|Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
|Release Date: October 29, 2003
|Also On: GCN, PS2 and Xbox
Let me begin this review with a little disclaimer. I am not now, nor have I ever been a fan of SpongeBob SquarePants. I have been aware of the phenomenon for a couple years now and have experienced curiosity into how it became popular, but reviewing this game has given me some insight into the SpongeBob phenomenon.
Of course, when Kyle told me this was going to be my first free game, I was somewhat skeptical. Although I knew that not all SpongeBob fans were young kids, I assumed that the young kid demographic was what would be aimed for by the game, and that belief was only reinforced by some statements made by Kyle who believed the game would be short and easy. I am pleased to say, however, that both of us were wrong about the game.
The graphics in this game look like they had some time spent on them. There is no significant slowdown or anything when a lot of enemies are around. The backgrounds all look very nice also. The foreground looks a lot like it should for the type of game that this is, although I have seen snippets of SpongeBob cartoons before and I think the characters look slightly different in the game than they look in the cartoon. That’s not to say they look bad, however, so this is a very minor gripe. Overall, the graphics are done very well, although they do not quite push the GCN to its graphical limits.
The sound is also done very well. Most of the music in the game is memorable if not addictive, although it can get somewhat repetitive after you’ve spent half an hour in the same area. The sound effects sound weird to a degree, but they aren’t bad and they only add to the humor element that the game portrays, but the thing that really adds to the humor element is the voice acting. All three playable characters have little phrases that they’ll say in certain circumstances, and while these phrases can become somewhat repetitive over time, they are not nearly as bad as in many other games. There are also humorous dialogues between the playable characters and the other Bikini Bottom residents that are often enough to give a little comic relief to the game.
The story to this game, like with most platformers, is simple and relatively unobtrusive. Basically, what it comes down to is that you have Plankton creating a bunch of robots to steal some formula or something that he wanted, but the machine that he used to create them had a lever that was accidentally set to “don’t obey” (who would put this kind of lever on a machine?). Thus the robots are out of control and are terrorizing Bikini Bottom. At the same time, SpongeBob and Patrick had wished for real robots to play with, so SpongeBob assumes the robots are his fault and sets out to stop the terrorizing that they are doing. It’s not the most creative story in the world, but for a platformer, the story is not that important anyway.
If you’ve ever played Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, then the gameplay of this game will look very familiar to you. The objective of the game is to collect enough Golden Spatulas to enter Plankton’s lab and defeat the robots once and for all. This basically executes itself like Mario 64/Sunshine, where you enter a level and start looking for Spatulas. Since it is a collection-based game, there is no requirement that you do everything in an area before you move on, although to get into later levels, you need to have certain quantities of spatulas in your possession. One difference between this game and Mario 64/Sunshine is that you aren’t automatically kicked out of a level when you get a spatula, but instead the game just saves and you go on. This is convenient because you don’t have to redo portions and usually when you get one spatula, you are also ready to enter the area where the next one is.
As I said earlier, there are three playable characters, but you hardly ever have your choice which one you are going to use. Which one you use is determined by the task at hand. All three of them know a normal attack and are capable of double-jumping, but beyond that, they are different in many ways. SpongeBob is basically the attacker of the three. His emphasis is on robot destruction, and throughout the game, he earns more ways to dish out the punishment onto robots. Patrick is the brute of the three, possessing the ability to lift and throw objects. Sandy is the platform jumper of the three, possessing the abilities to glide and to swing from hooks, as well as lassoing robots. In each level there are bus stops where you can change characters, but in any given level, you can only switch between SpongeBob and one of the other two characters.
So far as the actual gameplay goes, you are looking at typical platformer fare. Platform jumping, robot beating, and puzzles are all present in this game. There are even boss battles occasionally. Everything you do seem to have come from somewhere else. That is my major complaint about the game is that everything seems borrowed from some other game as far as gameplay is concerned. However, I have to counterbalance that by saying that everything they have borrowed they have done a very good job of giving a SpongeBob feel to, so they never actually just cut and pasted ideas from other games into a haphazard game.
The difficulty of this game is fairly medium. It isn’t so easy that it could be beaten by a five year old, but at the same time it isn’t so hard as to discourage people from persevering through it. My one complaint in difficulty is that you have infinite lives in this game. Checkpoints abound, and you have infinite lives. Other than this, though, difficulty is somewhere in the acceptable range.
About all I can say about the replay value of this game is that there are 100 spatulas to find, eight of which are earned by searching for Patrick’s socks (the blue coin equivalent). All of this will certainly keep you searching for a fairly lengthy period of time if you are inclined to do so, making this game have pretty good length. As for whether you’d play it again after beating it, I honestly don’t know, as such a thing would depend on the person.
Overall, I am pleased to say that this game was a very entertaining use of the many hours that I put into it during my review period, contrary to what I had anticipated. My opinion is that if you are a fan of either SpongeBob SquarePants or the platformer genre, and especially if both, this game is well worth having in your collection.
|Replay Value/Game Length:
|Written by Martin