Looks Like We Have Another Mystery On Our Hands
Scooby-Doo is a piece of entertainment that has withstood the test of time. Over 50 years ago the Scooby gang hit screens worldwide and introduced the formula that the show has continued using since. Instead of becoming stale, it's a formula that fans have not only enjoyed for its dependability, but is flexible enough to be translated to other mediums such as movies and video games. Scooby-Doo! Escape From The Haunted Mansion attempts to emulate the look and feel of a Scooby-Doo adventure through an adventure game mystery, but is it as applicable in a board game format?
Scooby Doo! is a game in the Coded Chronicles series from The OP games. It's a mystery/escape room style game wrapped up into a Scooby-Doo narrative. The gang is having car troubles with the Mystery Machine and have to make it to a nearby creepy mansion on a hill. Once the gang is inside, they meet the butler, gardener, and chef of Lord Fairmont. The mansion has seemingly been haunted by the ghost of the late Lady Fairmont so the Lord has left, unable to handle seeing the ghost of his beloved. From there the gang gets split up and the mystery begins as only Velma is left in the Foyer.
Reading through the descriptions of the characters, mansion, and the appearance from the ghost, it's impossible to not picture these events transpiring in the show. The level of description and narrative from the game's introduction is also very reminiscent of the hook of any Tabletop RPG. Very quickly establishing a setting, characters, and a goal, no time is wasted getting players into sleuthing. It's great to be able to jump into the action so quickly as you're restricted from look at any of the game materials beforehand. Players new to this genre will also be able to understand the game faster instead of reading through overcomplicated rules.
Through the game you'll make all kinds of parallels between the Scooby-Doo formula and key points of the story. Shaggy gets caught up in strange hijinks, Velma pieces together clues, Daphne gets trapped, and Fred sets a trap. The creators even manage to fit a chase sequence into the game somehow. This knowledge and understanding of the source material makes it really enjoyable to work through the mystery and feel like part of the gang.
As an escape room style board game, there's a lot in the box, but you aren't allowed to peek until the game tells you to. Numbered map tiles and clue cards are placed face down and Narrative books are laid out, one for each member of the Scooby Gang. After reading the introduction entry you'll begin the game with the Foyer of the house available, and Velma ready to look for clues. Each room tile gives a good overview of the features held within as well as numbers over interactable items.
The number system in this game allows for players to not only pick features of a room or items to interact with but also which of the Scooby Gang will be interacting. Each character has a number assigned to them, such as Velma being 1, so to interact with the wardrobe labeled 401, you'd combine together the character number and the object number to get a new four digit number. You'd then look up entry 1401 in Velma's Narrative Book to see what happened when Velma looked at the wardrobe.
These entries will not only explain what has happened but also give further instructions on revealing Clue Cards, opening any secret envelopes, or adding any characters or rooms to the table. Clue Cards and secrets that you've already used might come up again later, so unless you're explicitly told to put something away, then it might still be useful.
This is the most fun and rewarding part of the game. After trying a few options with just flavor text, there's nothing better than flipping to an entry in the Narrative Book and seeing a few paragraphs of text giving you an idea that you've already found the correct path.
Each character will have unique interactions with everything in the world, some allowing you to progress through the story while others will give you flavor text. Each character has their own ability that will inform the player of what they can expect if that character interacts with the world. Velma can Research, Shaggy Eats, Daphne can Use, Scoob can Smell, and Fred Investigates.
Needless to say, some abilities like Research and use will be more useful than others like eating, but the story has been crafted in such a way that everyone will get their chance to shine. With the Narrative books split up into five, there's plenty of chances to make sure players are involved not only in the decision making process of what a character will do but reading to the group what happens when it's attempted.
The puzzles are all extremely satisfying to work through. Only one or two of the puzzles were truly obscure but you should be able to make your way through them. The more difficult the puzzle, the better you'll feel when you progress to the next part of the game. There were a few puzzles in the game that we were well ahead of, guessing an item's importance or use almost 30 minutes before its use became apparent. Even those more basic puzzles would bolster our egos for having recognized their importance ahead of time. Overall, you're likely going to feel good about yourself coming out of this experience.
At the end of the game, you're scored on how many Scooby Snacks you have remaining—you lose these for wrong decisions—and if you managed to correctly deduce who the ghost of Lady Fairmont really is. You begin the game with 20 Scooby Snacks and there's no explicit "fail" state to the game, so you don't need to worry about conserving your snacks. It's a fun way to cap off the adventure seeing how you scored but has such little impact on the overall game it's no worry to disregard whether the Scooby Gang would be impressed with you or not.
The Bottom Line
It's hard to think of a pairing so well suited to one another than a mystery escape room board game and Scooby-Doo. The game is easy to pick up, fun to play through with a number of your friends, and each puzzle is satisfying to solve. Scooby-Doo! Escape From The Haunted Mansion does an incredible job mirroring the formula that at every step of the way the characters interactions or story progress make sense for how you'd expect these 50 year old characters to act in any given situation. The most disappointing aspect of the game is that its lone scenario means that once you've managed to get to the end and solve the mystery, there isn't much more for you to do with the game. Anyone looking for a cooperative experience to occupy a few hours of your time, though, should be happy playing this game.
Get This Game If:
- Scooby-Doo fan
- Enjoy escape room/mystery board games
- Have a group to play cooperatively with
- Enjoy solving puzzles
Avoid This Game If:
- Not a fan of the source material
- You don't want a "one-play" game
- you think you would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids
The copy of Scooby-Doo! Escape From The Haunted Mansion used in this review was provided by The OP.