If there's one thing Nintendo handhelds aren't short on it's licensed titles for kids. If there's a new family movie you can bet your house on a game appearing on the DS these days, and popular cartoons act as a constant source of ideas for publishers eager to squeeze every last penny out of every piggy bank across the world. Scooby-Doo is somewhat of a serial offender when it comes to video games, and sadly for Scooby fans the world over, his latest DS outing is no different.
The premise in Sooby-Doo! Who's Watching Who? is a very simple one. Mystery Inc (the gang that's made up of Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred) has made a name for itself due to some less than orthodox ghost hunting techniques. Hit TV show Ghost Scene Investigation (GSI - a rip-off of CSI by chance?) has seen its ratings tumble as a result of Mystery Inc's antics, so the show's producer organises a battle between the two ghost hunting teams.
On starting the game there's a short period where things seem to be heading in a good direction. Of all genres the opening resembles a proper mystery solving adventure game, with Scooby talking to various characters, albeit in a rather child-friendly and simple way. Soon after this the game shows its true colours, though, and things descend into typical licensed fair, with three main game types making up the majority of the game.
The first is a bog-standard platformer, which just so happens to feature some awful collision detection and an awfully tricky mock 3D perspective. Second up is an equally tedious section that sees you using the touch screen to ensure Shaggy and Scooby escape from the ghost that up until that point had been the cause of the investigation. Finally you get to drive the Mystery Machine (the van) in timed stages that require you to dodge obstacles and ghosts.
You might have picked up on a general lack of enthusiasm for these three main gameplay elements, and you'd be right. Of them all, the driving sections are the least painful, but they're not good enough to make up for the issues that frequently arrive during play. During each of these sections your second goal is to find clues (you're meant to be solving mysteries after all) and these stand out like a sore thumb in the generally barren environments, making it harder to not pick up clues than it is to find them.
Once these clues have been given to Velma you get to carry out some basic analysis (this isn't CSI stuff - it's a kids title remember) and can then accuse a suspect and chase down the ghost to reveal who the culprit is. This is the set-up for each of the mysteries you investigate and the whole process soon becomes more than a little tiresome.
Things aren't helped by a general scruffiness to the presentation, with the attempts at 3D visuals being admirable, but not wholly successful. There's also an abundance of text to read; perhaps not the best design choice for a game aimed squarely at a younger audience. It's understandable given the DS' storage limitations, but trawling through text conversations doesn't make for good gameplay.
All in all Who's Watching Who? is another disappointing video game entry for Scooby and the gang, but this fact is unlikely to affect sales to the kids that lap up anything with Scooby's face on it. There are far more entertaining games on the DS that will entertain kids and adults alike, but this is just about bearable if you or your kids fancy yourselves as a crack team of crime-solving ghost hunters. Just make sure you really, really love Scooby-Doo, as this will push your affection to its limit.