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Item - Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion

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Series: Coded Chronicles — no. 1
Date: 2020
User Summary: The Mystery, Inc. gang find themselves locked in a haunted mansion, and they must solve a ghostly mystery to escape.
Demian's Thoughts:

I picked up this game to play with my family, and we all had a good time. It delivers more or less exactly what it says on the box: a classic Scooby-Doo mystery in interactive form. The designers have done a good job of capturing the format and tone of the cartoon, and while this means the whole thing is a bit predictable, that's part of the fun, since you get to participate.

The game is played on a map of the mansion, which gets revealed one room at a time with the help of a stack of tiles. Each tile has numbers on it, and each of the five main characters has a different ability (also represented by a number) and a book of paragraphs. By combining a character's number with a room's number and consulting the corresponding book, players can discover objects (from a deck of cards), unlock new rooms, and trigger puzzles (many of which use special components provided in sealed envelopes). A "Scooby snack" mechanic is used to keep track of the players' score, though this has little bearing on the actual gameplay. When the endgame is reached, the players will also have to agree on a solution to the overall mystery before revealing the answer.

While there were a few minor glitches (some minor missing paragraph entries, and a picture frame puzzle that I found unnecessarily obtuse), I found the overall design to be quite good. None of the puzzles were outrageously difficult, but tracking down all of the clues and figuring out how to put them together was fun.

Really, the game's biggest weakness is simply that it has no replay value once it is solved. In terms of production quality, you get a reasonable amount of content for the $29.99 price tag, but this still only amounts to about three hours of gameplay (which, thanks to a "chapter break" in the middle, you can easily break down into two 90-minute sessions). If you like the theme or the novelty value of the physical components, you won't be disappointed... but this is clearly a "once in a while" treat; you'll get much better value for your money from a regular gamebook (or a point-and-click computer adventure game, which this often feels like).

For my part, I had enough fun that I'll certainly consider picking up the next game when it comes out. I also wouldn't mind seeing another Scooby-Doo adventure at some point in the future. I'll be interested to see what direction this series takes next!

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