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Having adored all the previous Scooby titles, when we came across this one at Amazon, my six year old daughter and I simply HAD to get it.The idea is that Velma's brainy cousin, Thelma, is on a dig in Egypt. Whilst exploring a pyramid of the Middle Kingdom era in Giza (hey, it IS also educational, ya know!), she falls foul of a mummy who just won't stay in his crypt. Velma gets the Mystery Inc gang to join her in Egypt and help find her missing cousin. This of course, means lots of fur raising fun as we help Scooby and Shaggy get Scooby Snacks to entice them into places they don't want to go, clues to find and decipher, and a costumed villain who should have gone trick or treating instead of spooking and looting!
The game play is smooth, with any previous niggles pretty well ironed out. Playing on Windows 98, ME, and XP (also available for Vista), the game loads quickly and easily. A few mere seconds after reading the disk, the installation wizard pops up, and after clicking the Install option, we get a very brief glimpse of the installation progress bar as it appears, speedily fills up with blue, then blips straight off our screen, giving us the main screen with the choice of being able to play now available. From here, one clicks play, and is led without hesitation to the area where you type your name (or select it from the list), and hit enter. Then you elect either to play a new game, or load your previous saved game if there was one. For a new game, you get to select your level (Spooky, Spookier, Spookiest) with each level being that bit much harder than its predecessor. Having to type in or select your name from a list also means that more than one person can enjoy the game without having to play someone else's, which is a nice touch.
After selecting the level, the intro to the game begins. In true Scooby Doo TV style, it opens with a high quality animated sequence showing Thelma the Egyptologist exploring her pyramid and coming a cropper with the Mummy. From here on out, we are rather seamlessly merged into an interactive cartoon, where a point and click interface makes moving about and selecting objects superlatively simple, even for the less mouse adept child. The characters' dialogue is all relevant and true to their TV roots, adding another dimension of believability regarding the self insertion into the cartoon world feel. To gain the clues, the child gets Scooby and Shaggy to explore the environs of the pyramid in Giza, learning facts about the era along the way, and solving puzzles and playing mini games along the way while finding clues. providing cross curriculum fun.
Scooby and Shaggy do their famous goof off bit but with a purpose as your child plays a Concentration type memory game with a rug, piece together a broken vase from scattered pieces,match tunes played on a bottle, a pizza making machine game, and more. Altogether there are ten fun activities to complete that all relate to critical thinking, logic, and research capabilities, as well as improving skills with the mouse, which of course is a very important basic IT skill.As the game progresses and the puzzles are solved, clues are picked up, and put on a clipboard that appears. Once the clues are all gathered, the child looks them over, and figures out who the villain is. When this happens, the famous Scooby reveal cartoon sequence occurs, with Fred and the gang laying a trap, catching the villain, and unmasking them while explaining their motive. No matter if the child gets it wrong, as the correct villain is exposed without any embarrassment and the explanation serves to show with great tact and subtlety just where the mistake was made.
All this makes it sound like a one shot deal, but like the previous titles in the series, it is not. Upon starting a new game the child is offered new clues, and the villain changes. Indeed, the software engine has the capacity to mix up all the available clues and suspects to give a nearly infinite number of possibilities to have to sift through, and with the ability to change the difficulty level, make the puzzles and mini games that much more challenging as well. If the child is encouraged to make use of the changes in difficulty, they will get several more hours of attention getting game play from it. As it is, my six year old got through the Spooky level the very first time in about an hour, making this the simplest of the Scooby titles she has played so far. She is still, however, TWO hours into the Spookiest level, with perhaps another thirty minutes to an hour to go. Of course, this will all be relative to how logical in thinking your child already is, as she has sat with her seven year old friend who is now an hour and half into a game on the Spooky level, and only collected one clue, struggling to complete the puzzles she encounters but plugging away nonetheless. My daughter also had to sit with her friend as she had not previously played a lot of PC games, and sat there staring at the screen for several minutes unsure what to do after the cartoon ended! So if your child has not had experience with Reader Rabbit and other point and click titles, you may have to be on hand to explain how the interface works.
Graphics wise, this is one beautiful game. No heavy lines everywhere and robotically moving characters, or pixilated edges. This LOOKS like the Hanna Barbera cartoon it was based on; the animation flows fairly fluidly as people move, and corners and surfaces are well defined. Sound wise, we also get a treat. No muffled voice overs or sound effects here. Authentic voice overs sound like the original, with clarity of sound even on my daughter's cheapy single Cube speaker. The background noises and music are relevant too, making this an enjoyable Scoobylicious experience.
So, would I say it is perfect? Not really. As I said, it is a bit easier to solve the mini games and puzzles than the previous titles, and I think that it would have heavily benefited from the game board multi player format of the very fist title to add more challenge and interest. That aside, it is a fine game, and one she goes to do again, while also playing Reader Rabbit, Carmen San Diego, and the other Scooby titles in between games. So as an addition to a collection of games this is excellent. Just don't expect it to last for months non stop with no other gaming in between. Priced at under £5, this makes an excellent choice for a birthday gift, especially if packaged with a second title, or for a stocking stuffer.
Platform: Windows 98 / Me / XP / NT