-paced for the second, atmospheric for the third, etc.) I did hear a few crackling noises when the game had a lot to process at one time, but that might have been the power of suggestion. The sound's really good as well. On top of the cartoonish sounds from jumping, crashing, etc, it contains a few sound bites from Shaggy and Scooby. It's mostly comprised of "YEOW", but Scooby will often say "Rooby Racks. REEEEEE-RICIOUS!" when you pick up a Scooby Snack and "Rey Rhaggy!" all throughout the second level. It will never cease to amaze me when I hear speech from a cartridge/self-contained console game, and this console definitely scores some major points for it.

Graphics: ...Alright, at this point, I'd like to apologize that the quality of the video was a bit lacking and blurry. My video capture device can't handle games that have fast moving backgrounds and sprites and it corrupted the footage, so I'll be getting a more up-to-date one for my next gameplay video. However, the sprites and background ARE really good. Shaggy and Scooby are drawn and animated with some form and they look like how they're supposed to look, which is much better than the amorphous sprites we've seen previously. The story stills that look like they were taken from the cartoon are a nice touch as well, and there's a wide range of colors used for everything in the game, so the brighter colors of the characters stand out against the darker, more realistic backgrounds. There are fewer frames of animation than previous games featured, and the frames they choose for character actions can look stiff and awkward, but they work and they fit the show's cartoony, mysterious atmosphere.

Gameplay: As with other consoles that are comprised of multiple games, the games here are a bit of a mixed bag, though they are above average across the board. Each one had a distinctive style to it, each kept me on my toes(especially since I was attempting to complete the game from beginning to end) and they were genres not often used in Plug n Play games. The game I had the most fun playing was the third level adventure, since it was fun to wander through a haunted castle with no way to defend yourself, avoiding all these monsters and surprise traps that can finish you off in one hit. I wish it was a bit bigger, but it was exciting in a survival-horror-"lite" sort of way. The final level was the most disappointing and monotonous, as with most other maze games, and it would have been nice to have an actual confrontation with the Black Knight(like it's chasing Shaggy and he needs to throw stuff to slow it down or something like that.) However, I did have fun playing each of the games and seeing where we'd end up next, and the challenge to complete all the levels with no Game Overs really helped keep things exciting. It would have been nice to know what story the game was trying to tell, but it felt like an episode of the TV show nonetheless, so kudos to them.

Replay Value: The fact that the game has a scoring system that actually saves to the console REALLY helps expand its longevity. Friends and siblings can challenge each other on games on the console, seeing who can complete each game the fastest and with the most stuff found and who can beat the High Score. And the challenge to beat the game from beginning to end, while it might not excite older gamers, can be a dare to novice gamers not used to harder, more intensive games(like Spelunky...) It doesn't have the replay appeal of, say, an arcade game like Pac-Man, but for what it is, it can demand several hours of attention at least.


I had fun playing this game and it's clear they put a lot of effort into nearly every aspect of it. The graphics are pleasing, the sound is clear, it controls smoothly, and the games capture the spirit of the TV show while still doing their own thing. It probably wouldn't excite older gamers who are used to greater challenges, but for kids, it's a definite buy. Especially around Halloween. After all, it's Scooby-Doo.

So to everyone out there, have a Happy Halloween and a great Trick-or-Treating/Halloween Party. And while you're out, just remember to always stay on your toes and don't be fooled by what you think is a trick of the light.