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October 10, 2014

VGFlicks: Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase, Part 2

Click here for part 1!

P.S. Thanks, everyone, for your views! This morning, the blog officially reached 40,000 views!

Hello, and welcome back to this review! When we left off, the meddling kids – oh, I mean the Scooby gang – had chased a computer virus through a university and then got sent to a virtual world where they had to go through all the levels in order to what I'm saying makes really no sense, does it? No really, it makes no sense whatsoever, after all it IS Scooby-Doo we're talking about! Yes, it's crazy, yes, it makes little sense most of the time, but did they really need to go there? Into a virtualization sttry? Whatever. Better keep reviewing this thing and see if I can stand the weirdness. Then again, I played through so many weird games, you'd think I'd have gotten used to crazy stories by now.

Still, this is a weird story about virtualization in a world where, depending on the continuity, small monsters, or famous monsters, or demonic entities (NIBIRU!) really do exist. Heck, in the line of Scooby-Doo movies that came out around the time this one did, the gang met real zombies, real cat-demonesses, a real witch's ghost (bonus: A two in one!), real aliens... and Scooby might have possibly witnessed the Loch Ness monster. Again, I know the history of Scooby-Doo too well for my own good.

And that's not the most useful information you can use in everyday life. “Can you tell me how much oil is needed for your Toyota Corolla's brakes to be sufficiently lubricated to function properly?” “No, but I can tell you that Shaggy, of Scooby-Doo fame, was once a gym teacher for a bunch of girls who happened to be the daughters of famous cinema monsters!” “...”

See? That trivia is pointless! Unless I someday participate to a big trivia quiz in which I can win money and that question pops up... But what are the odds of THAT happening?

Probably the same odds as meeting a bunch of skeletons in
gladiator attires. With a living virus leading them...
On a Friday the 13th, under a ladder, while meeting a black
cat and stepping on half a dozen sidewalk cracks at once.

Sigh... Well, let's move on. I finished last time on Level 9 of the video game the Scooby gang is trapped in. ...Nope, that sentence still doesn't make any sense to me. Oh well, guess I just gotta roll with it.

The gang appears in the final level, which takes a lot more time to load – and for a reason: It's an entire city! But its made abundantly clear by the virtual skies that they're still in a game. All this time, Eric, Bill, Dr. Kaufman and the security guard have been watching. Eric (the game's creator) says that he has never beaten Level 10-whaaaaaaaaaaa?

You mean the game's! Designer! Never! Beat! His! Own! God! Damn! Game? This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard! What the f-

I mean... Hehe... 

Would Velma agree with me? She's always been the logical
one of the bunch.
Sorry. I kinda get carried away easily. What I meant was: I can think of a multitude of ways this is illogical, virtualization/materialization notwithstanding. First off, if the tenth level is unbeatable, that means this game is too difficult. I never liked games that could not be won, regardless of the player's efforts. And neither do all gamers who buy a game they want to actually complete. Next, if the game's own designer hasn't been able to beat this game: First off, that says a lot about his programming talents. Second, that says a lot about his gaming skills. Third, he made a horrible game that no one can beat, and no one likes games that cannot be beaten in any way, so he better wait for the incoming lawsuits from cunning gamers who realized they bought a game that could not be beaten unless you cheat. Fourth, Eric must have a pretty damn poor memory if he can't tell where he has put the box of Scooby Snacks in the level, which, may I remind you, is the only requirement to win: Grab the box. That is, unless the box's location is randomized when the level starts, which would make more sense... but it's not the case, as the box is apparently always put in the same location, which means it should be easy to find once you know where it is, right?

Be grateful this is a virtual world or else there would be some
sort of paradox happening here.
The Mystery, Inc. gang has a quick encounter with the Phantom Virus, during which he says they're in the “major leagues” now. ...Why would he say that?? Whatever. While running away, the gang sees how huge this city is. They hide in a malt shop, and run into... past versions of themselves, what they looked like in the earliest Scooby-Doo cartoons!

Oh, this is going to get a whole load of meta, and I love it. Each member of the team takes a good look at his/her virtual counterpart. You can quickly notice the obvious aesthetic differences between them, such as the clothes; but then you notice smaller differencesm, like the virtual members of Mystery, Inc. having a skin with a light shade of yellow. Heck, virtual Scooby is a shade darker than his real world counterpart! So, we've got five individuals who all meet another version of themselves. Even in the greatest science-fiction series, that kind of scenario doesn't show up very often. I think I'm gonna love this level.

High-five!

Although it's kind of odd, as the virtual Mystery, Inc. gang has never heard of the Phantom Virus before, which means it isn't actually from their game. So someone else programmed it in the Scooby-Doo game! Speaking of the electric devil, here he comes towards the Malt shop! The two gangs escape and get aboard the Mystery Machine... and it sure looks filled to the brim. Virtual!Velma explains that the virtual team never had a reason to go after the Scooby Snacks in Level 10, since that would warp them all the way back to Level 1, and they're very comfortable “living” in the virtual city. She adds that they haven't seen any monster yet. But since it's the only way out for the real gang, the two groups decide to team up. Virtual!Fred drives the Machine towards an amusement park. There's even a baseball field near there, with someone playing solo. They greet the player, but it's revealed to be the Phantom Virus!

Guess an amusement park really IS a dangerous place.
See how often it's used in movie climaxes!

The ten characters try to run away towards the arcade, but on the way they're stopped by the Creeper, one of their first enemiess! And then Jaguaro, another old villain, shows up! And then Gator Ghoul! And the tar monster! And a man in an iron mask! Oh, and before you ask: No, this time around, these are NOT people in costumes. These virtual creatures are real monsters... ...Wait...

OH NO! IT'S SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED ALL OVER AGAIN! Man, that film was godawful...

"Creeeeee-per!"
Oh hey, he speaks like a Pokémon!
I want to catch him!
When that villain will be defeated, the
two Freds will cry crocodile tears.
Everyone runs into the amusement park, and we hear the famous phrase: “Let's split up!” But the fun part is that each real Mystery, Inc. member runs off with his virtual counterpart, so we got two Shaggy-s who are taking care of the tar monster, two Daphne-s facing the Creeper, the two Fred-s trying to escape from Gator Ghoul on a rollercoaster (Yeah, smart choice there...), the two Vera-s meeting the iron-faced colonial man in a wax museum, and finally the two Scoobs trying to trap Jaguaro.

A goat mommy will come to protect
her child!
Hey, at least that monster looks like
pudding! But I have doubts on the
taste...
What follows is a montage of the five teams of “twins” running around the amusement park and trying to trick the monsters or, well, try to kill them; they're real monsters this time around, after all). The Vera-s hide in a petting zoo, where the iron-face guy shows up, only to get his ass kicked by a goat. The Shaggy-s are interrupted in their gluttony by the tar monster, which shows up while they were eating cotton candy; but they make it fall in the cotton candy machine.

Guess it was too much for the Virtual Mystery, Inc.'s
magnetic personalities... ...That was a really bad pun.
The monsters aren't killed, just incapacitated long enough that they can't interfere for a while. The team gets back together, and Shaggy realizes he has always had the powerful magnet with him. He just forgot. (And somehow the magnet didn't work through his clothing even though it's super powerful, but... Eh, whatever.) But the virtual doubles seem to have some programming problems when that magnet is revealed... You know, since they're in a virtual world, wouldn't that mean the entire place would have a problem? And why didn't the magnet work while Shaggy had it in his pockets? Are his pants so thick they prevented the magnet from working, in a world where it should technically stop anything from working? ...Whatever. That means, however, that they have a way to defeat the virus! The gang heads into the video arcade, where the Phantom Virus is waiting. Due to the powerful magnet, the real Mystery, Inc. gang asks the virtual group to stay outside of the arcade.

C'm'on, Fred! Act like the leader you're supposed to be!

The virus is a tough foe, as it takes control of the machines in the arcade! The entire place is attacking the gang now! Fred brings the magnet near the Virus and stops him for a moment, but trips and drops the magnet under a machine.... Good work there, hero...

And as a result, the Virus goes into the second phase of his
battle, where he's even stronger than before!
...That really sounds like a final boss, now.

The Virus even brings the arcade
machines to life!
Truly an epic ending for a cool villain.
Things seem desperate until Cyber-Scooby shows up inside the video arcade to help! The Virus doesn't realize there's one too many Scooby-s in the place and thus keeps attacking the Cyber one... and thus the real Scoob gets the box of snacks! This defeats the Virus and erases the villains in the amusement park. The real gang meets up with the virtual gang a final time before leaving. They tell each other goodbye, and thus the real gang gets warped back into the real world.

He tried to escape, but it's just no use.
Back in the real world, the Scooby gang goes over the list of suspects: Officer Wembley, Professor Kaufman, and then Bill McLemore. The team goes on to list the clues they found, all of which hint that the virus liked baseball. Of course! The one who made the virus was Bill the baseball fan! The student gets caught and then explains he made the virus, because Eric got more money for his project than he got for his, or something like that. When you spend more than half the movie inside a video game, away from the prime suspects, you don't really have time to discuss a motive. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids and their stupid big dog!

Guess Bill will have a lot of explaining to do... and be charged
with the first ever instace of virtual attempt at murder.

Later, Eric has brought the Mystery, Inc, gang to a restaurant, and they're enjoying a good meal. Eric has downloaded the game on his laptop and Shaggy tries to play it, but then he sees the virtual gang waving at them! Ooh, this is funny! Then Scooby-Doo grabs the laptop and programs a box of Scooby Snacks right next to Cyber Scooby. Roll credits!

(After the end credits, we get a scene with the Scooby gang showing their favorite parts of the movie – or rather, favorite parts of the game: Vera liked the prehistoric era, Fred really enjoyed playing gladiator, Daphne appreciated the North Pole level, Shaggy and Scooby played a lot at the arcade in the tenth level; and Scooby materialized a whole pile of burgers. Disregard that this makes no sense with the story, it's just put there for laughs and chuckles. Though the last lines of that scene imply that there was a website fans could go to in order to see those extra scenes.)

That was pretty good. Actually, it was really good. I don't care how often I say “virtualization makes no sense”. It's almost always awesome. Almost. I hardly ever get tired of virtualization stories because they can go a multitude of ways from there; here, a whole group gets sent into a video game based (admittedly, very loosely) on their own adventures, and must investigate on who created the villain and sent them in the game. Other examples: In Spy Kids 3D, the main character goes into a video game so that he can stop an evil mastermind from taking over the world; in the Johnny Test episodes parodying Pokémon, he goes into the game with his talking dog to experience the game for real, but then has to fight and defeat the game's champion in order to come out. The sequel episode is EVEN CRAZIER. Anyway, Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase is just another proof that virtualization works as a story.

It has the good old Scooby-Doo formula, with a twist: The monster is real! And a threat! But it has been created by someone, which means they have to destroy the monster and find who programmed it. In all honesty, the investigation is the least interesting part of the movie. It's not even a big deal to you, the viewer, if you pay attention: I mean, Bill's admiration for baseball is made abundantly clear, and the many references to baseball made by the Phantom Virus through the game are just... painfully obvious. Just pay attention and you'll notice it. However, what makes the movie interesting is the interactions between virtual and real; the Phantom Virus as it is going around the campus (Shaggy and Scooby ELECTROCUTE him, for Christ's sake, what sense does that make?) and its fear of magnets; and then the interactions the real gang's members have with their virtual counterparts... That last one, mostly, is pure gold. It's as fun as you'd imagine. What if you could meet yourself and then team up with yourself to overcome a foe? ...Yeah, that entire concept is awesome.

hey even have the exact same postures on this image!

Though, the actual story in this movie is really simple. And I mean it's simpler than what Scooby-Doo movies usually are. You can feel that the team behind the movie put an emphasis on fun, not on adventure or serious matters. It really is a kids' movie. Forget about depth here! Very little mention is made of the Phantom Virus being such a huge threat, and very little is seen – in fact, he's at his best in the arcade during the final battle, controlling everything in the room to try and kill the Mystery, Inc. gang. The moral/scientific repercussions of virtualization and materialization are barely mentioned: Would you use it to create endless food? Would other cruel individuals use the video games to permanently terminate one's life by, I dunno, trapping people in a game and then turning it off forever? Even simpler: While the main characters are going through the game, why aren't we seeing the four characters at the university (Eric, Bill, Dr. Kaufman and officer Wembley) discussing more, bringing up motives, modus operandi, truths about each other, trying to solve the case themselves, through discussion... and then tension and paranoia would rise, clans would form, distrust would increase and fights would come up whILE THEY TRY TO FIND THE CULPRIT BETWEEN THEMSELVES-

Sorry, I get carried away easily. That sounds like an awesome story all by itself.

All I'm saying is that there could have been more ways to make this story more serious, though it's pretty clear they wanted a come comedic story. And I respect that. Want serious matters in a story about virtualization? Watch Code Lyoko. Especially the last two seasons. Anyway, a simple plot and a comedic approach seemed to work just fine for this movie. The tone in the Scooby-Doo franchise has changed with just about every incarnation, all comical, but some were more serious than others. A legitimately scary one is Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, which came out three years before this one. There's also Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost, released in 1999. In a way, I can't blame that the tone is different here, as we still get our dose of laughter and monsters. There are Scooby-Doo movies to accommodate just about anyone.

Getting the Scooby Snacks is not the game. No, the ideal
game would be to play Shaggy and Scooby during an
investigation AFTER they've been bribed with Snacks.
My problem isn't the virtualization, but the game featured in the movie. Let me get this straight: The Scooby gang travels through time, fights off monsters and recovers boxes of snacks? One, I see no reason why the Scooby gang would travel through time. Second, they don't fight off real monsters very often, and most of the time, even today, they unmask more con men than they defeat real monsters or wild animals. Third, if we wanted a Scooby-Doo game, wouldn't we want an investigation game? Kind of like the Ace Attorney series, except no court sections, only investigation and action parts where the villain gets caught? Honestly, that would make a whole lot more sense than a fetch quest to get Scooby Snacks. Heck, in an investigation game, Scooby Snacks would be Shaggy and Scooby's powerup, making them do all sorts of things as long as they get them as rewards. So yeah, the game is one of the worst ideas I've heard for a Scooby-Doo game, but I guess your mileage might vary.

The animation is pretty good in this movie, I'd dare say it looks pretty good. Of note, the shots in the prehistoric level of the game; or, Heck, most shots of the virtual city are incredible. The music is also pretty good, though that was when Scooby-Doo used to have two or three pop or rock songs per movie, featured in montages. Yeah, since they often feel out of place, you'd think they'd have stopped a while ago... ...What do you mean, they're STILL doing that? ...They've had an entire movie spoofing the musical genre? …I must've missed that one... ..Though, truth be told, while the Scooby franchise quite often pulled songs into the films in a painfully obvious way, sometimes we got pretty awesome gems like this one.


Also, need I mention the Hex Girls, a great source of monster-themed rock and roll?


The blonde one looks like Roxy Richter from the Scott Pilgrim movie. Or maybe I'm just imagining things.

Whatever. Final verdict? This movie is a lot of fun, and so I think you can enjoy it. It's got adventure, it's got mystery (sorta), it's got comedy. It's got video games, it's got drama, and it's got good visuals and music. Look for it on the Internet, Netflix, or even better, look for a copy of the DVD. It's a fun 73 minutes. Oh, and if you find some time, look for more Scooby-Doo movies released around the turn of the millenium. Many of them are very good, some even better than Cyber Chase.

October on Planned All Along continues next week, with a review of a game that doesn't have much to do with Halloween... but whatever. It's a WiiWare game called Pop-Up Pursuit, which is not scary in and of itself... but my reaction WILL be.

*cracks knuckles*