When Wario Ware: Smooth Moves was released in 2008, it was definitely one of the most innovative games on the Wii at the time. Though the franchise was nothing new, it was really on top form in Smooth Moves, and was the inspiration for tons of quasi-successful games for years after its launch. However, though Wario Ware was often imitated, it was never downright copied. Until now.
Basically everything about SpongeBob Squigglepants screams Wario Ware. From the five-second “nano-games” to the progression through themed “art” areas, and even the “faster” nano-games that show up half-way through a stage. If you took Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, skinned it with SpongeBob, and added the uDraw peripheral, SpongeBob Squigglepants is exactly what you’d have.
The premise of the game is, as you’d expect, pretty ridiculous. You are commissioned to create some art for Patchy the Pirate’s SpongeBob fan club, and you have to get “inspired” by looking at different art pieces. And apparently, when you look at an art piece, you go into some sort of trance and you’ll have to play through twenty nanogames in order to “appreciate” the art fully. Then you move on.
To its credit, the different themed art pieces are fairly cool. There’s modern art, b-movie art, comic book art, and even 8-bit art. Older players will appreciate the different art styles, and there are more than a few shout outs to specific artists as well as some classic games. However, the problem with SpongeBob Squigglepants is that adults (and most kids) will find the game a little too bland and easy to play for long.
As the mini-game genre has become more popular, on the whole it has failed to mature, and has moved to making games that are accessible to the lowest common denominator of gamers, which has sort of homogenized the genre as a whole. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that what you can expect from SpongeBob Squigglepants is more of the same. I was hopeful that the tablet element would bring something new to the table, but most of the mini-games would actually be more interesting with a Wii-mote instead of a tablet.
For instance, one of the most basic mini-games involves flipping cards over. With the tablet, this game is nearly impossible, as dragging the stylus over the cards and then flipping them over takes way too much time, and unless you get really lucky, this game is an automatic fail. If the Wii-mote alone was used, simply pointing and clicking at the cards could have been used as a control option, and sped the process up nicely.
Though this mini-game doesn’t work at all, most of the games in SpongeBob Squigglepants at least work, but the trouble is that the controls just aren’t that intuitive. One game that was lifted direct from Wario Ware Smooth Moves involves answering the telephone (no really, it is EXACTLY the same) but instead of picking up a Wii-mote you have to draw a diagonal line on the uDraw tablet. It doesn’t make much sense and feels awkward. The game ends up feeling like a DS port of a Wii game, which is a bit backwards (and a little ironic when you think about it).
Unfortunately, the game also suffers from being very short. The mini-games are all very easy to figure out, and you can unlock all of the different paintings in two or three hours, without much skill. Much of the mini-games focus on trial and error, and once you figure out the gimmick, going back through them after you’ve figured them out is fairly boring. Interestingly, the game does not have a multiplayer mode (which is rare for a mini-game compilation), so unless you have a lot of time on your hands to replay through tons of mini-games you’ve already played before, you’ll be done with this game the second you unlock the last painting. Though there is a free-draw mode, the drawing tools you can use in uDraw’s pack-in software are much more satisfying.
Production values in SpongeBob Squigglepants are fairly good. Each of the art-stylized games look good, and the live action scenes with Patchy the Pirate look satisfactory. Though nothing about the game is really a technical marvel, the look of the game at least meets expectations, and during my time with it I didn’t encounter any technical issues or glitches.
SpongeBob Squigglepants is a fun game, and if it would have come out 3-4 years ago, I’m sure it would be well-received. However, the game suffers quite a bit from being nearly a carbon copy of a game that has been imitated to death. Unfortunately, this isn’t made better by the use of an unintuitive peripheral, and some controls that don’t always work well. Though the kiddie sect might have some fun with this title (and you can’t beat its budget price if you already have a uDraw peripheral), older SpongeBob fans will find the game a little too derivative, and the peripheral makes the gameplay feel awkward rather than fresh. SpongeBob Squiggle Pants seems like the type of game that will work better on a handheld rather than home console. Incidentally, a 3DS version will be released in a few weeks, so we’ll see if this game can improve any when it switches consoles.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
Graphics look decent. Different art “styles” in the mini-game universe are fun, especially the 8-bit visuals 2.9 Control
uDraw controls are largely unintuitive, and sometimes don’t work at all. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is very repetitive, and Patchy the Pirate’s commentary can get annoying after awhile. 2.8 Play Value
You’ll be done with this title after an afternoon, as there are no bonus or multiplayer modes to extend the experience. 2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best