Good ol' Scooby-Doo, there was nothing else like that cartoon back then, with a team of Ghostbusters (WAY before there was
even a "Ghostbusters") with several different personalities and a talking dog solving all kinds of ghostly goings-on that were mysteriously commonplace (just as "common" that no one who hired the gang to solve any supernatural silliness couldn't figure out for themselves that most of the hauntings were fake, along with the talking dog being normal too).
Unfortunately, when you have something that is so successful that it's endured for years, and with many incarnations as Scooby-Doo did (like Scrappy-Doo and The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, among many other spin-offs), and with Hollywood running out of ideas, that meant that not one, but TWO dreaded Scooby-Doo movies were made (at the time of this writing, although hopefully there won't be any more) with real people, souring the Scooby-Doo name then, as the movies included such wonderful words as "urinate" in the dialog, plans of the two female ghostbusting members of Daphne and Velma having an onscreen kiss and/or a nude scene (forgot what it was exactly -- or maybe it was both -- although I think those scenes ended up on the cutting room floor), lead comic relief hippie Shaggy smoking pot and women in their underwear in the first movie, along with other crap that never would have been in any of the cartoons.
So, if you're old enough (as I am) for when you used to enjoy the cartoons, you KNOW you shouldn't expect much from a Scooby game, right? (Luckily these belong to the nephew, or else I never would have played them.) There's two complete games in one here, being of the platform and/or puzzle genre, the first of which I'll go over is Mystery Mayhem.
As usual with a lot of GameBoy Advance games, there's an intro telling you what buttons do which in the game, along with getting into the story. The Scooby gang is heading over to check out a haunt full of supposedly real ghosts (for once) in their Mystery Machine van. Wow, I remember this! There was also some of the canned laughter thrown in when some bad joke was said (forgot about that), along with dialog from Scooby where he mispronounces a lot of words, using the letter R where it doesn't belong. So far, so good, as the spirit of the gang seemed to be captured pretty well, especially with the graphics being really good and cartoony.
You start off with Scooby and Shaggy exploring several floors of the place; a press of a shoulder button will change who's in the lead. Get touched by a ghost, though, and the dynamic duo turns incredibly pale; get touched again, and you lose a turn. However, munching on a Scooby Snack scattered around will restore the duo back up a notch, and there are several pieces of food trimmings floating around the place in various areas; collect all the food to make an entire sandwich, and you get an extra turn. (Granted, I sure as hell wouldn't trust a single piece of food that's eerily floating around a place that's supposed to be haunted, but then, like I said, the Scooby spirit was captured really well, since Shaggy and Scooby's always hungry...)
There's several ghosts throughout the joint, and they might seem scary to a real young kid with the sounds they make as they lunge for you, but then, this game isn't for very little kids anyway (which I'll get to later). Going through a place and jumping on platforms has been done to death for years now in games, but with them being entire wall sections floating up and down in a haunted building, the idea seems almost fresh. There's a way to tiptoe past ghosts as you gather clues to solve the mystery and rooms where you have to carry a lantern to be able to see your way around, which you have to gather a bunch of batteries that are so weak your lantern's power is constantly running out, so there's a variety of things to do (like one section in the level having several members of the Scooby gang ride in a cart through several rooms, which also ties in with the cartoon pretty well).
Unfortunately, the layout is very confusing, so you're not sure which places you're done with, you think you've searched everywhere, but the level isn't complete, there's no map, etc. There are bookcases that are used to warp to other places in the building, which makes things even more confusing, and this is one of those games that only allows you to save in certain places, so good luck trying to remember what the hell you were doing when you try getting back to the game at a later time.
I gathered enough clues at one point to get to the end of the first level, but I couldn't force myself to go back to the end so I could capture some ghosts to go on to the next part of the game (I had to quit the game for some reason or other); like I said, the game save won't allow you to save right exactly where you last left off (I forgot exactly how this works -- or doesn't -- since I don't have the instructions with me), and the nephew had quit playing it a while back, since it was obviously too frustrating for him as well. However, once I told him I had beaten the other game, that encouraged him to pick it back up, and he made it to the second level, which reminded me of the original Sonic from the Sega Genesis -- being outdoors and scrolling -– but if two people, two different ages (one nearly 40, the other nearly 10) couldn't get themselves to continue throughout the game, lets face it, it's confusing in it's design. Too bad, since it looks good and could be fun in a lot of places, as the games have nearly 30 levels total, so it can keep you occupied, but the problem lies as to whether you WANT to keep on going or not. I give this one a 6 out of 10, though...not too bad, and it might've improved after the first level.
Now, onto the other game, The Cyber Chase...as a guess, I'd say this is the older of the two games, since the graphics aren't as good (Daphne doesn't look as hot, and don't even TELL me that's pathetic!), there's no voice samples of Scooby (like in the other game), and it doesn't have as many levels.
Rather than the confusing layout of the other game's first level, this one's a lot more linear and simple, just having a series of rooms that you enter that will take you to levels in the game, and that's it. As the name implies, some cyber-creature is causing havoc, so members of the Scooby gang have to get shrunk via laser to enter the levels and defeat the guy/thing. However, I was confused by the rooms too, since several of them appear to have no function at all; again, I don't have the instructions, but I doubt I missed much, since I was able to beat the game without interaction with many of the rooms...
The first level of being in a Roman-type coliseum (which the graphics improve then) is incredibly easy; you just walk through it and throw things to freeze any bad guys wandering around and collecting Scooby snacks (you get a bonus at the end of a level with snacks collected and time remaining). You couldn't die in this level if you tried, as the characters are really big, and you can't miss them. There are certain places that warp you to other levels of the arena, but they're not confusing (everything here is just a side-scroller), and they'll eventually lead you to the end.
However, the second part is the total opposite, being very difficult: members of the Scooby gang water ski (shudders at the thought of Velma being in a bathing suit, even if it IS a one-piece), collecting Scooby snacks, as usual (how they never get soggy in the water is beyond me, and why does everything have to be about the damn dog?), but unfortunately, there's several rocks that can knock off part of your life meter if you come into contact with them. Worse, the snacks are on three planes -- pressing up or down will make you bigger or smaller as you try to grab the snacks in the top, middle, or bottom playing field -- making it difficult to get to the right one in time before you miss the snack. It's also hard to make it out at the end, as you can pass the exit point. And there's also the cyber pest himself, throwing electronic baseballs at you (? Kids are so whiny that EVERYTHING has to be hi-tech nowadays; we have to make baseballs into an electric abomination now?), which also knocks down your health...
...so much, that it took me several tries to beat the blasted level. I used up all members of my Scooby gang, and the game was over. So it's best to go through this level first (multiple times), which, once you beat it and get it's password (Cyber Chase goes by passwords, Mystery Mayhem has a [crappy] in-game save), then go back and beat the first level, which will cause several additional levels to unlock then.
One of these levels reminded me of Pitfall The Mayan Adventure for the Sega Genesis, what with jumping around a bunch of trees (not the one with the vines and crocodiles, the one that takes place at night). I liked this one a bit. You battle some neanderthal creatures (maybe they were based on the programmers who screwed up the other Scooby game) and pick up the snacks among the trees and underground, and the boss was a bit original, as you had to jump up and down in the trees to make coconuts (or something) fall to the ground, then you pelted him/it with the coconuts. Even the music was cool, as it took the Scooby-Doo theme, but made it sound melancholy and primitive; fitting.
Other levels required you to hop on windows of buildings (like bunches of other platform games throughout the years), going through an arcade, and the last level of a funhouse, which combined the seemingly easy as pie first level into becoming more difficult once you had to start jumping platforms to being confusing again as you warp through doors into a level that looked like a previous one (at first). This level was also made more confusing by having to get some thing (I forgot what it was supposed to be, but it looked more like a candy bar to me, rather than whatever it really was) to power up some generator thingies in it's last room to finally capture the cyber pest.
Well, I couldn't capture the cyber brat, so I went back through the level to see if I missed anything. I found another one of the candy bar things, took it to the last room, saw that another generator had lit up, so I went back for another one, brought it to the room, etc. Ok, so a lot of times things change at the last moment with a game (especially if a company's running behind schedule) that won't make it onto the instructions, so I'll let that slide for not explaining this. But unfortunately once you capture the guy, you're given several individuals with a bunch of clues as to who the culprit was, and if you guess wrong, you have to go through the level again. What the hell? I had to do this several times until I guessed right, which, not only was there no reason the guy did it, or how the clues matched up with him, but the REAL ending was no better than the first one, just to put in the phrase of I would have made it if it wasn't for those "meddling kids", which is no damn big deal in the least. (How many near-awful endings are going to be made with games until the end of time?)
Due to unbalanced level design (super easy with annoyingly difficult), I rate this one a 5, and a 5 overall for this whole cartridge.
Believe it or not, though, I hate giving this cartridge a low rating, since, with nearly 30 levels, obviously a bit of effort was put into this one. However, considering it's aimed at kids (I assume), poor and/or confusing level design is a no-no, as I'd say the rating for the eight and under crowd (I wouldn't give it to a kid under the age of 8, if AT ALL, for that matter [unless I couldn't stand the kid]) would knock it down to a 3 or so. In that regard, this deserves to be buried amongst the dead that haunts the Scooby-Doo universe.
It just makes you wonder why these two games were put together in one package: either because they sold really well, the Scooby license was expensive, and the game company that made it was trying to make a profit, or they didn't sell well in the first place and tried to make it worthwhile with these two games in one.
Probably the latter. Meddling game company. 5/10