The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
If you're a SpongeBob SquarePants fan you can watch the TV show or the movie, read the books, play the console games, buy the skateboard, the ball, the pants, the pillow, the poster and the list goes on and on. And, of course, you can play the PC game which is based on the movie.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (yes, that's what it's called) is one of the myriad of children's games with a small screen and/or movie background, and a long franchise of other goodies, so how does it shape up?
It's a children's adventure game, a rare commodity these days when most children's games, especially those based on other media, go down the action arcade track. It does have a couple of easy mazes (one where the idea is to evade a pursuer), plus couple of other challenges requiring mild dexterity, but it's mostly pure adventuring.
If you haven't met him, SpongeBob is a bright yellow rectangular sponge with, you guessed it, square pants. He has big round eyes, an infectious smile, and lots of bright personality. He's happy and helpful, even when other creatures welcome his departure, and even after having his dreams of becoming manager of the Krusty Krab 2 hamburger joint smashed to smithereens when Squidward gets the job instead of him.
If you've seen the movie, then you'll know the story. Our spongy hero doesn't have time for too much moping because the evil genius, Plankton, has other plans. Plankton, who runs a rival restaurant nearby to the Krusty Krab, aims to take over the realm of Bikini Bottom and ultimately rule the underwater world. Central to his plans is getting hold of the secret recipe for the delectable Krabby Patties, so he steals King Neptune's Crown and frames Mr Krab. All is going well as King Neptune has a temper, he's iced (frozen solid) Mr Krab and left the way free for Plankton to go about his wicked ways.
Then along comes SpongeBob and, despite his bitter disappointment, he decides to go to Shell City to retrieve the crown and free Mr Krab. It's one way of showing he can do anything! It's a long journey and he's accompanied by his good friend Patrick, the starfish.
The game is played in 8 chapters, most of them following SpongeBob and Patrick, although the player does briefly join Plankton and help him put his plan into action, and accompany King Neptune's daughter, Princess Mindy, for one section as she lends a hand. The story opens at home with SpongeBob. Help him prepare for his big day at work (or his big disappointment), and then it's off to get that crown. As the journey progresses each chapter is linked with a series of colourful cartoon drawings to fill out the story and introduce the next chapter.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a third person adventure game with a point and click interface. Click where you want the characters to go and they'll walk/swim there, double click and they'll get a move on. Move the cursor over the screen where it highlights at screen exits, or when you can interact with an object, and a short notation appears at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes an item may be useful and can be collected, at other times SpongeBob will have something amusing to say, or clicking may simply initiate a short animation. There are never more than three of four inventory items to collect at any one time and they appear across the top of the screen at a right mouse click. Just select an object and drag it onto the screen to use it, or drag it onto another object to combine inventory items.
It's very intuitive and simple for young children to learn. The puzzles and problems are simple too, but they do demand a little logical thinking, some detecting, and a good serving of good deeds, often with an ulterior motive! Getting things done, of course, isn't always straightforward as there's very likely to be a problem to solve or an obstacle to overcome. For instance, if you are just pint sized how do you reach the elevator button? And how do you shrink that huge black turtleneck so that SpongeBob can wear it?
The puzzles are a lot of fun and work well with the story. The current objective is always clearly communicated by the various characters and there is lots of help from SpongeBob too, as he knows exactly what he is doing most of the time. Other than doing good deeds and overcoming other obstacles the few arcade type games are simple, and very forgiving. Just a little determination goes a long, long way.
There are a range of quirky sea creatures to meet and some clever, cheeky dialogue which appears at the bottom of the screen ready to be selected. All the voice acting is excellent and all the characters are quite chatty and should encourage a few good laughs. The graphics are fun too, clear, bright and colourful, to match the characters, and accompanied by some pretty good music that changes from location to location. Doors creak, robots squeak as if in need of a good oiling, and there's lots of swishing and popping and bubbling.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a challenge that younger kids, say from 6 to 10 years, should thoroughly enjoy, and have a good few chuckles along the way. I did. In fact play along with the kids if they'll let you, as the dialogue is witty and entertaining and works on several levels. Kid's might miss some of the jokes, they probably haven't ever seen a grue (have you?), but there's lots for them to smile at.
It ran smoothly in Win XP and only crashed to desktop once when I tried to hurry things and interrupted an animation. The game has a quick load and quick save feature, and plenty of save game slots. One small thing that would have been useful was an option to skip through the dialogue as there is no way to avoid sometimes lengthy repeats if you select a character or an object for the second time. But in the scheme of things this wasn't a big issue as The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a bundle of fun for young adventurers.
Note: I haven't seen the TV show or the movie so I can't make comparisons, but after reading some reviews of the movie I should point out that this game is kid friendly. There is no violence or suspect language, unless parents object to 'blasted' and 'sheesh', and SpongeBob wouldn't dare venture outside in his underwear.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2006.
All rights reserved.
Win 95/98/ME/2000/XP, 266 MHz, 32MB RAM, 4MB Video Card, 500MB Hard Drive Space.