If there's one important lesson I've always learned from watching Scooby-Doo! episodes, it's that things aren't always what they seem. It's time to put on your thinking caps as THQ is bringing back the lovable Great Dane and "those meddling kids" of Mystery Inc. in an all-new whodunit, digital adventure. But unlike their cases in the past, this one hits a bit close too home and will test the team's detective skills to the fullest.
The adventure begins when Fred takes the whole gang to visit his cousin Jed at his special effects shop. However, they arrive to find that he's disappeared without a trace. And to make matters more puzzling, there's an alarming rate of animatronic monsters going berserk and attacking everyone in sight. Zoinks!!!
Scooby-Doo! Unmasked is an excellent throwback to the classic 3D platforming formula. Since I've never played any of the previous video games based on the license, I turned to THQ for some added insight. Based on what I learned, it's safe to say that Unmasked is poised to be one of the best installments to date.
Like its predecessors, the production values are remarkably executed, capturing all the elements of the cartoon, including the voice talents from the main cast, marquee sound effects and to top it all off, there's also a laugh track which plays on cue during those special, comedic moments. Also of notable mention, Adam West, star of the original Batman series and more commonly known for his role as the Mayor of Quahog in Family Guy offers his voice talents to the game as well. And in an awesome nod to the cartoon, the intro sequence mirrors the same style, complete with the oh-so-memorable line, "Scooby-Dooby Doo…where are you?" I love it.
Though obviously targeted for younger audiences, make no mistake -- older gamers (like myself) who are kids at heart will also find the game can offer plenty of enjoyment. Scooby adopts a variety of contemporary moves such as the ability to double jump, spin and execute a body slam – all which seem influenced by the Crash Bandicoot series. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, the controls are very responsive and intuitive. I am sure some of you may think my perceptive abilities have been impaired (probably from one too many Scooby snacks), but I'd even go as far to say that it rivals most of the adventure games on the market. Unmasked does a great job fulfilling the comedy element as certain levels will allow Scooby to don special costumes, transforming him into the equivalent of an archer, kung-fu master and uh…bat-dog? Heh, groove on, Scoob.
While you can't assume control of Fred, Velma, and Daphne, each of them will offer tips to help you navigate throughout levels. Velma, being the smartest of the bunch, ultimately will be the most helpful. In a creative move, advancing throughout each area depends on locating special items (clues) which you must bring back to decipher. It's a novel device that facilitates the unvealing of new locations and hidden platforms. Of course, Scooby always seems to be thinking of his stomach and is bound to lose his energy from those unfortunate encounters with the bad guys. And that's where Shaggy comes into the picture. Using his portable kitchen, Shaggy will cook up a tasty meal using the various food items you collect. Bon appetite! It's safe to assume that there have to be some folks on the development team who grew up as diehard fans of the cartoon – the attention to detail is just superb.
Unmasked also will include an abundant number of mini-games (which I didn't encounter just yet…only reached the third level so far). It's my guess they're designed to enhance the overall gaming experience and weren't tossed in there as filler like the Sly Cooper series seems to have done as of late.
Overall, THQ's poised to deliver a fine-crafted title, one of the more satisfying adventures that I can recall in recent memory. Put this on your wishlist, kids.
Scooby-Doo! Unmasked is also in development for the Xbox, GameCube, GBA and NDS systems.