Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion Review

Released 2020
Designer Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim, Kami Mandell
Publisher The Op (Website) (Formerly USAopoly)
Players 1+ (no assigned characters)
Playing Time 1-2 hours (We took closer to 4)
Category Cooperative
Narrative
Escape-Room Style
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Scooby and the gang are back in this surprisingly fun cooperative game

Escape rooms are a great puzzle experience. The ability to stand in a place and explore to decipher the puzzle is a fantastic experience. The dedicated rooms also make it a relatively costly experience.

For playing at home, this is where games like the Exit series, Unlock! or Choose Your Own Adventure come in. These games have improved with each version, but one thing I have always found to be an obstacle is explaining to people why they are where they are.

Not in terms of why they are playing, but it’s hard to picture yourself in a prison cell when all you have is a couple of cards in front of you. In a physical escape room, you are in a cell – this immersion is what makes escape rooms so popular.

But The OP has come up with a creative and effective workaround to this. YOU aren’t there – the gang from Mystery, Inc. is! Playing Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion is just like taking control of an episode of the cartoon show. And it works.

So what is Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion?

It’s hard to talk about the details of the game without revealing spoilers. The best way to think of the game is an episode of the cartoon show. The Mystery, Inc. gang experience car trouble, and stumble upon a mystery when asking for help from the haunted mansion of the title.

No one is trying to change the classic formula here. Scooby and Shaggy always end up in amusing situations. The ‘ghost’ is a person in a mask. The way of finding out what is happening involves snooping that polite company condone.

You do need a bit of room on the table, but everything is nicely contained and easy to find

But it works. Having a game broken up with story didn’t feel forced, mainly because of the setting. Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion embraces the silliness of its theme. Rather than try to tell the story via one or two-line responses, Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion gives you entire scripts where appropriate.

How do you get a script in an escape room game?

Here is where thinking of Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion as a pure escape room game is misleading. The gameplay is closer to a Sherlock Holmes or Mythos Tales style game, with escape room elements.

Each character has their own book, and you look up entries based on the action and code found in-game. Each member of the gang has their own ‘power’, such as Scooby’s Smell or Shaggy’s Eating. Yes, eating is considered a skill!

Everyone in Mystery, Inc. brings something unique with them

You explore the mansion in this manner, finding ways through the mansion. There will be times that you then have puzzles to solve, and this is where the Escape Room aspect comes from. Doing these puzzles involves opening a Secret Envelope which contains the puzzle pieces.

This is what makes Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion work so well. It’s not continually hitting you with puzzle after puzzle, you have downtime to explore the story.

How does this exploration work?

So I am going to use the first room as an example. The mechanics are then apparent, and it’s nothing you don’t see from the first couple of minutes of gameplay.

You start the actual game with Velma in a room. There are various items around that she can Research (her skill) to see what is happening. You do this by putting Velma next to the thing you want her to research, and then look up the corresponding 4 digit passage in her journal.

That’s basically it – this is all you really need to know to interact with Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion!

I like this method of trying things, and no time limit for working things out makes for a very social experience

Wait, so only one person gets to play at the start of the game?

No. Unlike many other games of this type, everyone decides the next action taken as a group. So at the start, it’s evident that everyone will get Velma to perform an action. But as you find more members of the gang, everyone can choose who does what together. No waiting for your turn for your character to do something!

This is partially what makes Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion so accessible. If you want to play the game by yourself, there are no rules you need to remember for active players.

Playing with younger kids? They can help make the decisions in the game, but the older players can do the reading and rules monitoring. Want to explore every option? DO IT! Unlike many escape room games, there aren’t really any time limits controlled by an app.

No app, no pressure, everyone can see what is happening. I love this approach. We did just mark how many snacks we had on a separate piece of paper for regifting.

Getting through the game quicker can actually be a ‘bad’ thing. You start the game with 20 Scooby Snacks, and if you do something wrong (e.g. enter the incorrect combination in a puzzle), you lose a Scooby Snack.

There is a flip side to this as well. If you get to the next act and don’t have a required card, you will also lose a Scooby Snack for each card you need to add without finding it. So explore away, take your time, and enjoy!

How many times can I play Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion?

As many as you like! Unlike the Exit games, there is nothing destroyed when playing through the game. Honestly, you will probably get a maximum of two playthroughs. The first run as a regular game, and a second to try and get a perfect score.

There are instructions throughout the game on how to reset everything, which is a nice touch. And one thing I love about these non-destructive escape room games is the ability to pass it along. Finished your run-throughs? Resell or regift it – the only thing that is broken is the envelope seals.

What is next?

Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion is the start of a series of games called Coded Chronicles. The next in the series is based on Stephen King’s The Shining – this will be interesting!

I used to prefer Unlock! as at-home escape room games. Right now, Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion has shot to the top of my favourite must-play list for the genre. I will be watching for future Scooby-Doo titles with interest.

Final Thoughts

Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion is an unexpected surprise. The amalgamation of a narrative adventure with escape room elements works surprisingly well.

The theme adds to the enjoyment rather than feeling like a brand cash grab. The play also suits different groups, from solo to group with mixed ages. Technically it would also work well remotely, but the person with the game will be doing a lot of reading!

I also love that the game can be reset very easily with instructions provided in-game, meaning that it’s not a one and done waste of materials.

If you ever wanted to try an escape room st home style game, Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion is a must-try. The only downside is other games weaknesses will come out more once you play it!

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Easy to teach and learn
  • The theme is used well to mix narrative and puzzles
  • Easy to pack between sessions and reset game
  • Everyone plays at once, no downtime waiting for your time to play an action

Cons

  • Standee cardboard is too thin
  • The puzzle situations can be misinterpreted, but so can puzzles in an escape room. Not a major con, but be aware you can go wrong with your answers
  • No real replayability

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
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