It may be a little unfair for me to review a Spongebob game. I have a particular fondness for the porous icon and I tend to like anything that he’s attached to significantly more than most other people do. I have all the available episodes on DVD, I saw both movies in theater (for the new one I even got to see an early screening before it released!) and I make a habit of buying all the new Spongebob toys that I find during my frequent trips to Toys R’ Us. I say all that to prepare you, the reader, to accept this review though the eyes of a fully mature adult who loves anything remotely Spongebob related.
Borrowing very sparingly from the new film, Spongebob Heropants is not a movie to game adaptation and seeing the movie is not a prerequisite to enjoying the game to its fullest. It is, however, cool to see Bubbles the Dolphin make a return as I found him to be the most entertaining part of the new film. In true Spongebob fashion the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. That’s not to say that it’s complicated; it’s not, it’s actually pretty simple, but it still doesn’t make much sense and it’s not even worth worrying about as it is only present to give the player an excuse to platform through the different levels.
Speaking of the levels, the game is comprised of three different maps split up into five different levels each. It’s nice to get fifteen different levels to run through, but there being only three different maps means that repetition sets in pretty early on and I found myself longing for a little variety by the time I made it to the end of each one. There is also not a lot of variety from level to level and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate one level from another. That being said, the platforming is solid and consistently fun throughout, especially if you’re a fan of old school 3D platformers which I for one wish we were getting more of.
The character selection is also a bit of a highlight on a certain level. Most of us have all played at least one game where we controlled Spongebob and Patrick, but here we get to control Spongebob, Patrick, Squidward, Sandy, Mr. Krabs, and even Plankton! Just being able to use any of these six characters is a treat and you can collect coins to level each of them up individually. You can also switch back and forth between their superhero versions from the new movie. This ability is cool as it allows you to fight better, run faster, jump higher, etc., but it doesn’t ever change the gameplay in any significant way, and I was disappointed to see that I wasn’t able to do anything dramatically different while being the Sour Note as opposed to just being Squidward. There also isn’t enough of a difference in playing as any particular character to make it intriguing to do so. Patrick can do pretty much anything that Plankton can do and vice versa. I would have like to have seen some real reasons for me to want to play as one character or another, but as a fan I really enjoyed switching back and forth from six hilarious characters, and that’s obviously all the developers were going for. Some will undoubtedly find this a detriment and while I can understand that, it didn’t bother me as much.
What bothered me more was the extreme amount of repeated dialogue that runs from level one all the way to the end. There are only a few lines of dialogue recorded for each character and you pretty much hear everything that these guys have to say in the first 10 minutes or so. After that you have to deal with hearing the same lines over and over and over and over again. On the plus side of that, all the original voice actors are present and accounted for, which is a special treat as that has not always been the case with Spongebob games of the past, especially in the case of the great Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs!
I can already see my review here being on the higher side when compared to others’. Spongebob Heropants is nothing spectacular and it is an awful lot like the last game, Plankton’s Robotic Revenge. It, like most Spongebob games, fails to capture the magic of what makes Spongebob such a hilarious and strange character in favor of offering up a typical platforming game experience. With that however, this game does offer you a solid platforming experience with a fun Spongebob coat of paint. The music is comprised of classic ukulele songs straight from the show and the colors and visuals pop satisfyingly off the Vita screen. It’s not a long gaming experience, but it is a fairly satisfying one for all of us Spongebob fans to play through as we wait patiently for that one game that taps into what makes Spongebob such an entertaining and enduring animated icon.
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