Base price: $33.
Play time: 1 – 2 hours per session; two sessions total.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 1, as is to be expected with these titles.
Full disclosure: A review copy of Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion was provided by The Op.
I’m super glad that more companies are making escape room games since we’re stuck at home all the time. There’s an amazing escape room company maybe 15 minutes from where I live, but my county can’t stay open due to restrictions, so it keeps closing and I’m hoping that I can eventually try out some of its new rooms (when it’s safe to do so!). In the meantime, I’ve been availing myself of a TON of escape room-style games, from curious elevators to hardboiled detectives to riverboat crimes to secret societies! So you can imagine my delight when I found out that a Scooby-Doo escape room game was coming down the pipe. Here it is, so, let’s not waste more time and dig right into it!
In Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion, you play as the Mystery, Incorporated team as they try to investigate a large house with a dangerous secret: there’s a ghost! Unfortunately, you’re stuck inside without a clear way out, so you’re going to have to get cracking and try to figure out what’s going on inside this spooky house. Will you be able to solve this puzzle? Or will this end up as a Scooby-Dooby-Don’t?
Pretty much none. You just need to grab out the Character Books and the characters:
Leave basically everything else in the box. Follow the instructions in the rulebook and you’re ready to begin!
So, your goal is to solve the mystery of this haunted mansion! I’m not going to get too into details of what that means to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you bits and pieces of how to play.
One thing you’ll notice is Map Tiles; these will be added gradually over the course of the game as you uncover new rooms. You can always move characters into rooms, provided the door is unlocked! No player controls one character; instead, players arrive at an agreement on which character should do what. The reason why this matters is that each character has a different specialty:
- Velma: Research. Use Velma’s considerable knowledge to learn more about various things!
- Shaggy: Eat. Dude will legitimately eat or contemplate eating almost everything. That may be useful.
- Daphne: Use. Daphne, I guess, is the dextrous one of the lot, so she may have more luck with various tools and items that you may find over the course of the game.
- Scooby: Smell. Not everything in the house is visual; sometimes it helps to have someone who really nose how to find hidden information!
- Fred: Investigate. Velma has knowledge, but Fred has experience. These skills seem related, but Fred can draw on his considerable knowledge of schemes and traps to inform in a different way than Velma.
To have a character interact with something, place them next to it so that their number lines up with the other numbers. If I wanted Fred to Investigate 133, I would place him so that I could see 5133, and then look that up in Fred’s book. If you can’t make a 4-digit number, you may need to find another item and add it to the mix! For instance, if I had a Knife (8) and I wanted to serve Cake (24) to my friends, I may have Daphne use the Knife, and check out entry 3824 in her book. The character’s number always comes first when you’re looking things up!
If you make mistakes when solving certain puzzles or look up codes that don’t exist, you have to eat a Scooby Snack. This will affect your score at the end of the game!
Other than that, make sure to follow all the directions carefully and good luck solving the mystery!
Player Count Differences
Not much to report here, since I played it remotely. I think my recommendation is to play it so that there’s at least a couple people doing the reading so that it’s not too much for one person. Otherwise, you gotta do all that reading yourself. It’s not my favorite thing in the world to do; it’s actually a problem I ran into with Legacy of Dragonholt, as well. Doing a ton of reading for a game, out loud, tends to slow the pace down for me to a point that I don’t like. If you’d like to eschew the idea of friendship entirely, well, this does play solo. That said, every escape room game I’ve played is more fun when played with friends, so I’d heartily recommend this at higher player counts. Probably 3+, so there’s more people to read?
- Check out everything, with everyone. You’ve got a whole group of people trying to solve a mystery, each with their own skills! Leave no stone unturned; you’re going to need everyone’s best effort if you want to crack the mystery of the haunted mansion. Plus, who knows what might happen? You may get a fun pun, if nothing else.
- Double-check your assumptions. This is one that I struggled with; don’t jump to conclusions with puzzles until you’re sure you have all the information. There’s no rush, really, unless you’re entering in the incorrect puzzle solutions; then you waste a Scooby Snack! That’s less good.
- Look for clues! Are there things that seem out of place or strange? Do things seem like they’d be better served with a different character? Do you feel like you’re missing critical information? You’re a super sleuth; act like it.
- Don’t advance until you’re sure you’ve checked out everything. If you have to be told by the game to reveal certain cards, you’ll take a penalty! Make sure you’ve gotten as far as you think you can get before you hit the checkpoint!
- The game tells you when you’re done with certain cards and objects. If you’re not told to put a card away, maybe you need it for later? How curious… It seems like that might be something worth keeping in mind!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Loved the theme, of course. I’m a huge fan of Scooby-Doo; grew up watching it, which I guess is a thing that most people I know can say since it’s basically been on in some incarnation since 1969, apparently. But I think it’s a great conceit for an escape room game.
- Surprisingly challenging puzzles! There were a few that stumped me and I had to rely on my friends to help solve, which is great. It meant that they got to feel invested in the game and I got to take a brain break, which I can occasionally need during escape room games.
- I like how they do the lookup system. It’s pretty similar to the Adventure Games, but it works a bit more intuitively, I think, since you can literally put a character next to the thing and it reads pretty perfectly. I particularly like puzzles that task you with assembling the correct numerical code by using three different parts to make a full number. I think that’s extremely well-done, and it makes the item cards feel more useful.
- Someone worked very hard to write all those puns for various characters, and I want you to know that I see you, I appreciate you, and I’m proud of you. Some of them are extremely good. And by that I mean they’re mostly groaners, but I love those kinds of puns. I think there’s a lot of good work being done in this game for pun fans.
- Honestly, it’s just a really fun experience. It feels very much like you’re playing through an episode of Scooby-Doo, but with more puzzle-solving. It reminds me of those older educational games that would include challenges and such, and I think this does a nice job of blending that, a point-and-click adventure, and a Scooby-Doo mystery into a cohesive unit.
- Family-friendly to a fault, as you’d expect from Scooby-Doo. The nice thing is, as I mentioned earlier, the puzzles are still fairly challenging at times! I think this could be played pretty well with families as long as there’s a good group ready to hit some of the tougher puzzles. You can also even break it down by having some members of the group just be on reading if they don’t want to solve puzzles, which might be fun.
- I feel like you could make a million of these with various Scooby-Doo-themed hijinks and I’d want to play every single one of them. The plot was fun, the puzzles were fun; this is kind of what I wanted from the EXIT games (and they’re doing via their mysteries); I was really hoping that there would be more narrative-driven escape rooms with fun themes. I’m glad this one is making a push in that direction. I’m not keen on The Shining, so I probably won’t go that route, but given how many IPs The Op has access to, this could be a really great combination for media-saturated folks like me.
- Oh, and it’s reusable! I always do like to bring that up; it’s a great feature, in my opinion, though I don’t mind if it’s not reusable.
- Not the biggest fan of the box design. This is an extreme nitpick, but I just like telescoping boxes better? I dunno.
- A spoiler page with what goes in what envelope would help a lot with resetting the game. This would actually be a good thing to have on the website if you’d prefer not to print it; but either way, having that handy makes it much easier to repack the game if you forgot to put some things away, which happened to me at least once.
- Playing remotely is hard, given how text-heavy the game is. I had to do a lot of reading, which is fine, but I was definitely getting hoarse by the end of it. I think this game is best played with people who can split up the reading.
- I didn’t realize that the game would penalize you for getting to a checkpoint without certain items. Just keep in mind that you should do a bunch of exploring before you hit a checkpoint, otherwise you’re going to have to pony up some Scooby Snacks (the game’s penalty tracker). It was a bit jarring, but it’s also possible I just missed a note in the rules that warned you about it.
- There’s also a point in the game where you have a lot of information, only some of which is presently relevant. It might be a lot for some players, cognitively. Sometimes there’s a lot going on! I do really appreciate that the game tells you when you’re done with certain cards, but some cards linger for a while. That’s not always great; my poor hamster brain can only hold so much information before it shuts down.
Overall: 9 / 10
Overall, I think Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is pretty fantastic! I’m really impressed by this being an early entry in the Coded Chronicles series, though I suppose it makes sense to lead with your best foot forward. This is such a fun entry, though! It’s got spatial puzzles, translation puzzles, context-switching, playable characters, NPCs, fun lookups, cute puns, and a lot more! I’m a big fan. Hopefully, Coded Chronicles continues to have a recurring Scooby-Doo game come up every now and then, because I’ll certainly be on board. I do hope that they start making additional technical improvements, though; having something like the KOSMOS Adventure Game app that reads certain passages to you would be huge, and figuring out some way to help players organize the cards they have, cards they don’t have, and cards that have served their purpose would be helpful. I’m probably a sucker for Scooby-Doo games in general (we’ll have to see how Betrayal at Mystery Mansion plays out), but I do think this is a particularly good example of what family-friendly escape room games should aspire to be. I also appreciate that it has instructions for how to take a break in the middle; our session was almost four hours, so I can imagine there are players who aren’t down to puzzle it out for a sixth of a day. Either way, if you’re a fan of escape room games or a fan of the Scooby-Doo franchise, or you’re just looking for something fun to do with the whole family, I’d recommend Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion pretty highly!