SpongeBob SquarePants:The Movie

SpongeBob SquarePants:The Movie

Written by Dave Gamble on 4/19/2005 for 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.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie game for Xbox is a good choice for kids, but doesn't offer enough challenge for the grown-ups. It would also benefit from having a multiplayer mode in multi-kid families.

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.

While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.

My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.
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