It’s a beautiful day in Bikini Bottom, and
SpongeBob SquarePants is just waking up, bright-eyed and confident.
Today is the day that he will be promoted to Manager of the Krusty
Krab 2. For those of you who don’t watch Nickelodeon on U.S.
television, SpongeBob is the star of a successful cartoon series
featuring quirky creatures that live, work and annoy one another at
the bottom of the sea. The game I’m describing is based on the
recent movie release: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Since the
movie and the game are aimed at a younger audience, I have chosen to
play and review this game with my eight-year-old son Deanie (his
choice of pen name). Deanie’s comments will appear in bold
And Behind Door Number One We Find: An Adventure Game!
Unlike other recent games based on hit movies, the PC game
inspired by The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (hereinafter the SB
Movie Game) is a traditional adventure game in just about every
possible way. It has an engaging story, lots of dialog-based
character interaction, inventory challenges, sequencing challenges,
a point-and-click interface, and a save system so rational that
(after playing other movie-based games) it will make you weep from
sheer relief. There is no leaping, climbing, or shooting –nothing
that remotely resembles athleticism. The purity of the SB Movie
game’s adventure gaming character is only slightly sullied by three
easy arcade sequences. There are even a couple of throwaway
references to the Kings Quest and Zork games, which may indicate
where the designers’ instincts were leading them.
The SB Movie game is a third person perspective game in which you
play as four different characters: SpongeBob, Patrick (a starfish),
Plankton (a microscopic sea organism -- possibly a sea louse) and
Mindy, a mermaid princess. SpongeBob is the most endearing of these
characters, with his relentless optimism, his rapid fire popgun
laugh, and his talent with a spatula. He resembles a bright yellow
scrubbing sponge more than a sea sponge. SpongeBob is cool
because he’s so silly. He starts the game in his UNDERPANTS!
Plankton is one of the more complex characters in Bikini Bottom,
a Napoleon of the ocean floor. He compensates for his small stature
by embracing a super-sized ambition to take over the world. He has
no friends and is married to a snidely-voiced computer named Karen.
Plankton has a tendency to talk to himself. A typical
self-comment: “If only my intellect could be made flesh! I
would be unstoppable!” Plankton is mean, angry and evil.
He’s not crazy though.
The game takes place in eight chapters. After each game portion,
you are taken to a photograph album called “The Quest for the
Crown,” where a narrator explains the advancing plot. This works
well for the most part, though sometimes so much of the plot is
covered by the photograph album that the story feels a bit choppy.
Although the game does involve a quest for a crown, it also is a
journey of self-discovery. SpongeBob is not only trying to save his
world, but also striving to become a man. The question of what he
must do to become a grown-up – one that is respected by other
grown-ups – is variously explored in the game, from the awarding of
mustaches to the dangerous visions in the Corridors of Confusion.
Why does SpongeBob want to be a man? I think so he can play
games that are “T” for Teen.
This “E” Really Is for Everyone
In many ways, the game is perfectly geared for an adult and child
playing together. The puzzles are easy enough to be solved by a
child (I’d estimate they are aimed at ages six to ten) with
occasional help from an adult. The inventory is easy to use –
clicking on items in the environments causes the item to glow
against a shiny blue background, then the item inserts itself into a
life preserver near the top of the screen. Right-clicking brings up
the item in its preserver, and you drag and drop it right where you
wish it to go. If you’ve observed a child playing the Freddi Fish
or Pajama Sam games, I would place the difficulty level smack dab
between those two. The game was really easy, except when I
What distinguishes the SB Movie Game from other children’s
adventure games is the sophistication of its dialog. Many sequences
zing with hilarious one-liners. There are surprisingly clever puns
and other types of wordplay. For example, here’s Plankton again:
“It’s a stable. You know why that stable doesn’t have windows?
Cause who ever heard of stable windows! Hahaha! That’s a nerd
There are also sight gags – many related to the game’s underwater
setting – and even an elevator music sound gag. Like the best
classic cartoons, this game entertains at a child’s level while the
dialog and aspects of the plot entertain at a far more advanced
level. If you set aside the ease of its puzzles, in many ways the
game is ageless.
Meet Me at Davy Jones’s Locker
The graphics in the game are taken straight from the cartoon
show. They are bright, colorful, 2D and cartoon-like. The sea
background looks like a Hawaiian shirt fabric. Buildings are
unusual: SpongeBob’s neighborhood features a house shaped like a
pineapple, a house shaped like an Easter Island statue and a house
shaped like a giant rock. The environments are pleasant to look at,
though the exterior locations don’t always have a lot of detail.
The exteriors are animated, though, with rippling light reflections,
bubbles, and seaweed and sea cucumbers moving with the current.
Interiors are more intricate, but there are usually only one or two
items per screen that are hot.
Characters are three dimensional; their movements and facial
expressions are somewhat stylized. But then you wouldn’t expect a
sponge or a starfish to move with unusual fluidity (or to emote with
extraordinary subtlety). Left-clicking moves the characters to the
next screen – there is no 360 degree panning. When you
double-click, Sponge Bob trots, Plankton runs, Patrick bounces and
Mindy’s tailfin undulates at double-time. One feature I enjoyed is
that when you click on a hotspot, the characters often comment
without first trudging all the way across the screen to take a
look. This aided the pacing of the game and (in a game that isn’t
exactly realistic anyway) I thought it was a nice touch.
The game features many cutscenes. These are easily
distinguishable because the viewing area shifts to letterbox
format. The quality of cutscenes is identical to that of the
regular graphics; transitions are extremely smooth…. Impressive.
All Things Auditory Under the Sea
The voice acting in SPSPM is almost uniformly excellent. The
main characters are voiced by the actors from the SpongeBob cartoon
series. There are goofy characters, threatening characters, snooty
characters, even spiritual characters – for example, the Robed Man
at the Pool of Perception: “Personally, the conversation has
renewed my interest in taking a vow of silence.”
Special kudos go to Tom Kenny as SpongeBob, and Mr. Lawrence as
Plankton. The actors who voiced the Hotel Deep Six manager and
Octavio are also worthy of mention (though they aren’t identified in
The ambient sounds are serviceable. They are mostly of the
watery/bubbly variety. Background music is cartoonish – cheerfully
corny in some locations, dramatic and exaggerated in others --
almost tongue-in-cheek. No, definitely tongue-in-cheek.
Load times between levels are several seconds long. Also, you
cannot click through the dialog or the cutscenes, so there will
inevitably be times in the game where you sit through a repeat of
something you’ve already seen.
There is a Dark Maze, but it’s impossible to get lost in it. (I
suspect its inclusion is another doffing-of-the-hat to adventure
game traditions.) This maze is getting on my nerves. What’s
Final “annoyance”: I swore to myself that if I found a game that
did NOT resort to using sliding tile puzzles, frustrating timed
sequences, complicated mazes, difficult arcade sequences or stealth
sequences to extend gameplay, I would never, EVER complain that the
game was too short. Well, the SB Movie Game contains none of the
aforementioned hair-pulling game extenders. So I won’t complain. I
feel I got more than my money’s worth. I just wish there was more
of this delightful game to enjoy.
Now, aren’t there more SpongeBob games out there? Could they
possibly be as good as this one?
I Say it’s Funny, You say it’s Scary
Deanie and I had a wonderful time with this game. Almost
as much fun as WANTED: A Wild Western Adventure. (Coming
from Deanie, this is high praise indeed.) Then we reached the end.
At the close of the game, our heroes return to Bikini Bottom, and
the place is changed. This is where Deanie’s infectious enjoyment
abruptly ceased. In short, the change in Bikini Bottom terrified
I suspect that this is a quirky reaction. The changes struck me
as being mildly silly and not particularly threatening. But I feel
I need to mention it in case other children have the same reaction.
You’d think that an eight-year-old who has slain hundreds of orcs
atop the walls of Helms Deep would not be frightened by the
situation in Bikini Bottom. But Deanie certainly was. It’s
scary at the end with the chum buckets.
If you don’t happen to run screaming from the computer, you will
find that the game’s ending is entertaining and satisfying.
Quick List for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (game)
A traditional adventure featuring the wacky characters from the
SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon. Point-and-click interface, third
person perspective. Bright, cartoon-like graphics. Engaging story,
funny dialog with puns and wordplay, terrific voice acting. You
cannot die in the game.
Inventory and sequencing puzzles, three mild arcade-like
challenges. Overall difficulty level: very easy. No sliding tile
puzzles, no sound puzzles, one easy maze.
Unlimited save slots. No glitches or stability problems. Long
load times between levels. You can’t click through dialog or
cutscenes, so you will encounter some annoying repetitiveness.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is aimed at children, fans of the
SpongeBob cartoons, and adventure gamers who enjoy whimsical
characters and silly wordplay. As a family game for adults and
children to play together, it is almost perfect.
Final Grade: A-
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