Review: Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion, a one or more player mystery puzzle game

I have no clue why there are suddenly a number of Scooby-Doo themed board games out there, but my inner child is loving it. Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion is an escape room in a box style puzzle game featuring Mystery Incorporated.

This puzzle game has one or more players trying to solve a mystery using the unique skills of the Scooby-Doo gang. It is played over one or two sessions split into two chapters. This is the first game in the Coded Chronicles series of games from The Op.

Disclosure: The Op, kidly provided me with a review copy of this Coded Chronicles games. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

What exactly is Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion?

Before I get started, I want to make sure everyone knows which game I’m talking about. This is a review for Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion, a puzzle game for one or more players. This is not a review of Scooby-Doo Betrayal at Mystery Mansion which is a Scooby themed version of Betrayal at House on the Hill. (Unfortunately, both of these Scooby-Doo themed games were released at almost the same time and feature similar names. This has caused confusion for a number of gamers, myself included.) 

Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion was designed by Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim, and Kami Mandell. It features cartoony artwork by Rob Lundy and Rick Hutchinson. This escape room in a box style game can be played by one or more players. The playtime is listed as an hour or two but will greatly depend on your group’s problem-solving ability. The game is broken up into two chapters and you can save between them if you do not wish to play the entire game in one sitting. 

Similar to other puzzle games, like the EXIT series of games I’ve reviewed in the past, this game is meant to be played once and only once. There are sealed envelopes that you will open while playing. That said, nothing is destroyed while playing this game so it is possible to pass the game on to another group when you are done with it. 

To get a pretty much spoiler-free look at what you get in the box for this game, check out my Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion unboxing video on YouTube. The only thing I show off in it is the first room where you start the game and the first clue card which is unlocked very early on in the game. I don’t read off any of the text from any of the books, so you don’t have to worry about me ruining the game in any way. 

I want to start by commenting that I really like the box this game comes in. It’s not your standard board game box but rather is closer in design to a pizza box, and I like it. What you get with Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted MansionInside this box, the first thing you will find is a surprisingly thin book called the Mystery Manual with READ ME FIRST! in big letters on the cover. This book introduces you to the setting and the Coded Chronicles system. The layout here is sparse and very easy to read with the text very spread out and lots of pictures and examples. There are only six pages of instructions that can be easily read at the table when getting ready to play the game for the first time. 

There are also five character booklets. One each for Velma, Shaggy, Daphne, Scooby-Doo and Fred. These vary in length with the longest being fifteen pages. To go with each booklet are five character standees. These are made of thin card and don’t stand up all that well. Some plastic stands would have been a nice touch but I’m sure that would have upped the cost of the game since it’s all cards and cardstock. 

There are thirteen map tiles in the box. These are pretty thin cards which I would think would be a problem if the game was meant to be played a number of times but since it’s only being played once, I can forgive the thin card.  To go with these map tiles is a deck of tarot sized clue cards. There are sixty of these in total. 

Scooby-Doo Escape Haunted Mansion the secret envelopes.Finally, we have a number of sealed “secret envelopes” numbered one through eight and one larger Chapter Two envelope. The envelopes are of varying weight and thickness. The Chapter Two envelope is empty and is used if you want to save your game between chapters. 

All of this is in and over a very simple cardboard box insert. At first, I thought this insert seemed pretty pointless. The main thing it was doing was causing a bow in the middle of all of the books where the big gap in the insert was. I regrettably tossed my insert out. Afterwards, I learned that it was actually serving a purpose, it was allowing the pizza style box to close easily. Without the insert, the game components tend to shift to the corners of the box and get in the way when you try to close the lid. So don’t do what I did and toss it, be sure to keep that insert in there. 

How Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion Plays, The Coded Chronicles System at Work:

You start off a game of Escape from the Haunted Mansion by reading chapter 5000 in Fred’s book. Now I want to make sure not to spoil anything so I’m not going to tell you exactly what happens at this point but rather go over how the Coded Chronicles system works. 

Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted Mansion the start of the game.At any given point during the game, you will have one or more room tiles face up on the table. Each room tile will have a number of features on it each denoted by some numbers. Most of these are three-digit numbers. Along with the revealed rooms, you will have several characters present which are each represented by a standee. 

Each character in this game has a specialty. Velma can research, Shaggy can eat, Daphne can use things, Scooby can smell and Fred can investigate. 

To use a skill you take a character standee and line it up with what they want to use their skill on. Each standee features a single-digit number on it. You combine that with the number for the feature you want to interact with and then look that four-digit number up in the acting character’s booklet, read the entry, and see what happens. 

Some features only have two digits listed on them. For these, you will need to find an object which will let you make a full four-digit number when combined with a character skill. Objects only have one digit on them. Once you have an object with a number on it, you then combine that with the feature plus the character’s number and again look it up in the appropriate character book to see if the object actually works with that feature. 

Note that all skills can be used with all features, so yes you can try to have Shaggy eat a table. 

A pile of Secret Envelopes from Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted MansionSome of the entries in the books will unlock new rooms and/or clue cards which may give you more features to interact with or may lead you to a puzzle to be solved. At various points during the story, you will be instructed to the secret envelopes adding more things to the game. 

When trying to solve a puzzle, players can spend Scooby Snacks for clues. Scooby Snacks will also be consumed when you make a mistake in the game, like say entering the wrong code to open a locked door. 

All of this leads to a final mystery that your group is attempting to solve. 

The number of scooby snacks your group uses during play plus whether you solve that final mystery will give you a final score. If you finish the game, solve the mystery and have used no Scooby snacks that nets you a perfect score. Note that you don’t actually have to get the mystery right to complete the game and escape the mansion, getting it right does affect your final group score though. 

What did my family think of Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion?

Kid playing Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted MansionI wasn’t a huge fan of Scooby-Doo growing up, but it was something I definitely saw. It was usually something I watched on Saturday morning while waiting for what I considered to be a better show to come on. While it wasn’t really my jam, I totally get using the Scooby licence for making family-friendly horror-themed games. The Scooby Gang is the perfect set up for games that are spooky instead of scary and therefore much more approachable for families. As an adult gamer with kids, it made me very happy to see a couple of games coming out using this licence.

I first learned about this particular Scooby-Doo game during Gen Con Online, where I watched a demo that played through the first room of Escape from the Haunted Mansion and explained how the Coded Chronicles system works. When I first saw the way you combine the character standees with the items on the room tiles I was blown away. I thought it was such a brilliant brilliant way to present a mystery and puzzle game.

I’m am happy to say, having now played the game with my own family, that I still think this system is amazing. I love the combination of the different character abilities and how each of them interacts with the various rooms and objects in the game. It gives you a real sense of exploration as you check out each room and feature. 

Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted Mansion a great game the family can play together.Another aspect of this system I like is that no one player controls any one character. While it makes sense to split the work by giving each character to a different player, there’s no reason one person can’t do all of the reading or players can’t take turns. Actually, due to the way this particular game is set up, not all of the characters are present all of the time. So if you do assign roles to different characters realize there will be portions of the game where some of the players will need to sit out. The problem with this sharing of roles, as often comes up in cooperative games, is a potential issue of an alpha gamer. With everyone able to control anyone, a dominant player could easily take over the game from the rest of the table. That problem is going to be very group dependant though and we didn’t see it during our play. 

Something I really appreciated that wasn’t obvious in the demo I watched of Escape from the Haunted Mansion was how clean the game is. Starting off, at the beginning of the game you quickly become near overwhelmed with clues and have a bunch of cards laid out all over your table, but after solving each puzzle the game actually directs you to remove unneeded information. It tells you when to remove cards from play and even directs you to place things that you won’t use anymore back into secret envelopes. 

Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted Mansion the first clue card leading to more clues.We found the puzzles to be just difficult enough. Some we breezed through but others required some thought. There was one that actually took us quite some time and tempted us to look up a clue but we figured it out before going that far. The puzzles are going to be the thing that most affects playtime. Unlike the EXIT or Unlock games, you aren’t on a timer, except maybe your kids’ bedtime. That’s what happened for us, we spent an hour and a half on the first chapter and it was getting late so we saved the game to finish up the next day.

Unfortunately, we did run into one problem with the game during the transition from chapter one to chapter two. At the start of the second chapter is a list of all of the things you should have found that should be laid out on the table in front of you. There was an item missing from that list, and it was an item we missed collecting in the first half of the game. We discovered this when we hit a dead end and the only way I was able to figure out what happened was to look through every book to see where we missed this one item. It ended up that it required a character from chapter one to get, so we missed it back in chapter one.

Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted Mansion lets you save your game part way through!Had that item been on the Chapter Two “save your game” list, we would have just spent one Scobby Snack for missing the clue and moved on. Instead, we spent a good half an hour stumped and I ended up looking through all the books while trying not to read too much and spoil the rest of the game. Now there’s a really good chance that most groups aren’t going to miss this item. How you get this clue makes perfect sense and I am actually shocked we missed it. Without spoiling anything I will just point out that you open the extra envelopes in order and if you find you are opening a higher numbered envelope than the last one you opened, you missed something, perhaps the same thing we did.

Except for this one minor, yet frustrating, mistake my family had a fantastic time with Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion. My girls (ages 10 and 13) absolutely loved it. I have never heard them laugh so much at our game table.They loved the story and the characters but most of all, really enjoyed how they could use any of the character’s skills to interact with any and all of the map and card features. Every NPC and item had to be smelled by Scooby. Shaggy attempted to eat or looked for food in every corner. Fred tried to figure out how everything worked. Daphne touched and fiddled with everything she could touch. All while Velma investigated every little detail.

One of five booklets you get with Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted Mansion
What I personally found the most impressive about Scooby-doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion was the feeling of immersion and the amount of exploration in the game. This was so much more thematic compared to other escape room style games we’ve played, with an overall story and puzzles that were linked to and made sense within that story. Even basic keypad puzzles were tied into the theme and were not just abstract logic puzzles. Then there’s the sense of exploration, this almost felt like a Scooby-Doo sandbox. With having a number of different features in each room and a mix of character skills you could combine those with, it really felt like we were exploring a haunted mansion room by room. 

What I came to realize is that, while yes, this game is basically an escape room in a box or a puzzle game, what it really reminds me of are digital point and click adventures, going back to games like Myst or the more recent Telltale series, or perhaps going back even further to text-based digital RPGs like Zork. The game is all about using the right thing with the right feature or finding the right combination of objects. 

One negative aspect of this game, that I do think everyone considering buying it has to consider, is that you can only play this game once and it’s not a very long experience. You could finish this entire box in one sitting if you have a longer game night. There is just one story with a break in the middle. It’s not a campaign game you will be playing for weeks, it’s one or two sessions and you are done. Now on a positive note, unlike say the EXIT series of games, you don’t destroy anything while playing this Coded Chronicles Game. Once you are done playing there’s nothing to stop you from selling the game or passing it off to another group to enjoy. 

The character standees in Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted MansionI do also wish that the quality was a bit better on some of the components. Most of what you get in the box is nothing more than cardstock. The standees in particular are rather flimsy. Interestingly some of the things you pull out of the sealed envelopes are punchboard, which is an odd contrast to the rest of the components. I fully understand sticking with thin card though as the price point had to be a big consideration due to the game being a one and done experience.

Overall I’m pretty sure you can see that I was very impressed by Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion. The theme and setting are cool and made the game very family-friendly. Playing this with my kids was a hoot and they absolutely loved it. The whole Coded Chronicles system is a brilliant way to do a puzzle game and I look forward to more games in the series.

While you can only play this game once I totally think it is worth the price of entry. I also appreciate the fact that I can now pass this game on to other friends to experience since we didn’t have to destroy anything while we played.

The box for Scooby-Doo Escape From The Haunted MansionIf you dig escape room in a box style games you owe it to yourself to pick this one up, especially if you have kids to play it with. Even if you don’t have kids, there’s a lot here for adults to enjoy especially if they have fond memories of watching Scooby-Doo when they were younger.If you’ve never tried a puzzle game like this before, I suggest checking this one out. The feeling of exploration and the integration of theme puts this a step above any other escape room in a box experience.

If you wish to see more of this great family puzzle game feel free to check out these spoiler-filled pictures. While they aren’t going to give you the answers to any of the puzzles or help you solve the mystery they do show off way more than the first room:

What’s with all of the Scooby-Doo games all of a sudden? I would have never thought that Scooby-Doo would be the next board game trend, after Zombies and colonizing Mars. Have you tried any of these games featuring Mystery Incorporated? What’s your favourite of the bunch?

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