Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 8 August 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion

Game: Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion

Publisher: The Op

Designer: Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim

Year: 2020

Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is marked as a 'Coded  Chronicles' game - a new line in escape room style games from The Op. We play a lot of the tabletop escape room games, keeping up with the Exit, Deckscape, Unlock and Escape Room: The Game series, so trying out a new one is always a treat. Coded Chronicles is a story driven experience, and, as you might expect from the Scooby-Doo theme, you'll be trying to solve the mystery of which fool is running around pretending to be a ghost.

So, if, like me, you need an excuse to pull out your best Scooby-Doo impressions, then grab the Scooby book before anybody else does and spend an hour or two sniffing objects, being scared of the smallest things and shouting 'Rooby-Rooby-Roooo!' on an infinite loop. 

Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion contains five story books, one for each of the characters. At the end of the rulebook you will be instructed to read a paragraph from one of the story books and from there the game begins. You will find yourself on tiles each representing rooms of the mansion. On these tiles many locations are marked with three digit codes. Each character pawn has a number associated with it. So if I want Velma (number 1) to investigate bookshelf 123 then I would look up the code 1123 and read the paragraph. Each character has their own special ability which changes how they interact with objects: Scooby sniffs, Shaggy eats and Velma researches.

As you go along you will discover new rooms, characters and objects. You'll also solve several puzzles, which typically result in a four digit code, directing you to the relevant book to discover the outcome. Some items can be combined, and you'll know what these are as they will have one or two digit codes. For example Daphne (character 3) to use key 1 in lock 54 you could look up either 3154 or 3541, both would lead to the same result.

That's essentially all there is to the gameplay - the majority of the experience is the puzzles and the story rather than the mechanics. As a last note there is a hint system of scooby snacks. You can eat scooby snacks to read hint paragraph to help you progress if you get stuck. You also may be forced to each a scooby snack if you make a mistake while solving puzzles or progress through the game while missing important clues (which then get given to you, no getting stuck here!). The game ends when you manage to unmask the villain, can you successfully work out who it was, why they did it and earn your place in the Scooby gang?
Amy's Final Thoughts

If you ever wanted to feel like you had stepped foot in the Mystery Machine and driven up to a haunted house with the rest of Mystery Incorporated then this is absolutely the game for you. It features so many nods to the show and absolutely nails the cast. Does Shaggy ever do anything useful? No but he does consume all the food he can find and stumble onto results. Velma and Fred both act as the brains of the outfit, while Daphne... tries her best? This is caused partially by the well-written story, but also by the special powers. While Scooby and Shaggy are well defined, the others are a little more murky, which did result in some frustrating moments as one character seemed incapable of even looking at something.

The puzzles themselves tended to be relatively easy, although we did get a little stuck at one point, but the hint system got us out of that pit soon enough. The book system generally worked well in ensuring that everyone playing had their portion to read and generally you could look up a paragraph without accidentally spoiling yourself on future puzzles. On top of that, the secret envelopes you open during the game did keep adding new puzzle pieces (literally and figuratively) keeping the game fresh, none of them were mind-blowing, but they were certainly a welcome addition. Especially helpful was that the game makes sure you know which envelope to put things back into and when, meaning the game is extremely easy to reset for a future player.
Overall Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is a fantastically themed game, the story and art design all pulls you into the world of Scooby Doo, and it's a fantastic world to be drawn into. The mechanics and puzzles are relatively simple, but still enjoyable, resulting in a great escape room style experience for non-gamers. I would have liked to see the game be a little longer, an additional chapter, or side story would have been a great inclusion. I also did get a little frustrated at one point in the middle of the game when Daphne was being particularly useless, but I generally had a good experience and I'd strongly recommend this game to the Scooby fan in your life! 

Fi's Final Thoughts

Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is a real very much a combination of experiences like the Kosmos Adventure Games and tabletop escape room games like EXIT. The majority of the game is about following a narrative and deciding which character is best suited to interact with different objects, however there are moments in the game where everything stops while you solve a puzzle. Most of the puzzles are quite simple, although a couple definitely confused us and we has to eat a couple of Scooby Snacks along the way. If you're looking for tough puzzles, this probably isn't the right escape room game for you, but if you're more interested in solving the mystery and following the story then the way that the Coded Chronicles system works is very well done. In general, there is only one character who is the right fit for each object in the room - with Shaggy generally eating things and Scooby sniffing things. However, when it comes to Velma, Daphne and Fred I'm not sure it's that obvious how each is meant to differ. It seems to be a matter of convenience. Do you still have Velma? Then you probably need to use Velma. Daphne is generally pretty useless until Velma's not around and then all of a sudden Daphne seems to be a bit more helpful, contributing things that actually help to advance the plot, rather than simply observing that the rug on the wall looks nice! (We spent a lot of time cursing Daphne in our game!)

Does Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion do a good job of capturing the nonsense of the TV show? Absolutely! Before sitting down to play this game, I couldn't really remember if I liked or disliked the show as a kid, and now I know. I hated it! Murder mysteries just don't float my boat and watching kids incompetently staggering around a mansion does nothing for me either. Much like the TV show, I didn't really give a hoot whether the cook, the gardener, or any of the other characters were the one who was running around under a big white sheet! But, that's just me and I can absolutely see how well the game manages to capture the story that would play out in an episode of the show. The exploration was well done and most of the interactions made sense and naturally led you to the conclusions. Except, of course, for the fact that we accused the wrong person, due to missing something that otherwise didn't break our game experience.

Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion shows a lot of promise for both the Coded Chronicles system and for inviting more thematic experiences into escape room style games. I imagine that a lot of people will love this game, but for me, I'd rather just have more logic puzzles and less mysteries.

You Might Like...
  • The game lends itself well to a small family group sitting around a table sharing out the books for each character.
  • The theme is captured really well and playing the game feels just like watching an episode of Scooby Doo.
  • The Coded Chronicles system is a well designed way to delivery a story driven escape room puzzle with lots of narrative elements.
You Might Not Like...
  • Daphne is particularly useless! It feels like there might have been an option to have a little more story or interesting information when a character hits a dead end.
  • Characters keep mysteriously disappearing, so you'll either want to be passing around character books or playing at a very low player count to keep everyone engaged.

The Verdict
6.5/10 Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion does a great job of blending the tabletop escape room with the tabletop choose your own adventure style of gaming. Its puzzles are definitely at the simpler end of the spectrum compared to many escape room games, but that fits with its family theme.With a small group, there's plenty for each player to do and fans of a murder mystery will enjoy piecing together the clues. We might not be the perfect fit for this genre of gaming, but it's very well put together for a family gaming experience.

Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £29.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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