Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, Pants!

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Electronic Theatre ImageTen points to anyone who knows what Spongebob Squarepants is all about. A talking yellow sponge living in a town underwater… What? Still, it does have a huge cult following, tons and tons of merchandise and several celebrity fans; so it obviously appeals to some. God knows why. But still, since it is a firm favourite with kids of all ages, and there is a lot of associated merchandise available, there was always going to be a game… or twenty. In fact Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, Pants! is the fifth to be released for the Game Boy Advance, a system which has unfortunately become synonymous with this kind of children’s title. As a title published by THQ – a company which seems to have gone from strength to strength in the past year – expectations are high, however, since it is a licence tie-in game, it would be foolish to expect too much.

Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, Pants! is an odd kind of game when it comes to defining its genre. Although the game is primarily a 2D Platformer, there are several Electronic Theatre ImageMini-Games which are played throughout the story and are unlockable in the games’ Shop. These include a couple of Driving games, a Rhythm game and a game which features your character making a burger; they are varied and help to keep the game fresh – it’s just a shame they’re not very good. The main sequence of the title entails four Worlds, each with four Levels which seem to be of a very standard format. They feature only a few enemies – many of which are reused from previous Levels – and tend to look out of place toward the end. This is first of many things that tend to make you think that the developers rushed this game in order to release it with the home console titles. In order to complete these Levels you are given four characters from the Spongebob universe, including Spongebob himself, each with two Hit-Points and different skills – quite similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back From The Sewer on the original Electronic Theatre ImageGame Boy. This means that you effectively have eight Hit-Points for each Life from the start of the game in which to complete the games short and simple Levels. There is also no need to change characters at any time except for personal preference as all Levels can be completed with any of them. Needless to say, this makes the game incredibly easy and it’s possible to plough through the game in a paltry two hours without even using up a single Life. Hardly a game to keep children occupied for any length of time.

Electronic Theatre ImageThe mini games are a very hit-and-miss affair, although the burger making game and 2D Driving game are reasonably amusing, the pseudo 3D Driving game and Rhythm game are dire. The 3D driving game is used only once, thank god, and involves driving in a straight-line behind a badly drawn blob and does not really provide a challenge, let alone any fun. But the prize for worst part of this already poor game goes to the Rhythm Mini-Game. Not only does it seem incredibly hard for this game, but its’ controls are mapped terribly, resulting in the L and R button acting sluggish, throwing you completely off-beat. To say it is frustrating is an understatement of the highest calibre.

Graphically this game would not be impressive on a SNES. The animation is ok, but Electronic Theatre Imagethe backdrops are bland and uninteresting. The first World is a perfect example of this, a grey background with a few rocks drawn in and the occasional enemy thrown in from time-to-time. The Level design is poor and bland, you will know that all you need to do is move from left to right or upwards in the usual 2D Platform tradition, however, without any variation in the tasks required to progress . The sound is forgettable and adds nothing to the game. The one point when sound is essential, the Rhythm Mini-Game, seems very uninspired and tinny, even for a Game Boy Advance title. To exaggerate problems further this game also has a Loading Screen – unheard of and more than inexcusable on a Game Boy Advance.

Electronic Theatre ImageYou would think that the Spongebob Squarepants humour and story could make this title at least bearable. Unfortunately, the story is very generic and just involves you repeatedly finding Mermaidman who seems to get lost for absolutely no reason. In the end the story makes little, if any sense and joins the long-list of parts of this game that were obviously rushed. There are also a few unlockables available but it’s doubtful you will care. However, being a game based on such a successful franchise, Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, Pants! will inevitably sell very well. But if Santa is looking to Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, Pants! for a present to get the little ones this Christmas, they had better have been very bad this year.

 

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