SpongeBob SquarePants Movie – XB – Review

THQ and Heavy Iron Studios
attempted to mimic the SpongeBob movie-going experience through a video game
that takes players to several locations from the film.  Battle For Bikini
Bottom lived up to the show – does this game have what it takes to live up to
the film?

Sending
gamers down a linear path, SpongeBob takes the form of the original Crash
Bandicoot games.  The stages aren’t extremely long (some can be beaten in a
couple of minutes.  Others may take a bit longer), nor is the difficulty
extremely challenging.  This game goes for the "all ages" market by being
quite a bit easier and a lot more straightforward than its predecessor.  (Not
that Battle For Bikini Bottom was all that difficult — it too was a pretty
easy game.)  This is good news for the youngster in your family who was
previously too young to get the most out of the game.  It’s bad news for
everyone else. 

 

Note: Everyone else
constitutes most of SpongeBob’s viewers.  The majority of its viewers are over
the age of 10.  Most kids beat their first game by the age of 8.  Many have
conquered Sonic, Mario and Crash Bandicoot at the young age of 6.

If you didn’t play the
last game, you missed out big time.  The controls were tight for each of the
characters, two of which (SpongeBob and Patrick) have returned for the movie
game.  Controlling SpongeBob in this game is equally rewarding.  Patrick’s
stretchy tongue makes him the ideal character for swinging across dangerous
objects, like a big tub of scalding hot goo.  Both characters can ride in
SpongeBob’s brand-new hamburger mobile.  Although it’s made of a tasty, sesame
seed bun, includes the finest ground beef, and has pickles for wheels, I
suggest you don’t relish in the experience too much.  The roads are quite busy
these days.  Crash too harshly and you could wind up splattering faster than
ketchup shoots out of a bottle after being stepped on.

The hamburger mobile
makes more game appearances than expected.  Several stages are dedicated to
it, asking the player to complete various tasks while driving this strangely
appealing vehicle.  Cruising through the stage is relatively easy.  The other
tasks are easy as well, but can cause a tiny bit of frustration, just enough
to make you sigh (or scream) once or twice.  Besides getting from point A to
point B (a video game staple), the hamburger mobile is good for driving
through rings, collecting items in a hurry, and for driving down dark paths
that might house dangerous monsters.  Oh no, not him!  He’s got boxer-removing
abilities!

SpongeBob follows in the
footsteps of every other game on the planet by including a point-based
attribute upgrade system (try saying that five times fast).  Thousands of
"manliness" points are needed to unlock new "macho" moves.  Manliness points
are obtained in the most obvious way: by collecting every item you can get
your hands on.  You do that by destroying crates, enemies, and other objects
that can be destroyed.  It’s not hard to figure out, not in the least bit. 
Most items reward SpongeBob or Patrick with multiple points, making it easier
to gain manliness points than it may have first appeared.

The cut scenes are more
like storyboards than movie sequences.  You don’t get to see too many clips
from the film, just stills taken from specific scenes.  Why would they do this
when all other movie-based games use real-time sequences, if not actual clips
from the film?  No one will ever be able to figure out these things.  It’s
just something the game industry does.  They don’t follow any of the so-called
rules.

This could come as a
disappointment to players expecting to re-live the movie’s magic through a
game.  During the gameplay you’ll be entertained by amusing dialogue, but the
still picture movie sequences are a bore.   


 

To add or not to add to
your Christmas list, that is the question.  The answer is yes to those who
love all-things SpongeBob.  That might not seem like a shocking conclusion,
but keep in mind that the last game came highly recommended whether you liked
the show or not.  It actually made me a bigger SpongeBob fan.  The levels were
bigger and the missions weren’t so linear.


Review
Scoring Details

for SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

Gameplay: 6.9
Mixed fun that’s
not for everyone.  Levels are linear and lack the challenge of its close
competitors (Crash, Spyro, Crash might not be the best example considering how
easy the last game was, though it is harder than SpongeBob.

Graphics: 6.5
We’re near the
end of the current console generation.  SpongeBob looks great on the big
screen – surely he could have looked stellar with cel-shading graphics on
Xbox.  The developers opted not to use cel-shading though (in fear of being
looked as another crappy game with cel-shaded graphics I suppose).  SpongeBob
and friends are modeled well, but all in all this is not a spectacular-looking
game, certainly not when compared to what (yep, I’m going to say it) the Xbox
is capable of.  Maybe if I keep saying it game publishers will hear me. 
Maybe…

Sound: 7
Comedic dialogue
that doesn’t occur frequently enough.  The voiced storyboards are too still to
be funny.  Musically the game sounds like  happy-go-lucky adventure.  It fits
the mood of the game, but I still don’t enjoy listening to it.


Difficulty: Easy
Akin to eating an
entire Pumpkin Pie in one sitting.  It might seem like a challenge, but you
know you can do it.

Concept: 6
Familiar gameplay
+ the story of spongy movie.  It’s not the first time a game does little to
take the film experience to a whole new level, nor will it be the last.

Overall: 6.9
Kids (young kids)
will like this game except for the frustration.  The vehicle controls aren’t
very accurate, causing a lot of unnecessary screw ups during that part of the
game.  Other than that it’s a piewalk.  (I’d say cakewalk, but that’s so
1990.)  Most experienced players, even those as young as 10, will be at least
a little disappointed by the linearity of the game.  If the movie sequences
were more than storyboards I could have easily recommended it to SpongeBob
fans of all ages as a must-rent.  Maybe next time.