SpongeBob SquarePants:The Movie

Review

posted 4/19/2005 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
Platforms: Xbox
The genius of SpongeBob SquarePants is that there are elements of it that appeal to adults as well as to children. This is a boon to parents that want to share some TV time with their kids, but don't want to be bored silly watching a big, purple dinosaur dance around singing smarmy songs. While a little bit goes a long way, SpongeBob and his strange, undersea world are just wacky enough to be funny for entertaining for everyone.

As with any moderately successful cartoon, there is a gigantic marketing blitz in toys, lunchboxes, kids shampoo, and any other item that has enough space to carry an image of Mr. SquarePants. When the show has been on long enough that the only people that don't recognize it are the cave dwellers of Elbonia, it's time for the inevitable feature length movie. And that movie, of course, will have a cross marketing blitz of its own, nearly always including fast food toys and a console-based video game.

These games don't have to be particularly good or fun as long as the movie does well. If the movie is a hit, the game sales will surely follow. Typically, these games sell for the characters, not for the exciting and unique game play. The best this genre can hope for is to be at least almost as entertaining as the show, but that is always an uphill battle because some of the novelty has worn off from repeated viewings of the show and/or movie. To compete with that, the game needs some original and new ideas, or it will end up being just another mediocre title, offering only transitory interest. As an example, consider the aforementioned SpongeBob lunch box. When you get right down to it, having a picture of SpongeBob on your lunchbox is not going to make your PB&J taste any better. It may give you something to look at while you chew, but the attraction of that will quickly wane. Once that happens, it's just another lunchbox, same as all the rest.

This brings us to SpongeBob SquarePants, The Movie for the Xbox. Just like the lunchbox, this game has enough of the SpongeBob flavor to appeal to a younger audience, but not enough compelling game play to keep them coming back for more. I got an early indication of this when I tasked my 8 year old nephew with playing the game for awhile and telling me what he thought about it. He was in mid-game when his parents dragged him off somewhere. He left the console running, with strict instructions that no one turn it off. Well, it got turned off while he was gone, and he was upset when he got back and found out that he would have to do part of the game over again. In other words, once was enough. No replay value.

I asked him what it was that he didn't like about it. There were a number of things, but first and foremost was that it was single player only. He had recently played the Shrek 2 game and enjoyed being able to include friends/siblings/cousins in the game. With SpongeBob, he could only play when he was the only kid that wanted the Xbox, a rare situation indeed.

Beyond that, he thought SpongeBob was too easy. I agree with that. There was nothing particularly challenging about finding your way through the levels, and other than a cut scene between levels, nothing to really involve you in the story.

What you’re left with is pretty much another run-of-the-mill platformer. There are a few minor attractions such as driving around Bikini Bottom in a giant Krabby Patty and sliding around in a bathtub, but for the most part it’s just collect tokens and jump around. The fighting is pretty straightforward, and once you get a few power-ups, even that becomes simply routine.

SpongeBob SquarePants, The Movie for Xbox would probably be best suited for the age 7 and under game players in your family. It’s easy enough for them to learn quickly and not become frustrated.

For everyone else, it doesn’t offer much in the way of repeatable entertainment.
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