Review: SpongeBob SquigglePants 3D

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Nintendo may not have a WarioWare game for the 3DS as of yet, but that’s OK because THQ is here to fill the void with its on take on the microgame craze.

SpongeBob SquigglePants, also available on Wii using the uDraw gaming tablet, delivers hours of fun with over 100 five-seconds-or-less nanogames themed after Nickelodeon’s popular cartoon franchise. Nanogames are like mini-games, only much shorter and much simpler.

In the game, you dive into the underwater world of Bikini Bottom and complete one fast-hitting nanogame after another, with SpongeBob’s real-life Fan Club President, Patchy the Pirate, serving as your live-action host.

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Included nanogames cover a broad range of activities, from small-scale takes on retro arcade games, like Pong, Frogger and Space Invaders; to activity book challenges, like memory, connect-the-dots, mazes and picture matching; to completely random things, like frantically tapping to waste all the lead in a mechanical pencil, flipping through a calendar to select today’s date, putting the proper toppings on a pizza, squirting ketchup onto a Krabby Patty, and throwing a paper airplane at a teacher.

The random nature of the nanogames keeps the game spontaneous at all times, and in stark contrast to many other early 3DS games, developer WayForward actually put some effort into building SpongeBob SquigglePants around the system’s hardware capabilities. Every single one of the 3DS’s control methods is put to use in some form, including the stylus and touch screen for tapping, dragging, flicking and drawing, the Circle Pad for moving, sliding and tracing, and the motion sensors for tilting and shaking. Even the 3D effect, although entirely unnecessary, gives the game a little extra visual pizzazz.

Matching the diversity of nanogames and control implementations is the game’s art direction. WayForward’s art team went all out to stay true to the SpongeBob and Nickelodeon licenses, yet at the same time jazzed things up with different themes. The structure of the game is set up in the form of an art gallery, with each hanging portrait containing a uniquely themed collection of nanogames. My favorite is the PixelBob category for its pixilated, 8-bit graphics, and the hand drawn doodle styling of the SketchBob set is great, too. Other themes include B drive-in / horror movies, comic book and punk rock.

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I also very much enjoyed the audio pairings for each individual theme. The PixelBob games have that classic bleepy-bloopy sound of old arcade games, while the Punk games are suitably complimented by electric guitar riffs and a harsh, aggressive aural tone. Music is a driving force throughout the game as well, as the speed of the music sets the speed at which nanogames fly at you, and as the succession of games hastens the brief intermission jingle creates a manic sense of pacing that is so necessary for a game like this. With all the time in the world, these nanogames would be a cakewalk. But when they’re flying at you at rapid-fire speed, and you are only given a vague hint at the appropriate completion method and a matter of seconds to formulate the solution, your reaction time and hand dexterity are put to the test in a fun and chaotic way.

Obviously, a game like SpongeBob SquigglePants isn’t meant to be played in extended sittings. If you stick with it for half an hour or more at a time, the gameplay does lose steam and become a bit of a snore. But in short spurts, when you’re out and about with only a few moments to spare or hanging around the house in need of a quick pick me up, it is the quintessential video game time waster. Drawing from the Wii uDraw version, WayForward was even thoughtful enough to toss in a basic art studio toolset, so players can doodle and color on the touch screen when they need a break from the nanogame frenzy (although unfortunately you can’t export your drawings to an SD card like you can on the Wii).

If you’re searching for something new to play on your Nintendo 3DS, you really can’t go wrong with SpongeBob SquigglePants.

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Pros:
+ Nanogames use the full range of 3DS control features
+ Frenzied pacing
+ Varied art and sound themes
+ Drawing studio is a welcomed bonus

Cons:
– Wears thin after long stretches
– No picture export option in art studio

Affiliate Links:
Buy from Amazon or eStarland

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS, also available for Wii uDraw
Publisher: THQ
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Release Date: 5/17/2011
Genre: Mini-games / Drawing
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!