reviews\ Dec 1, 2003 at 7:00 pm

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - PS2 - Review

You can find pleasure in the strangest places.  Take this game, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, for instance.  It is, by all accounts, a "kiddie" game.  But it plays extremely well, and is actually better than the recent Crash, Sonic and Spyro games.  Surprised?  I sure was.  But I shouldn't have been.  This game comes from the same company that published Tak and the Power of Juju.

With the show's amusing humor intact, the game begins with a silly reason explaining why he must go on this quest.  Before you know it you'll be exploring big, colorful worlds made up of pretty islands, dark caves, and one giant sand castle.

Within each of the game's ten worlds are several connected stages, each of which is decent in size.  Some are downright huge!  Although I can't say the objectives were particularly difficult, the length kept me from conquering each world very quickly. 

The objective changes frequently, but the main goal is to do whatever it takes to collect all of the Golden Spatulas and -- drum roll please -- as many Shiny Things as possible.  As you might have guessed, Golden Spatulas are like Mario's stars or Banjo's puzzle pieces; they open doors to new worlds.  Shiny Things are the equivalent of Mario's coins or Sonic's rings with one difference: they are unlimited.  You'll collect dozens just by eliminating a few foes, and you'll collect several thousand in every world.  Shiny Things are needed to buy more Golden Spatulas, but they also have some other important uses.  Some areas cannot be accessed without paying a Shiny Things toll.

In keeping with the game's humor, your health meter comes in the form of underwear.  Your health meter has four pairs highlighted at the top of the screen.  One is depleted for every hit taken.  When the meter is full no underwear appears on the map, but you may notice transparent underwear icons in specific locations.  Memorize the areas that you found those in, because underwear will appear there as soon as you start losing health.

Battle for Bikini Bottom deserves much acclaim for its excellent use of three playable characters.  SpongeBob's friends aren't mere sidekicks, nor are they a gimmicky way for the developers to add "diversity."  SpongeBob's main attack is a spin that blows bubbles (don't laugh -- it sounds childish but it's fun).  He has a double jump for reaching higher areas, but it can also be used to extend the length of your jump.  Water is very dangerous to SpongeBob (presumably because he's a sponge), so it's very important that you avoid as much as possible.

Character-changing stations are located throughout the worlds and sub-worlds of this game.  When you've done all you can with the guy who wears square pants you'll be required to take on the role of Patrick or Sandy.  Patrick is a weird-looking pink creature that could have been born on the planet that Toejam & Earl are from.  Normally his overly happy face would drive me nuts, but his dumbfounded attitude is rather humorous.  He's certainly not as sharp as the wisecracking SpongeBob, but he definitely made me laugh.

As far as his moves go, Patrick's main strength is his ability to pick up and use objects that the other characters cannot.  He can pick up enemy robots and throw them.  He can also pick up a special water-freezing item that turns hard-to-cross waterways into icy paths that can be walked over with ease.  Patrick can jump high, too, and he seems less vulnerable to water.

Sandy is, believe it or not, a spacesuit-wearing squirrel.  Frequent watchers of the show should be very familiar with her, but she'll seem like one odd character to everyone else.  Her unique moves make her an integral part of the game though.  She has a lasso that can be used to cross long gaps, swing over dangerous areas, and tie up enemies before they get a chance to attack.

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom is a great, must-buy game for fans of the show.  I'm not a big SpongeBob fan, but the game turned out to be so good that the story didn't matter, at least not at first.  Once I started watching the real-time scenes I realized that the SpongeBob bit, no matter how silly it may be, is really hilarious.  It made me look forward to hearing what the characters had to say next.  (For most games I have no such desire.)  With all this good stuff crammed into one title, SpongeBob fans will be overjoyed.  In general though, I don't think that anyone who likes the genre will not like this game.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.8
All of the key elements of the show are here: zany humor, good voice-overs, decent music, and nice graphics.  The great gameplay is what really makes this game shine brighter than a Shiny Thing.  SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom will have the kids cheering this Christmas.  If you're not a kid but love the genre, chances are you'll enjoy this game just as much.

Graphics: 8
Delightful cartoon aesthetics make this a fun title to look at.

Sound: 7.5
Music from the show and terrific voice-overs created specifically for the game.

Difficulty: Easy
This is perhaps the one downfall this game will have with the hardcore crowd, young or old.  SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom is easy throughout most of the game.  It's long, so you still won't be able to conquer it instantaneously.  But its target audience kept the developers from hiding those Golden Spatulas in extremely difficult places.

Concept: 7.5
There aren't any new concepts introduced here, but that's okay: Battle for Bikini Bottom plays nearly as good as the titles that launched the genre.

Overall: 8.6
Most kid-targeted games (let's be honest – most games with any TV or movie license) are dreaded by most people.  They might sell half a million copies, but there are several million children playing games in this country.  What are they buying?  The same titles us adults are!

SpongeBob greatly differs from the kiddie crowd.  The show's humor is good enough to get laughs (or at least a few smirks) out of adults.  That alone takes away the kiddie factor.  The gameplay, of course, is the main attraction.

Like a sponge that absorbs hours of your time, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom will keep young gamers very occupied.  By kids' standards I'm "old," but that didn't stop me from loving this game.

The best way to create a successful game is to make sure the game is functional (controls properly).  I didn't have a clue as to what to expect from this game, but the minute I started playing I knew that if nothing else, these developers knew how to make a game function.


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