Over the last couple years my partner and I have really embraced co-op gaming experiences, especially growing fond of the escape room puzzle genre. We’ve played over a dozen Unlocks, a couple Exits, and multiple campaigns of Chronicles of Crime. As with any genre of game your mileage will vary, and not all campaigns are created equal. Some are clever, tricky, and satisfying, while others are obtusely infuriating.
Recently we had a crack with our first Coded Chronicles game — Scooby Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion — and came away really enjoying it. Having only played escape room games that use apps, this was almost a breath of fresh air to see how the genre could play out completely analog.
Similar to other types there were rooms with numbers, a deck of cards correlating to those numbers, and puzzles to solve, but this time with a beloved and well-known cast of characters who talk and interact with each other throughout. The entire Mystery Incorporated gang is along for the mystery, and each of the five have their own dialogue book to reference as you play the game. Velma researches, Freddy investigates, Daphne uses, Shaggy eats, and Scooby-Doo smells. Each of the character standees has a single digit on it that is placed in front of 3-digit codes throughout the house to interact with, making up 4-digit codes to look up in their respective dialogue books to get that character’s input on the object in question. An empty dinner plate may have the number 324, so when Scooby (numbered 5) stands in front of it you’ll get the code 5324. Look up that code in Scooby’s book to see what he has to say about that plate and how it smells. It could be a vital clue!
The party is split up throughout the game so you don’t always have access to everyone’s abilities, making you think more critically about who should interact with which items. There were a handful of moments where we felt stumped, but never to the point of frustration or needing hints. The game is well thought out and cleverly assembled. A few times we were told to discard cards we were finished with but somehow hadn’t yet picked up, which usually meant we made a lucky guess or solved a puzzle without needing all the information in the game, but that just added to the fun of it.
Your team’s endgame evaluation is determined by two factors: whether you correctly peg the culprit, and how many of the 20 Scooby Snacks are remaining at the end (you use Scooby Snacks throughout the game if you need hints or make mistakes in certain puzzles). We only needed one single Scooby Snack, and did indeed unmask the correct villain, which was extremely satisfying.
All-up the game took us over two hours to complete, but if you don’t have that amount of time to dedicate it’s got a built-in intermission point where the books instruct you how to pack away the game mid-way through so you can easily set it back up how you left it to complete another time. It’s something I haven’t seen in this kind of game before, and even though we played it all in one sitting I love that the option was included!
If you’re looking for a new kind of escape room game to tease your brain and test your mental mettle, Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is well worth your time.