“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea!?”
SPONGEBOB… HeroPants? Wait, that can’t be right. Wasn’t it…? Things are definitely not normal in Bikini Bottom.
Following the events from the recent movie SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water, this new adventure from Activision finds SpongeBob and his friends in a interesting predicament. SpongeBob’s dreams are beginning to leak out of his head and alter the world around him. Now these unlikely superheroes must use their newly found powers to make it through each of the levels and fight off the terrors of SpongeBob’s inner psyche.
SpongeBob HeroPants is a 3D platformer that allows you to control one of six different characters: SpongBob, Patrick, Squidward, Sandy, Mr. Krabs, and Plankton. Each character also has the ability to temporarily transform into their superhero persona to help solve puzzles or fight off attacking spatulas (yes… spatulas. What else would SpongeBob dream about?)
Throughout each of the different levels, you’ll collect coins while trying to locate each of the different pages of the magical book that can once again set things right. There are a number of platforming challenges as well as a number of fairly mild puzzles to solve. After completing each level, you can use the coins you collect to purchase upgrades for your character.
It’s a quick, simple game that is requires little thought or skill. To be honest, I actually had a really good time with it. There are of course a long list of caveats that go along with that statement, but for what it is, it’s not bad (now that’s a ringing endorsement).
As I said though, there is a “but” with that statement. The game does have some technical issues. A number of them. The framerate is one. There are times when things will drop to a crawl. However, since the game is so simple, it doesn’t cause many problems. You just fight your way through it and it usually only lasts for a few seconds.
There’s also a problem with the respawn system. There are times when you’ll fall to your death and the game will have to respawn you back on to a platform. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I can’t tell you how many times it would respawn me under the platform which would cause me to fall to my death again and again and again. Eventually it will just kill you off and start you in a new spot. I guess it’s the game’s incentive to keep you on track. It’s aggravating, but since there is no real consequence to dying, it’s not that big of a deal. Every time it would happen (and it happened about a dozen or so times) I would just wait it out then keep going.
The game is also quite short. A complete run-through of the game can be done in just a few sittings. You really have to explore each level thoroughly and collect every coin possible to make the game last awhile. The incentive to go back is that there are a number of collectibles in the game that can only be found by certain characters. Much like the LEGO games, you’ll need to replay the levels a number of times if you really want to find everything.
Visually the game is really nice. There’s not a lot going on, but it does a good job of replicating the world that is found in the TV show. Sure there are times when walls vanish and you pass through objects you shouldn’t, but the bright and colorful world of Bikini Bottom is in full force here. And since the game is compatible with the PlayStation TV, it actually makes a decent transition to the big screen.
The music is also a plus in my book. There’s something very soothing about playing a simple platformer while that distinctive island music SpongeBob is known for plays in the background. The only downside is that it’s constantly being interrupted when your character feels the need to deliver a witty one-liner. And they deliver it over and over and over again. SHUT UP!! Some of them are cute the first time you hear them, but they really start to get on your nerves about five minutes later when you’ve heard them a hundred times already. Fortunately there is an option to adjust the volume levels and effectively turn the voices off.
Obviously though, this game is designed with kids in mind so I let a kid test it for me. I gave the game to my 8 year old daughter and had her put it through its paces. Her reaction? She loved it. It was just the right amount of challenge without getting too frustrating. Those annoying one-liners I couldn’t stand would always make her chuckle, and she’d repeat them along with the character. She played the game through to completion and loved the whole thing. It was a little on the short side for her as well, but that didn’t stop her from coming back to it again and again over the next several days replaying a level here and there. Now, when she’s not busy building castles and escaping from Creepers, she’s popping in SpongeBob HeroPants to take down some menacing looking lollipops (did I mention there’s a candy filled world where you jump from waffle to waffle while escaping lollipops?)
For me, the game is an adequate platformer. The controls are simple, but very functional. The characters don’t move overly fast, actually it feels like they go a bit slower than they should, but the jumping mechanic works fine.
SpongeBob HeroPants is an interesting mix of both good and tired. On the positive side, it’s a kid friendly game that provides a simple, fun experience. Much like the LEGO games, the focus is mainly on collecting with only a few minor obstacles to get in your way. It’s a great game to play when you just want to chill and relax for awhile. Plus, it has a fairly easy set of trophies which includes a Platinum.
On the tired side the game is a buggy mess. The challenge is minimal. The game is short. And the puzzles are anything but difficult. There’s enough wrong with the game which could make you toss it aside and never think about it again and yet… there’s something there. It isn’t great but it isn’t bad either. Much like a Buddhist in a state of zen, it just is. Perhaps not the most glowing recommendation for a game, but pretty apt.
SpongeBog HeroPants is a competent 3D platformer with as many bugs and glitches as collectibles to find. The game is clearly designed with kids in mind, and in that regard it does its job admirably. Even with all its frustrating faults, it’s a game that kids can enjoy. It’s a simple, light-hearted experience that may not be what veteran gamers want but it’s a hit with the target audience.