SpongeBob SquarePants is a franchise that has in recent times seen a Pokemon-esque level of merchandise released. It has also divided humanity into two camps: those that can?t stand it and those that can?t stand to be without it. This writer is in the latter camp, hence the reason he was chosen to review what many would, on the surface, dismiss as a childish cash-in, the result of another arm of Nickelodeon's massive I.P. monetisation factory sinking its fingers even deeper into the games market.
There have been ten SpongeBob games of varying quality released by THQ in the past six years. The latest, a medley platformer developed by Blitz Games, promises to be the best to date and has the added bonus of being available for the Wii, naturally our review version of choice. I?ve also heard talk of this being the new Dizzy
from the Oliver Twins studio. Surely not... Well no, of course it isn't.
From the off I have to mention that this is a SpongeBob
game in name only. I suspect that this GameCube port was called 'Platform Game No:D3' in development. Then, at some point it was decided that Nickelodeon's franchise should be grafted onto the code. There are no authentic Bikini Bottom settings, and the environment crafted by Stephen Hillenburg and team simply is not recreated in any way at all. There are the classic flower clouds, and some of the sea urchins look on-style but only slightly, with what looks like the recognisable five-leaf head added retrospectively to an existing environmental item.
Aside from the fact that settings are well off, there's further evidence that this game began life as something else. The music, except the intros and interstitial sequences, is as generic as music can possibly be. There is no attempt to follow the musical direction of the series (which has had guest appearances from bands including Ween and Pantera - both bands asked if they could be included in the show and requested no fee). More - the Plankton levels see the patty-thieving nemesis of Mr Krabbs enlarged to normal size, a total cop-out that denies players the chance of some microcosmic gaming as enjoyed in Nintendo's sublime Minish Cap Zelda
There's more, but the sad fact is that this game's failings and its lack of care for subject-detail comprise much of its reviewable value. Read on...
The controls (and controllers) on Nintendo's Wii are big selling points for the console and all its software. Not for the The Creature from the Krusty Krab
. On the fledgling platform it?s a port of the GameCube version with some tweaks to the core gameplay and interface to incorporate the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. As I?ve already pointed out, CRTKK
is not a Wii game, it's a Wii version of a traditional game. And as such suffers the same problem early third-party DS software had to overcome: controller changes for the sake of it just don't bring anything new or unique to the Wii user.
The game offers three playable characters from the SpongeBob roster: SpongeBob himself, Patrick Star and Sheldon J. Plankton? and that's it; a threesome picked more on their strength on the merchandising shelves than to be workable, ahem, Avatars.
SpongeBob and Patrick are controlled using the Nunchuck's analogue stick, with the [A] button on the Wii Remote performing jump. Both characters have attacks mapped to the Nunckuck buttons, and both can perform a Mario
-style butt-slam when in the air with a flick downwards with the Remote. They both have a dashing move that can also be used to move items around. They both, we suspect, started life as the same unnamed character until he was divided when it was decided this game was to be dedicated to SpongeBob's quest for toy store domination.
The Plankton levels feature a nice twist on standard 3D platforming, with two-dimensional gameplay, represented in a 3D world. Okay, so this was first played around with in classic titles such as Pandemonium
. Time-served gamers will have experienced the true highs of this genre-bending twist but to newcomers, at whom CFTKK
is, ahem, Squarely aimed (or maybe just Pantsly) it will provide an interesting aside. The problem with this element of the game is that it's quite difficult to make out what's happening and there's no feeling of reward. You run along and jump whenever you see anything
and fire a lot to make it through.
SpongeBob and Patrick's levels are cocktails of 3D platformer, puzzle and 'action'. Action, in this case, seems to have been viewed as pointless busywork by the developers. An objective is completed and a wave of bad-guys (also not related to the world of SpongeBob in any meaningful way) is released. They are defeated and another one is released. Repeat. Boxes need to be broken. Repeat. All this filler gameplay adds nothing to the actual experience, does nothing for SpongeBob fans and serves no other purpose than to steal away the player's life. Of course, this kind of gameplay is endemic in licensed leisure software, especially that aimed at a younger audience. However, this is no excuse ? Blitz could have risen above the norm and pushed something, anything a little further than what is the minimum standard of performance for a videogame. It's also a fact that SpongeBob is absolutely designed to transcend the children's entertainment market, appealing as it does to people of all ages. This fact is not respected and it is a great shame.