|System: Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Torus Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 21, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Just in time for the release of Warner Bros. new live-action movie, Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins, First Frights comes to Wii and PS2 for an adventure featuring your favorite, mystery-solving K9. The gameplay doesn't make for the most logical use of the license, but Mystery, Inc. manages to pull off a fairly decent show here.
Scooby Doo! First Frights is broken up into four individual episodes, each consisting of a handful of levels. The presentation is well conceived overall, though the game skimps on story and dialogue. At certain points during a level, you'll hear the team communicate with each other via walkie-talkie, pondering the mystery at hand. The conversations and episode progression definitely possess a Scooby Doo essence, but action takes precedence over storytelling.
If you were expecting an adventure game, one in which you're probing various characters for info, digging up clues, and generally unraveling mysteries, you might be surprised to learn that First Frights is actually a beat'em-up. There is a bit of platforming and item hunting tossed into the mix, but for the most part, you'll be doing a lot of brawling.
Surprisingly, it works and it's mostly fun. The controls are simple; you've got a basic attack, jump and double jump, and each character has a special ability, such as being able to repel projectiles or dash through the air. Fred, Scooby, and Daphne, for instance, all have melee attacks, whereas Velma lobs books at her enemies, and Shaggy uses a slingshot.
You're sent into each level with two pre-determined characters, and you can switch between them on the fly. Each character has an inherent ability that plays into the level design, though you'll never be greatly challenged. Shaggy can use his yo-yo to zip up to out-of-reach areas, and Daphne can navigate pipes, poles, and chains. In most cases, you'll be using these abilities to reach levers to open doors and such in order to progress through the level. It's nothing new, of course, but the mechanics work smoothly.
Each episode is quite unique in terms of motif, and the individual levels are varied up nicely as well. Most areas consist of dispatching a handful of foes, finding a lever or instrument panel, and then moving on for a bit of platforming. Though the combat is very basic, offering little to no challenge, it's fun in short stints. Unfortunately, the later levels become a little overbearing, throwing wave upon wave of enemies at you with no real rhyme or reason.
Almost everything in the game is breakable, and you're encouraged to be destructive. Boxes, benches, lounge chairs, and vehicles - they're all fair game. Oftentimes, puzzle fragments will be hidden inside environmental objects, and you'll be required to demolish everything in sight in order to acquire all of the pieces to uncover a clue. Most destructables contain Scooby Snacks (the game's currency for purchasing unlockables) as well, and it can become an addictive process simply pounding away in hopes of gathering more grub.
A lot of the game's platforming is surprisingly clever, but it's often either too dark to see platforms well enough, or the 3D perspectives are deceiving. The camera, too, can be problematic, pulling in too close when in tight quarters with enemies, or pulling too far back when being forced to negotiate dimly lit areas.
The selection of enemies throughout the game is impressive, though mashing the attacking button works fine on most foes. Some of the latter enemies are a bit more challenging and fun to fight, but most players will never see a "game over" screen.