Monday, December 30, 2013

Scooby Doo & The Castle Mystery

My eight-year-old currently has an unhealthy fixation with Hanna Barbara's 30-year-old mutt. In between endless reruns of the various cartoon shows on Boomerang and countless replays of Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed - which does start to worryingly grow on you - I soon found myself reminiscing over the Scoobster's first outing on the Amstrad CPC.

First released in 1986 after an insane promotion campaign that was promising Dragon's Lair-like graphics and clever gameplay mechanics, Scooby Doo's flimsy plot could have come straight out of the cartoon.

Arriving at a dark and mysterious castle, Fred, Daphne, Velma and the Shagster immediately get kidnapped, leaving the petrified mutt to save his four friends. Using only his fists for defence, the Scoobster has to jab, thump and punch his way through the ridiculous parade of ghosts that harass him endlessly, giving him just a few precious moments to scramble up ladders or snack on the occasional Scooby Snack.

This was a huge disappointment - for me at least - on its release, especially if you had been following its lengthy production and the grand promises that were being made - like I had been - Scooby Doo did have one thing in its favour: it looked absolutely sensational.

Accurately mimicking the hound's on-screen persona, the sprite design throughout was excellent, with Scooby and his enemies being meticulously drawn. Indeed, I'm still impressed by the look of panic on the mutt's face when he runs away from ghosts, or his genuine look of pain when he runs straight into a wall.

For all the splendid graphics and animation, Scooby Doo was a real bitch to play; with developer Gargoyle Games feeling that flinging a never-ending supply of ghosts at you so you could barely move without dying was a good thing. It wasn't, and while I'd always find myself drawn back to those amazingly slick visuals, the mind-numbing gameplay quickly sent me running. Little wonder that it was another nine years before someone else was brave enough to release a game based on the iconic doggy.
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