By: Matthew Striplen
I’m going to be honest with you. When I saw I’d be reviewing SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton’s Robotic Revenge for the 3DS, I immediately started twirling my imaginary villainous mustache in anticipation of writing the most brutal beatdown of a review ever. Now that everything’s said and done, I’m almost disappointed I don’t get to write that review. This game is just too charming to bash. So, let’s join the eponymous SpongeBob and his nonsensical nautical crew in their quest to stop the dastardly Plankton.
Being a children’s game, SpongeBob‘s controls are simplistic and intuitive. Characters are moveable in all eight directions and only three other buttons are used: A/B to melee attack, X/Y to fire weapon, and R/L to toggle equipped weapon. Jumping is triggered automatically by walking off ledges, similar to 3D Legend of Zelda games. Pretty easy.
When firing the gun, your character will auto-target the nearest enemy. This is a great feature for younger gamers as it makes combat much easier, but it will feel like wearing training wheels for older players. To remedy this, gamers have to option to tap the touch screen to manually aim the shots. One of my only complaints is that when firing the weapon, the character’s movement is slightly slowed. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but it makes fleeing groups of enemies and simultaneously firing upon them nearly impossible.
SpongeBob looks pretty darn decent, considering it is a DS game as opposed to a 3DS title. Environments appear to be underwater and enemies come in all different shapes and colors. The character models suffer from some graininess, which can probably be blamed on the DS’s inferior hardware. That being said, all models stay very true to the original cartoon, except for one seemingly small feature on one character.
You know how one subtle tweak can change something from cute to terrifying? You may not notice at first, but soon, you will learn to fear SpongeBob’s gigantic, lifeless, unblinking eyes with his plastered on smile as he prepares to consume your soul! Oh God! The eyes! THE EYES!!!! Anyway, the cut scenes look great, though they definitely use a different engine from the rest of the game.
Sound-wise, SpongeBob isn’t too shabby. The intro features an instrumental version of the actual theme from the show, and not some crappy synthesized recreation, either. Fans will be pleased to hear all the familiar original voices as well. The in-game music is taken directly from the show, with the trademark guitar strumming along. Other sound effects and ambient noise work nicely, too.
After an opening cut scene lays out the premise of the game — Plankton is up to his old tricks again — the player will be faced with a choice of characters. While the variety is nice, all characters function identically. Unique abilities would have given the game substantially more depth. Once a character is selected, the player will be transported to the guns shop. Only four weapons are available, three of which need to be purchased. Thankfully, these weapons can be upgraded in exchange for money, greatly increasing their power. Again, though, additional weapons would have provided a more interesting experience.
With the preparations complete, the player is dropped onto the map where the goal is simple: get from point A to point B without dying and collect as much money as possible. Initially guns will be too weak to be of much use, so be prepared to rely on melee attacks. With more upgrades, the guns vastly outstrip physical attacks in effectiveness. Money is found in abundance by breaking boxes and defeating enemies. Upon dying, which is caused by a depleted health bar or by falling into bottomless pits, the character will be re-spawned at an earlier location at a varying cost to your total money. Sometimes nothing will be taken and sometimes more than 100 Sprockets (currency) will be missing.
A few variations exist in the level format. Certain levels feature a massive whirlpool that chases your character and delivers instant death. These levels are more about speed rather than exploration. Enemies and items still populate the seascape but are much more difficult to reach without risking death. The reduced speed of the character when firing a weapon becomes much more of an issue here than anywhere else. I quickly learned that taking the time to destroy my enemies, rather than simply avoiding them altogether, resulted in my watery demise.
The other variation is the boss battles. These fights are extremely easy, even by children’s game standards. Only a few of them exist and unfortunately, they’re all nearly identical. Each successive boss is marginally more powerful but only slightly. The addition of different mechanics is greatly needed, as each “climactic” boss fight is anything but.
While the gameplay is enjoyable, it’s just too short. With only 22 levels, including boss fights, older players should finish it in a few hours. Younger audiences may squeeze a few more out. Unfortunately, SpongeBob has very little replay value, with the only incentive being to fully upgrade the guns.
As I said before, I was ready to hate on this game and I had my reasons. I can’t even pretend to like the original show, and game adaptations of movies/TV shows usually rank among the lowest tiers of games. Surprisingly, SpongeBob turned out to be a charming addition to the DS library. While this certainly won’t rank among the most immersive, life-changing gaming experiences, it is far from the worst. A great game for younger kids.