Release Date: October 17, 2006
Who would have thought, as a young boy watching early morning cartoons, that in the not-so-distant future, I'd have an opportunity to interact with so many of these same characters on a handheld gaming system? And who would have thought, as a middle-aged man, that I would have to negotiate with four young children just to get my handheld gaming system back? (Why won't these kids go watch some cartoons?)
Scooby-Doo: Who's Watching Who? is yet another popular cartoon franchise which has been successfully transformed into a platform game. This action/adventure title's premise is that a mediocre television producer requests that Mystery Inc.'s young investigators come on his Ghost Investigation Television Show and compete with the show's own investigative team to solve a mystery in the hopes that it will improve the viewer ratings.
The game is cleverly laid out similar to a Scooby-Doo cartoon, with each level presented as an episode. Access to different areas of the game is provided through a central location (hub), to which one can return at any time. While playing, you'll encounter three distinct game modes. You'll be spending time investigating, driving and running as you gather clues and other items to help solve the mystery. Learning to play Scooby-Doo: Who's Watching Who? is a matter of jumping into any question marks that you find during your adventures. Most of the basic actions are explained at the hub, while more advanced game concepts are explained further into the game. Unfortunately, Scooby-Doo is strictly a solo adventure and does not support any multiplayer modes.
Most of Scooby-Doo is presented in a softly shaded 3D format. You won't be disappointed with the quality of the graphics, which look excellent on the PSP's widescreen. Some objects in the distance will appear a bit rough and difficult to identify until you're right up on them, but this is a common trait in most 3D PSP games. Menus and load screens are displayed in a 2D style, similar to what you'd find if you were watching an actual Scooby-Doo cartoon. Be forewarned: To set the proper mood, most in-game locations are fairly dark. I found myself searching out dark areas in my house in order to reasonably see what was on the screen.
The musical score in Scooby-Doo ranges from bouncy jazz music to creepy orchestral movements, and the voice-over work and sound effects are right on the mark. Movement is controlled with the analog joystick, but there is no option to change this to the d-pad or face buttons; the only control adjustment you can make is to invert the camera movement.
The save mechanism prompts you to save your progress at strategically placed checkpoints. In the event that Scooby is defeated, he'll simply start again at the last saved checkpoint. This save feature helps make the title more enjoyable for younger players, who could otherwise become frustrated quite quickly.
Each episode in Scooby-Doo: Who's Watching Who? is made up of three different tasks or sections. In the first, your objectives are to collect clues, dog tags and Scooby Snacks. Clues are required to solve each episode's mystery, dog tags are collected to unlocked new areas and to purchase bonus items and Scooby Snacks help to refill Scooby's "Courage Meter" (health).
Similar to other platform titles, you'll have to spend a fairly significant amount of time manually adjusting your camera view to line up platform jumps and search for your next objective. This can be a point of frustration, especially in areas where timing is a critical element of success. Additionally, you'll encounter some problems with Scooby and the game environment's geometry. Several times, I fell through objects which should have been solid, and other times I encountered difficulty in getting into areas I knew I needed to enter.
After you've collected clues and completed the first area, you are returned to the hub, where you will want to meet with Velma at the Mystery Machine and analyze each of the collected clues using one of three different contraptions. Depending on the contraption you can use, you'll play one of three different mini-games, which are a bit rudimentary and could have easily been excluded from the game without anyone being the wiser. After gathering all of the clues for the episode, if you wish to accuse a suspect, you can do so by talking to Velma.
The second section of an episode is the driving portion, during which you'll drive the Mystery Machine through a fairly long pathway in an attempt to keep up with another vehicle. This sounds easy enough, except that there will be all types of obstacles — both stationary and moving — that you'll need to avoid. You will also have the opportunity to gather some more of the collectables in the first section, including clues. If you're successful in keeping up with the other vehicle, you will then be tasked with crashing into it enough times to disable it. (Does this sound familiar?)
Although the change in gameplay is welcome after all of the platform work in the first section of the episode, the driving segment can become just as annoying due to the clunky driving controls. The worst situation comes when you get blocked by an obstacle in the 3D environment and it takes 20 seconds to get back on track again. One strange aspect to the driving portion is that you'll be stopped at least twice while you're driving to be asked if you want to save. In the final section of an episode, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy must run like crazy to avoid being captured by a ghost. In this situation, you will again be busy collecting all of the collectables while avoiding missing floors, moving objects, liquid on the floor and the usual assortment of enemies.
Scooby does a fair amount of fighting through his adventures so he sports some decent attack moves, including a tail spin, slide, kick and slam. Some of these attacks require pressing key combinations. Enemies will attack in multiple ways, using any combination of standard melee attacks, area attacks, ranged attacks and fear attacks. Area attacks will damage entire areas, while fear attacks are usually reserved for use by the primary ghosts. Scooby-Doo's reward system is fairly limited; you can trade in collected dog tags to unlock a small amount of new music, concept art and game art, but that's all that it offers.
Scooby-Doo is a mix of puzzle-solving, driving and platform action. The gameplay suffers a bit from having a poor camera system which requires frequent adjustment, and there are a few graphical glitches, but the title is otherwise quite playable. Despite its few shortcomings, Scooby-Doo can be quite enjoyable, especially for younger gamers. The title solidly delivers a "Scooby-Doo Experience" with all of its juvenile charm. Unfortunately, without any sort of multiplayer support, the game will have limited replay value. If you're a Mystery Inc. fan or just love to barter in Scooby Snacks, Scooby-Doo: Who's Watching Who? is worth a try, especially if you have children.