Many will remember that Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights was released last year for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube with an Xbox version suspiciously absent. It’s taken over a year but THQ has finally ported it over to Microsoft’s green-themed system. This raises a few interesting questions along with a few disappointing answers. The most obvious question is why did it take so long for Xbox owners to get a chance to play this game? The answer is: who knows. It certainly didn’t take this long due to any reworking or additional polish, as the Xbox version is virtually indistinguishable from the previous ports. In any case, Xbox owners now have the chance to play the game and at a reduced price that is competitive with the PS2 and GC bargain-bin titles. Yay.
The plot, unsurprisingly, is all about Scooby and the gang’s exploits throughout a haunted mansion as they attempt to dig up clues and solve a mystery. A friend of Daphne’s is having some ghoulish trouble at the mansion she is staying in and has hit-up the gang to help out. Right from the start, Scooby and Shaggy flat-out refuse to go into the mansion but as Shaggy pulls out a box of conveniently-placed Scooby Snacks from a tree-branch, he discovers a lever, activating a trapdoor. Shaggy abruptly falls into the trapdoor and leaves Scooby behind, to fend for himself. At this point, you’ll play as Scooby as he attempts to find Shaggy. There are 84 levels distributed among 14 different areas, featuring twenty of the series’ most nefarious baddies until your eventual showdown with the Mastermind.
Controlling Scooby-Doo is simple, he has all the standard abilities of most 3D platforming heroes. Scooby can run, jump, pounce on enemies, sneak, hide, bash, and swing on overhanging ropes. As you progress through the game, you’ll be given new abilities, like a shovel that allows you to dig up the ground, a helmet which gives Scooby the ability to take out more menacing foes, and an umbrella to gently float to the ground from high platforms. These new abilities allow Scooby to accomplish feats that were previously off-limits. For example, once you acquire the spring-jump, you’ll be able to reach an over-head key to a new area which was previously inaccessible. Some locations in the game require that you first collect a certain amount of Scooby Snacks before you are granted access to the area; Scooby Snacks are scattered copiously throughout the game’s expansive areas.
The actual gameplay mechanics revolve around Klonao/Bandicoot-esque 3D environments that, while not feeling as tightly knit or solid as some of the better known running and jumping games, does have all the merits of a worthwhile platformer and stays consistently true to its source material. The biggest issue I have with the game is the dynamic camera perspectives, which change automatically according to on-screen position. There are no manual override controls and at times the perspective is considerably, erm, less than ideal.
The visual style of the game feels like it was ripped straight out of the classic 1970’s cartoon series. The spirit and behavior of the franchise wholly survived the transition to 3D; character models are excellent reproductions of their cartoon counterparts and despite a few blocky edges and simplistic facial animations, they look great. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the graphics look a little dated, especially since they are; fifteen months in the interim have done absolutely nothing for the visual presentation on the Xbox.
The sound is suitably Scooby-Doo-ey, sporting enchanting orchestrations with cartoony undertones. A laugh track was incorporated into the game and whenever humorous dialogue transpires, a dynamic range of laughing will occur, just like in the show. It’s a great addition and fills the awkward moments between the game’s goofy attempts at being funny and the inevitable silence that follows from the person playing the game. There is plenty of voice-acting and each character sounds very close to their cartoon personalities. THQ contracted the same voice-talent that can be found in the video and DVD Scooby cartoons, helping to keep the aural proceedings authentic and enjoyable. Other notable voice actors found in Night of 100 Frights include Tim Conway, Don Knotts, and Tim Curry as the Mastermind.
While Night of 100 Frights is technically new to the Xbox, those who have already enjoyed it on one of the other systems will have little reason to revisit it here. The low price point and solid gameplay are fine excuses to pick this game up, but compared to other AAA Xbox games, Night of 100 Frights blends inconspicuously into the crowd. THQ did a great job with the license and does justice to the illustrious Scooby legacy. If you have yet to play this game, now’s your chance.