Scooby-Doo! Unmasked Impressions

THQ shows off its new action platforming game starring everyone's favorite cowardly canine crusader, Scooby-Doo.

Scooby and the gang have a penchant for piloting their minivan straight into spooky mysteries, and it's no different in THQ's latest Scooby-Doo adventure, Scooby-Doo! Unmasked. Much like the previous game, Night of 100 Frights, Unmasked is an action platformer that lets you guide the perpetually petrified pooch and his bottomless stomach through a variety of creeptastic locales in an effort to investigate odd happenings (and consume countless Scooby snacks along the way). We've had a chance to check out a work-in-progress version, and it looks like Scooby fans are in for another enjoyable romp, with some improvements and gameplay tweaks tacked on for good measure.

This time around, Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma are off visiting a studio called Monstrous Fright and Magic, which produces animatronic creatures and monsters. However, there's trouble afoot, and soon the animated puppets are out and running amok. They were coated with a special material called "mubber," which caused the creations to start moving on their own and scaring the living daylights out of people. The intrepid crew begins the task of unraveling who's behind the outbreak (or in Scooby and Shaggy's case, finding lunch), with the titular hound taking on most of the sleuthing action. This is mainly Scooby's show, though occasionally he'll be able to pair up with Shaggy for some quality "Zoinks!" moments.

Scooby has a basic assortment of abilities at his doggy disposal that are standard fare: jumping, spin attacks, and head-butts are his innate skills, along with eating any snacks that come into range. In Unmasked, though, you'll also be able to have Scooby collect mubber while he slinks around the various areas, which you can then take to special machines that will give him one of three costumes to wear. Each costume gives Scooby different abilities. There's a bat-Scooby outfit with a dashing cape that lets him catch the air and glide around the environment and pick up items. The Robin Hood outfit not only gives the pooch a jaunty cap and feather with a matching tunic, but also grants him a bow that fires suction-cup arrows to damage enemies and interact with puzzles. Lastly, there's the awesome kung fu outfit, which not only enables Scooby to engage in some fancy kung fu fighting, but also lets him slow down time (a la The Matrix) and use a charge push ability. The stages of the game seem to have a good mix of normal, and the more-enhanced action and the new costumes look like they'll be fun to play around with.

In addition to Scooby Snacks and mubber to collect, you'll also be able to scour the game for different food items, which Scooby can then bring to Shaggy. Shaggy, being the gourmand he is, carries around a portable kitchen that he can use to craft foodstuffs from the items you bring him, and you can then use those items on yourself to restore health. Collecting enough of the various items will purportedly let you unlock monster concept art used for the game.

The areas we saw included a circus tent, a haunted house (naturally), and a museum. Each level seemed to be fairly spacious, with room to maneuver and lots of enemies to spin into. The look of the game has also evolved somewhat since Night of 100 Frights, using something the makers are calling "contour shading," which is essentially a cel-shading effect on the characters and environments. It lends them more of a true cartoon look, and it enhances the visuals and complements the world nicely. The characters looked good and moved well, and the areas themselves had a good amount of detail and variety. There were some straightforward platforming areas, and then there were some areas that were built for different sorts of action. For example, one level included a water slide of sorts that Shaggy and Scooby rode down like a flume, collecting snacks and avoiding obstacles along the way. Another area in the museum had Scooby piloting a propeller plane around the aeronautical exhibit, shooting down displays. The haunted house is of course a Scooby staple, but it's nice to see some new scary environments in the mix.

The gang's all here for another madcap, mystery-solving caper.

The voice work sounded dead-on. We were told that the classic voice of Fred from the cartoon series would reprise his role, and that Adam West (star of screen and classic campy Batman TV episodes) will also voice a character in the game. Shaggy has his signature inflection and proper range, and Scooby sounds just as he should, whether he's yelping in fright, commenting on how much he hates spiders, or happily munching down a treat. The music we heard was soft and understated, but it seemed to match the game well.

Those of you making your impassioned "Scooby-Doo, where are you?" pleas will have your question answered when Scooby-Doo! Unmasked arrives this September for the Xbox, PS2, and GameCube consoles. If you're a fan of the classic cartoon, this game looks to be a nice romp for the old team and their mystery-solving skills. Keep your eyes on this gamespace for more Scooby news as it becomes available.

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Scooby-Doo! Unmasked

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