Scooby-Doo cartoon fans will find that this challenging interactive cartoon parallels a typical episode of the classic series. In this case, however, it's up to the user to uncover clues, identify suspects, and eventually solve the mystery.
As the story opens, Shaggy, Scooby and the gang stumble onto a secluded castle. Initial exploration reveals that the castle was once located in Scotland, and its original owner, the late Sir Mortimer is not thrilled with its relocation. According to the castle's new proprietor, Jane McHaggis, Sir Mortimer and his fire-breathing dragon haunt the place. Ms. McHaggis goes on to explain that the castle, currently a medieval themed restaurant and family fun center, is also the object of desire of the 'Pizza Palace', who's recent purchase offers were rejected by Ms. McHaggis. Now her niece has been kidnapped by a mysterious apparition known as the 'Black Knight', and she wonders if she shouldn't have succumbed the Pizza Palace's unveiled threats and sold the place. It doesn't take an experienced sleuth to recognize that there's more to this mystery than meets the eye. . .
Aside from the problem solving skills required to navigate the program and solve its mystery, there is little that is educational in Scooby-Doo! Phantom of the Knight. The activities themselves are simple puzzles that require perseverance more than anything else. Three levels of difficulty are available: Spooky, Spookier, and Spooktacular. We found that even at the easiest (Spooky) level, program navigation was too difficult for our young testers. They were able to progress through only the first few puzzles and then repeatedly found themselves stuck in loops that prevented them from any further progression. "This game is too hard," was a common complaint, even from older testers (10 and up), and "This is boring," was their inevitable conclusion.
Scooby-Doo! Phantom of the Knight features cartoon quality animation and graphics. The Mystery Inc. gang are true to character, and, as noted earlier, the story is typical fare, with a surprise twist at the end (the villian and outcome change with subsequent games). Seasoned questors, in particular those with a penchant for Scooby-Doo mysteries, will enjoy embroiling themselves in the familiar plot. The game is not, however, recommended for young children, especially those who become easily frustrated.
Ease of Use / Install
This program installs with ease. Despite the confounding nature of the quest, the user interface is clear and easy to use. It features a bottom toolbar with links to the main menu; the clues and suspects screen; and the inventory and the Scooby snacks (used in scary situations, when Scooby needs a little prodding). The program also includes a pdf version User's Guide, which is accessed by clicking on the "how to play" option from the initial game screen. Although the guide is extensive, and explains gameplay and offers troubleshooting help, it doesn't appear to contain the information our testers needed to triumphantly complete the game.
Best for... / Bottom-Line
This program is perfect for kids who love Scooby-Doo cartoons, are experienced questors, and have plenty of time and patience. Others are encouraged to try another problem solving program.