Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion Review
Roiks Raggy! People fall into one of two categories: those who can do a passable Scooby-Doo impression, and those who think they can. Whichever group you fall into, you’ll want to call upon your inner Scoob’ to get stuck into Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion. It’s a game for the family to gather around and take the roles of the crew from Mystery Inc., solve puzzles, and hopefully escape from the titular mansion.
Scooby-Doo (as I’ll shorten it to now) is a part of the Coded Chronicles series from The Op, a series which boasts this and one other game – The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel. If you’ve played any of the Exit or Unlock series of games then the guts of Scooby-Doo will be immediately familiar. As you play the game you’ll gather cards as you explore rooms in the mansion, and by combining them and your character standees – and a little brainpower – you solve puzzles and progress through the story. Essentially, it’s an escape room game, and I’m a massive fan of escape rooms and puzzles in general, so I was excited to get a dose of childhood nostalgia at the same time.
If you’ve ever played an Exit game, you know the story is very loosely applied. It might be set in a pyramid or abandoned building, but there’s nothing really to make it feel like it. Scooby-Doo does things very differently here, by including a book for each of the characters. Without wanting to spoil the game, at various points you play as different members of the team, and as far as I’m concerned it should be obligatory to read out everything in character. The books are great; they’re bright and colourful, and the writing feels true to the cartoons. There are plenty of chances to ham it up and be the Velma you always dreamed you could be.
I’ve played a load of games where you need to solve puzzles, so I’ve started to get to the stage where I can see the setup for something and think “Ah, this is going to be one of those”. I was expecting Scooby-Doo to seem simple compared to the likes of the Exit games I’ve played, or the Escape Tales games that I reviewed last year. I was half-right, I guess. Early on in the game, things are pretty easy, but you’d expect that in a game clearly aimed at families. When you get into the latter half of the game, however, it starts to require a bit more thinking. It’s done really nicely, there’s no sudden vertical ramp in difficulty, just enough of a slope to give a rewarding sense of success.
A lot has been done to make this game feel like Scooby-Doo. The characters’ voices in the text, the aesthetics, and the general scoobiness is all there. The way each member of the gang has a different skill works really nicely too. Each has their own speciality, which they can at least attempt to interact with different items and locations. Velma can research things, Fred can use stuff, and Shaggy and Scooby (perhaps predictably) eat and smell things. It doesn’t really matter too much who can do what, it’s just another clever way to add some flavour and theme to an already decent game.
The game system is really clever. The mansion slowly gets unveiled, and along the way you’ll be opening envelopes with all manner of secret stuff in them. My son was so excited every time we got to open a new envelope, and it adds a bit of theatre to the experience, which is super fun for kids and grown-ups alike.
When we finished playing Scooby-Doo, I got a real sense of deflation. Not because the story and the game weren’t good – both are great – but because it was over. More importantly, it was over, and it was completely finished. There’s just the one story in the box, and when you’re done with it, you’re done. You can reset it and start over, nothing gets destroyed in the same way it does in the Exit games, but it’ll just be the same story, same items, and same solution. That’s not a big deal when you’re buying an Unlock game for about £25 with three adventures in, or an Exit for less than £15. This is a game that’ll set you back nearly £30. Cost isn’t something I mention often, but it needs mentioning here.
My son didn’t mind one bit that the game would be the same the next time through. In fact, he’s already played it through twice on his own since. It’s a trait that other kids seem to share, if the conversations I’ve had with other parents is anything to go by. In the same way that I’ve watched Tremors a ridiculous number of times, they seem content to play something they know back-to-front, ad nauseum. It baffles me, frankly, but it’s the reason the game is still in my collection and not on the shelf at my local games café.
If you like Escape Room games, you’ll have a good time with Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion. If you fall in the middle of that Venn diagram where Escape Room and Scooby-Doo fans intersect, you’ll love it. It’s great fun, but it’s over pretty quickly. It’ll probably take you a couple of hours to go through in total, longer if you’re playing with kids and let them take the lead on things.
The puzzles are good, and none are so abstract that you’ll need spoilers to solve them – no rubber chickens with a pulley in the middle here. It’s a really fun experience, it’s just the cost that you have to take into consideration. For some reason, the fact that it comes in a bigger box than the alternatives I’ve mentioned above, makes it feel like it should give you more than it does. If you’ve got kids, it’s a really worthwhile purchase, because they enjoy the experience of playing, more than feeling frustrated that they already know the solution.
One of the things it does have going for it, is that the game can be fully reset, so you can sell it on, or give it to someone else to enjoy. I really enjoyed the game, my son loves it, and I’m looking forward to trying out further games built on the Coded Chronicles system. Scooby dooby doooooooo!
Review copy kindly provided TheOp. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Scooby Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion (2020)
Designers: Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim
Art: Rob Lundy, Rick Hutchinson
Playing time: 120 mins