We're starting in on another generation of Scooby fans, and with our campy canine showing up on the big screen, a video game was clearly the next logical step. It was as inevitable as the Scooby snacks and lunch-pails. But as I sat down to play Night of 100 Frights, two things became obvious. First, this game was conceived with lots of love by pretty big fans. Second, the application of those ideas fell short by a nose (and wagging tail).
The premise is standard cartoon fare: Daphne's friend Holly has called in the gang to help find her missing uncle, a crazy inventor who owns, you guest it, a creepy castle called the Mystic Manor. The gang is quickly scattered by the evil Mastermind, and it's up to Scooby to use all his wits (and some ingenious inventions he finds along the way) to find his friends and save the day. It's twelve "levels" of what I might call platformer "light" that play out in the environments of Mystic Manor, Smuggler's Cove, and the Haunted Grounds/Hedge Mazes along with a playground to practice your skills in and a Monster Gallery where you can view the actual monsters that appear on the monster tokens you collect in the game.
Besides monster tokens, you also pick up keys (which allow you to open up new doors), Scooby Snacks and foods like ice cream cones, sandwiches, cake, and mutton which increase your "courage" (basically your life points). The inventor's gadgets that you must find are exceptionally cool, ranging from an umbrella (which lets you float longer on jumps), boots (to help you across sticky or slick surfaces), springs (for extra jump), a football helmet (for crunching your way through obstacles), and other things like soap, bubble gum, a plunger, shovel, and armor. Probably the cutest, though, are the lampshade and bunny slippers (to hide and sneak). The game provides magnifying glass icons along the way that provide hints for the player, and the magic bus icons for save points. You can also open warp ports for greater ease of movement back to places you've been before, which is handy because the game requires you to find objects in new areas and return to old "haunts" to use them to progress further. To top it all off, Night of 100 Frights provides a laugh track, and although it sounds occasionally with no clear provocation, that's just like the cartoon as well.
If this game could rest on its "cuteness/nostalgia quotient" alone, it would be a great offshoot of the franchise. I mean, getting to play Scooby-how cool is that! However, there are some gameplay glitches that take this game down a few pegs on the groovy scale. The first big faux pas is that Night of 100 Frights only pretends to be a full 3D title. There are quiet a few environments that play like side scrollers, and this causes a myriad of problems. The most obvious is rooms that you enter that must have one wall set up as semi-transparent because you are not really "in" a room in the three dimensional sense. This is obnoxious, to say the least. Second, Scooby is required to do stunts and jumps from platforms, rubber tires, and chandeliers, and with the lack of true 3D rendering, this becomes more difficult to perform correctly, pushing portions of this game into the "dumb-luck" rather than skill category. Finally, this lack causes there to be no control or switch of camera. We are stuck with a third person floating perspective that, although it allows us to see all of the Scoob's cool moves, doesn't allow us to look at important portions of the environment or to get a better perspective on some of the gauntlets we need to fight our way through. And the camera's perspective switch, if it does happen, is slow and annoying. There's nothing worse than having Scooby run blindly towards the screen and having no idea what's coming up next or when it might be revealed to you (or pounce on you, if it includes an enemy). Any game that wants to call itself 3D should have a 360 degree pan function and fully formed environments. Otherwise, don't tease us.
The aforementioned element is the most critical problem with the game, and believe me, that's enough. Some small annoyances also include character prompts that are repeated way too often, collision problems within the environments, and the lack of consistency in ledges (etc.) where it's a crapshoot whether or not you fall to your doom, with no rhyme or reason. Luckily this game allows you start over as many times as you want, setting you back to the beginning of the subsection of level that you started (and the game is divided into very small increments, so that's a pretty kid-friendly feature). Anything else that a player might find annoying is usually something involving the original cartoonesque nature of the game, and if that's the case, you probably wouldn't have picked up the title to begin with.
On the positive side, there is quite a bit of fun to be had just discovering those cheesy elements that the designers included. That's where the love for the game abounds. The soundtrack is also a great mix of spooky background and campy cartoon mayhem music (if those are good descriptors for sound). The character voices are all original and the feel of the cartoon has been preserved perfectly. The environments have some great potential. Springing off beds and swinging from chandeliers is a great concept, even though we don't get to interact with them as fully as I would have liked. The graphics provide perfect cartoon replicas, giving us neither more nor less than the original. Scooby, of course, is the main draw for any player, and his antics provided me with belly laughs and "oh he's so cute" moments.
If you're a Scooby fan of old, or if you're just cutting your teeth on the phenomenon, this game is probably worth the rental. Prepare yourself for some frustration, but the trip down memory lane might be worth it in the end. Night of 100 Frights is fun for young kids as long as they're not the type to get overly frustrated by the camera. The cheesy mayhem is a lot of fun. I would suggest renting this game to find out if your kids really take to the premise and don't mind the glitches (young ones aren't quite as jaded as I am-comes with the job). As an adult, however, playing this game once was enough for me, and I didn't feel too bad when it came time to turn off the power and go to bed at night. Unless you're a "collector" once through is all you really need.