Howdy there, kiddos. I’m back with another review for a home console game. I know it may be a difficult adjustment, but bear with me. This blog, at least when it comes to reviews, will be a bit more of a general gaming blog going forward. However, there will still be a heavy, HEAVY focus on arcades when it comes to commentary posts. I don’t have enough time to write about all the nonsense that goes on in the video game industry these days.
But yeah, I beat this little delight over Christmas break. I usually don’t get to play games for hours on end (you’d be surprised how little I actually play). However, with this one, I got to spend a lot of time just, you know, playing! It was nice. So anyway, without further ado, let’s see if this game was poppin’ or not.
Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights
Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
Platform: PlayStation 2
Release Date: 2002
Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights functions as a fixed-camera 2.5D/3D platformer. You’re given free three-dimensional movement throughout environments that are mostly side-scrolling excursions, with a few more “open-area” exceptions.
The way Night of 100 Frights is set up is actually kind of interesting. The game takes place in a few large areas that are broken up into many small chunks that function as “levels” of sorts, duly labeled as parts. The three large areas in the game are Smuggler’s Cove, Hedge Maze, and Mystic Manor, with a Mystic Playground and Monster Gallery tacked on just for a little fun. Smuggler’s Cove, Hedge Maze, and Mystic Manor themselves are separated into individual episodes, such “Clamor in the Manor!” from Mystic Manor. These individual “episodes” in each area are broken up into “parts”. “Clamor in the Manor!”, for instance, has a four parts, which is a fairly standard quantity throughout the game. To facilitate easy travel, there are also Warp Gates, which you can always find at the end of an episode.
You’re probably thinking, “Dustin, that is just WAY too much starting and stopping.” And yeah, it probably sounds that way in theory. But in practice, the game still manages to pull off quite a bit of fluidity. Each part of an episode is semi-lengthy in its own right, and breaking parts up through loading screens creates a feeling of progress. Throughout my playthrough, encountering a loading screen that announced that I was on the, say, third part of a level actually became a welcome treat of sorts. The sectioning-off of levels didn’t stifle me, but rather gave me a concept of geography (in conjunction with the in-game map, accessed through the pause menu). This sectioning-off also creates a feeling of level progression that balances the pull between a large game world (which Night of 100 Frights certainly has) and the more traditional structure of sidescrolling platformers. So many of the levels in large, open-world 3D platformers feel so pointless and overwhelming until you reach the end of the level. (I’m looking at you, every game where levels take 30 to 45 minutes to complete.) Luckily, the bite-sized chunks in Night of 100 Frights alleviate what could have been a potential issue.
The sectioning-off becomes even more welcome when taking into account a rather prominent aspect of the gameplay: ability-based progression. You’ll actually find yourself travelling through episodes numerous times after acquiring a new ability (such as double-jumping), and separating the large in-game world makes finding a certain hidden secret or new area SO much less tedious than it might have been otherwise. You may hate the loading screens, but you sure won’t hate being able to access just a small chunk of an episode instantaneously. And like I said earlier, Warp Points make it even easier to find a hidden Monster Token that may have been out of reach before you had the needed ability. (More on Monster Tokens in the Content section.)
As I’ve mentioned, abilities are big part of the game. Scoobert’s moveset is surprisingly varied and makes for a fun gameplay experience. Your moveset will eventually contain many colorful powers, such as double-jumping, floating across platforms, using a shovel to dig up secrets, the ability to walk through tar, the ability to traverse steep slopes, ramming your head into things via a football helmet, ground-pounding (aptly called a super smash in-game), a sonic super smash that stuns nearby enemies, shooting bubble-gum to immobilize enemies, and blowing bubbles to also immobilize enemies. It’s a hefty moveset, and it’s all good fun.
In addition to standard platforming, ability-based progression, and a linear sort of exploration, Scoobert-Doo! Night of 100 Frights actually acts as a bit of a collect-a-thon. The collectibles pretty much amount to Monster Tokens, Scoobert Snacks, and keys. Keys, while not really collectibles, are common objects that you’ll required to find to unlock doors throughout the game. Scoobert Snacks are bit less necessary than the others. Some doors are blocked off by Scoobert Snack requirements, but it’s never hard to get the right amount by just walking through levels. However, if you’re a big completionist, the game does in fact challenge you to collect every single Scoobert Snack in every single level, though it’s entirely up to you if you’d like to do that. (Collecting all Scoobert Snacks in one area will unlock concept art in the Monster Gallery, though, which is pretty cool, I guess.) Monster Tokens, on the other hand, are by far the most valuable collectible in the game. They range from simply being blocked behind an ability Scoobert doesn’t have yet to being very elusive, so keep your eye out for ‘em. Monster Tokens unlock content in the aforementioned Monster Gallery, which acts as an in-game museum for reading up on Scoobert-Doobert trivia. For an avid Scoobert fan like myself, finding Monster Tokens was a necessity.
Night of 100 Frights also makes a point to break up all of the jumping and collecting with some good ol’ fashioned boss battles. Bosses in this game are actually really simple and quite easy to beat. They pretty consist of nothing more than avoiding attacks and hitting switches at the correct time. Even so, they’re still a welcome diversion from the already fun platforming gameplay. Keep in mind, though, that there are only four bosses in the entire game. (Boss battles are also a delight for their music, but we’ll get to that later.)
To spice things up even more, there are also semi-frequent encounters with Shaggy. Though Shaggy doesn’t really show up to do more than be saved and/or throw Scoobert up to something, it is a nice diversion, and it’s fun to control Shaggy for just a bit. (Shaggy’s shenanigans can be real amusing-like, you see.) Also, it’s really nice to hear Scott Innes’s Shaggy voice. Though Casey Kasem was and always will be THE Shaggy, Innes was a much better replacement voice actor than Matthew Lilliard will EVER be. (Sorry about that tangent. I’m a major Scoobert fan.)
The enemies never become too difficult, relatively speaking. Platforming starts out simple, but some sections will make you want to pull your hair out. (I kid you not.) However, the real difficulty in this game stems from level progression, depending on your gaming skill level. If you’re a bit forgetful or tend to have trouble following video game logic (I suffer from both of those things), you may get stuck in this game—big time. After getting certain items, you’ll need to go back to certain portions of the game. Whether you remember where those portions were or not is where the trouble really begins. Of course, this isn’t really a fault of the game, but as an “Average Joe” kinda reviewer, I feel the need to make it clear.
In terms of raw content, Scoobert-Doo packs a real punch. The main game itself is a surprisingly lengthy adventure that took a heckuva lotta hours to get through. And even after the credits have rolled, there’s still so much to do. Like I mentioned earlier, there are 20 Monster Tokens to collect throughout the game. Collecting a token grants you access to little bits of trivia in the Monster Gallery. Though it may it seem small, it’s a challenge that’s definitely worth the effort to the avid Scoobert fan.
I also mentioned earlier that you can put in extra time scouring the levels for every single Scoobert Snack. It’s a little harder to advocate doing so, because despite unlocking cool concept art, it’s almost too great of an undertaking to even justify the reward. Sure, it might not be that hard to grab all of the snack-a-roos, but it definitely becomes a massive pain when you only have five Scoobert Snacks left and can’t seem to find any of them. Still, the extra challenge is there, and if you’re into lengthy games, it can boost your total playtime considerably.
Beyond the lengthy campaign and plethora of collectibles, you’ve also got some “extra content” of sorts on the main menu screen. You can access the credits and some neat promos for Scoobert DVDs and an old THQ Hot Wheels game. It’s not much, but it’s hard content, people. You know we all like content in our games. But yeah, that’s about it. It’s a lot, so you’re definitely getting your $10 bucks worth. (For a more concrete frame of reference, I saw the credits and only had 84 percent of the game completed. You’ll be good with this one.)
Man, I love collecting for the PlayStation 2. It’s so cheap, yet you get so much bang for your buck. Can’t say the same for my Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 64 where all of the good stuff costs too danged much. Anyway, tangent over. Let’s roll.
On the whole, Scoobert controls remarkably well. He may have two more legs than the average platforming star, but it certainly doesn’t mar your gameplay experience. Night of 100 Frights just works, ya know?
However, despite Scoobert’s relative ease of control, there are some slight problems. Sometimes, his head-ramming move doesn’t work the way it feels like it should. If you start barreling toward an enemy just a hair too soon, the character animation ends a split-second before you hit the monster, and you end up losing health for what felt and looked like a naturally executed attack. Luckily, this stops being as much of a problem once you acquire the super smash (ground-pound) move. However, head-ramming is the only attack you’ll have in your reservoir for quite a while. The attack works, for sure! It’s just that you’ll sometimes have slight timing issues. Head-ramming difficulties do not ruin the game by any stretch of the imagination.
Hit-detection can be a bit iffy at times. Many items look like they can be reached easily through double-jumping vertically. However, because Scoobert’s hitbox doesn’t seem to encompass the top of his head, you may struggle to acquire a simple Scoobert Snack. There were many, many times, when I would actually see Scoobert’s head going through an item, but I still wouldn’t collect the it. It may be a mild problem, but it’s a problem that pops up a bit too much for my tastes.
Furthermore, the fixed camera angles can be a little wonky at times. The camera doesn’t always move the way I’d like it to, and sometimes the placement of the camera is a little odd. Occasionally, you’ll gain altitude or turn corners only for the camera to not quite get the memo. It can be a bit of hindrance when there’s an enemy skulking about in an area that hasn’t yet been revealed to you. The camera is especially unforgiving when walking backwards through a level. Making jumps and looking out for enemies can be a real challenge, and only because of the camera. Even the slightest degree of free camera movement would have been incredibly helpful. Not too much, as that would likely break the sidescrolling feel of it. Just a little x- and y-axis movement to give you a better view of the action, ya know? However, the camera isn’t a huge problem at all. It works, at least as well as it can. The few hiccups don’t ruin the experience as a whole.
But while we’re on the subject, you know how I was talking about getting stuck in the game? So many of the game’s hidden secrets and passageways are dependent on you not being able to see because of the, you know, fixed camera angles. While most of the time I was able to sleuth my way through areas, sometimes there were things that were almost unreasonably out of the view of the camera, requiring incredible leaps of faith into the unkown. Night of 100 Frights is a fun game, but keep that in mind.
But beyond the few issues I’ve mentioned, the controls work great. The controls are all mapped to buttons that make perfect sense, and your muscle memory will quickly catch on. To top it off, Scoobert’s running and jumping is tight, quick, and responsive. Sometimes, platforming can be a bit of a struggle, but that may just be due to the fixed camera. And granted, some platforms seems a bit TOO high for Scoobert’s jump (definitely some design oversights there), but it eventually works.
When it comes to capturing the essence of the Scoobert-Doo license, you couldn’t ask for a better game than Night of 100 Frights. The game packs so much visual charm and is dripping with that classic Scoobert vibe. The color and design of levels makes for a perfect 3D recreation of the painted background layouts from the show. There are lots of deep blues, grays, and purples. And unlike many dark levels from the PS2 era, you can actually see. (I can’t be the only one who has trouble making things out in dark levels in older 3D games. The color palette and resolution wasn’t always good enough, ya know?)
While the graphics themselves may not be breaking any new territory per se, I think they do quite well for what they are. All of the character models and environments are very clean. Scoobert and the gang translate remarkably well into 3D, and everything looks as it should. And on top of that, Night of 100 Frights is a living, breathing game. There are so many small details and subtle animations that the game comes to life. It feels like a real environment, like a real place to be. There’s just so much energy behind every movement. Scooby jumping, sliding, and even bringing all four paws together when close to a ledge—it's all amusing and well done. By perfectly recreating what it should feel like to walk in Scoobert’s universe, Heavy Iron Studios demonstrated the importance of a great art style over raw graphical power.
There is a very real sense of atmosphere in Night of 100 Frights. Everything works, ya know? That’s why it’s a bit hard for me to lay out some of the criticisms. For instance, though few and far between, there are some select instances in the game where the framerate absolutely DIES. I typically noticed it in areas that were packed with character models and moving objects. Though the framerate drops are infrequent, they make it difficult to play with the precision required for a platformer of this nature.
Furthermore, there are a quite few weird technical goofs here and there, but overall, Night of 100 Frights shows a decent degree of polish. (I encountered a particularly odd goof on the final boss. I paused the game right after a cutscene, and when I resumed, the boss music had gone away. It was a little weird.)
But other than that, the graphics and performance are good. Night of 100 Frights excels at presentation. Heck, even the menus look good! When the game boots up, you’re greeted with a nearly scene-for-scene recreation of the 1969 opening theme song, crafted with the in-game engine. On top of that, every cutscene in the game looks and feels just as it should. The animations are fluid, and the writing is as campy as ever. Cutscenes might be a bit sparse, sure; but that’s what makes them such a rare delight. (Fun fact: Dan Slott wrote the scripts and dialogue for Scoobert-Doo! Night of 100 Frights. I sure didn’t see that coming.)
Presentation is one area where Night of 100 Fright dominates. The game may not be perfect, but little details make it game worth owning for any hardcore Scoobert fan.
The sound in this game is FANTASTIC—and I mean it. Along with the stellar presentation, the music in Night of 100 Frights goes a long way towards embodying all that is Scoobert. And just because I’m a big Scoobert dude, let’s start by looking over the voice actors.
First, we’ve Scott Innes as both Scooby-Doo and Shaggy. In my opinion, Innes has always been the best replacement for Casey Kasem, followed by Billy West and Matthew Lilliard. Though Lilliard brings a certain unique sound to the table and West is pretty darn close to the real deal, I think it’s best to go for the replacement that sounds the absolute most like the original. Scott Innes takes the cake by far, and your ears might almost believe its Kasem in this game. I also believe that Innes does a very solid Scoobert. Though Frank Welker is a top-notch voice actor and has does lots of work as Scoobert in recent years, I don’t think he fully channels the original Don Messick sound the way Innes does. Either way, I think Innes does a great job in both roles in this game.
Next up is Frank Welker. Fun fact: He’s credited in the game as “Fred Walker.” I had to go to IMDB just to check that there wasn’t actually a Fred Walker in this game. (Wonder who’s goof that was, am I right?) Welker, as always, is absolutely phenomenal in his role as Fred Jones. It’s incredible that he’s been doing the voice for so long and still doesn’t miss a beat. If anything, Welker’s even better than he was when he started out! Unlike Kasem (he will missed), Welker’s voice hasn’t really changed with age, and he still totally rocks that All-American teenaged guy thing. His performance is as consistent as ever here in Night of 100 Frights.
Grey Delisle has definitely proven to be a great replacement for Daphne in recent years, but it’s clear in this game that her performance wasn’t always as refined. She’s a tad bland in this game, but even when Delisle’s a bit bland, she’s still a force to be reckoned with. A voice actor of her caliber does the job, despite this being one of her earlier, weaker examples. (Delisle also plays Holly Graham in this game. It’s basically her normal speaking voice. She does a really good job of keeping it distinct from Daphne’s voice, so fear not.)
Rounding off the gang is B.J. Ward as Velma. She was never a perfect replacement for Nicole Jaffe, but she did a pretty good job. Her worst transgression (and one that is present within this game) is that she didn’t really have much personality. Ward did the job and she did it well; don’t get me wrong. She just didn’t really bring anything special to the character. But like I said, though not perfect, she did a darn good job of voicing Velma for quite a while. Though luckily for Ward, her voice for Velma sounds PERFECT compared to the absolutely travesty that is Kate Micucci’s Velma voice. We get Warner Bros.; Kate Micucci is one of the most popular female voice actors right now. But just because she voices every female nerd on television doesn’t mean she needs to be Velma. Her voice DOES NOT WORK—at all. (Sorry about that tangent. For my money, Mindy Cohn did the most to bring Velma to life without completely disregarding Nicole Jaffe’s original voice work.)
To top off the already all-star voice cast, Night of 100 Frights also features special guest stars Don Knotts and Tim Curry, and boy is it a treat. Don Knotts in particular is really funny as the grumpy old groundskeeper, always going on about how he hates that dumb mutt Scoobert. (Fun fact: Night of 100 Frights is the first and only video game Don Knotts has done voice work for. That makes it extra special.) Tim Curry is good as the Mastermind, but he’s not quite as special in my eyes. I’ve come to notice that Curry will take almost any role, no matter how bad, so it’s just okay.
So sure, Night of 100 Frights has good voice work. You might even call it stellar. (Which it is) But voice acting is only a small sliver of the entire sound experience. What about the sound effects? Well, kiddos, those are good, too. Nearly every sound is ripped straight from the Hanna-Barbera library, and it sounds real nice-like. Each movement you make sounds just like it would in any given Scoobert cartoon, going a long way toward enhancing the overall experience. I will admit that some sounds become a bit tired after hours of hearing them (you’ll hate the sound of Scoobert’s jump by the end of the end), but it still works beautifully. Even the monsters sound just like they should! You’re playin’ the gosh danged cartoon!
Oh, and did I mention that this game has a laugh track? Yep, just the old cartoons. The laugh track is so subtle and infrequent that it never overstays its welcome. Plus, it’s just really cool to have a laugh track in a video game. Probably not that technically impressive, but still wicked. Heavy Iron Studios went the extra mile with the sound design Night of 100 Frights.
But heck, if the sound design is already passing with such flying colors, surely the music is just as good as the rest of the sounds, right? And boy oh boy, let me tell ya: The music is great. PERFECT, I tell ya. So many of the level themes are ripped straight from the show. It creates an atmosphere that’s just like the show, and it’s really neat. And what’s even better than the standard level music is the boss level music. Like I said, there are four bosses in this game. Each boss level has its own unique composition that’s meant to channel the spirit of the classic 1970s chase scene music. The songs are good, good fun, people, and they add to the total charm of the game. I’ll just let the music speak for itself:
And here’s the Darude Scoobstorm that came out of nowhere in the credits:
If only that's what it sounded like every time you connected to dial-up.
Scoobert-Doo! Night of 100 Frights isn’t the pinnacle of all 2.5D/3D platformers. Your mind won’t be blown like it was that first time you played Super Mario 64. This Scoobert game is some pretty simple stuff. But if you come in here looking for the most mind-blowingly bombastic game ever, you’re missing the point entirely. Night of 100 Frights is a joy, a delight. It makes you feel like you’re in an episode of Scoobert-Doo, like you’re the one going on adventures and solving the mystery. Night of 100 Frights isn’t a demanding game; it’s a happy, feel-good game that gives you a darn good reason to spend a few more hours on your PS2. And for that reason alone, I recommend this game to not just Scoobert fans, but to platforming fans as a whole. The biggest problems in this game were definitely depth perception, hit detection, and level progression. (Gosh, what a rhyme.) But beyond that, I’ll think you’ll have a lotta fun with this one.
You know, digging through the PlayStation 2’s jaw-droppingly gigantic library, it’s hard not to consider it the de facto platform for licensed games of the era. There were just so many licensed games released on the PS2—released during that era of gaming—that it simply cannot be considered unreasonable to make such a judgment. However, in my lifetime, I witnessed this era of licensed console games die. The Wii, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation 2 were a last hurrah for the profitability of licensed games on consoles in the late-2000s and early-2000s. But as time went on, people in my generation and people younger than me shifted from console to Flash webgames and eventually mobile games to fill this need. No one needed consoles to play games based off of their favorite properties—often low-quality ones at that—when there were free-to-play games on their PCs and mobile devices. It’s sad, but it’s true.
Though there’s so much garbage out there, I highly recommend you fish through the THQ licensed games of yesteryear. Believe it or not, you can dig out a few gems from that heap of rubbish.
Keep it real, kiddos. I’m gonna play more PS2 games now.