IGN Review of SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab
Hey, we forgot to review a Nintendo Wii launch title. Now, we know you're probably thinking, "WTF IGN?" but sometimes games just fall through the cracks, and the Blitz Games developed SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab is one of them. However, we're committed to covering the entire Wii launch, even if it takes us over a year. So we've gone and pulled the game back out… and now we remember why we skipped SpongeBob in the first place.
For those that don't remember, or never knew, Creature from the Krusty Krab follows SpongeBob, Patrick, and Plankton through a series of increasingly bizarre dreams and nightmares. From a development side the premise probably seems like a great idea. It makes the possibilities for gameplay nearly limitless. Unfortunately it also has the dilemma of creating a situation that is so far removed from the world of SpongeBob that all the charm of the series is lost.
Take the first level, for instance. SpongeBob dreams his bed is a race car and the game becomes a racing game, complete with Rat Fink inspired art design. Besides the fact that the target audience is far too young to even know who Ed Roth is, the presentation is rather jarring to start off a game about SpongeBob. The characters are contorted and grotesque, and Bikini Bottom is unrecognizable.
It'd be fine if the level was a small dream sequence within a bigger game, but nearly every level is like this. The characters don't look, act, or speak like SpongeBob characters, and there is no feeling of Bikini Bottom anywhere within the game. The different level designs are pretty cool in theory. Patrick dreams he's a super hero, and the town becomes a paper thin, ink dotted world. It'd be really neat, but the actual look is pretty hard on the eyes. It lacks the charm, ocean theme, or even the humor that should come with a SpongeBob game.
In fact, at many points, Creature from the Krusty Krab fails to be a game at all. Perhaps because the Wii controls were new when this hit shelves, or maybe due to the young target demographic, the game holds the player's hand for almost the entire journey. Players are reminded almost constantly of how to do every basic maneuver for the platforming levels, almost like the developers invented the concept of double jumping. Puzzles are insultingly rudimentary: "push this button" or "destroy the crates." Kids these days are pretty stupid, but it's doubtful they need the game to halt, and have the camera sweep through the level, just to show them the only option in an entirely linear game.
SpongeBob and crew find themselves in a variety of situation, including a few vehicular levels. Flying and driving around is pretty painless, but is also really dull. It feels like the developers were trying to play it safe by making the game be so basic that there is no way the player could lose control, or even lose period. We kept expecting the game to get fun at some point, as if suddenly it'd would say "This was just a really long tutorial, here's some real challenges and gameplay and actual SpongeBob inspired situations!" After nine levels that seemed to go on forever, it became apparent that this almost automatic game was the entire experience.
Playing the platforming levels of the game is mildly entertaining. The motions controls actually work (something developers seem to have forgotten how to do as of late). It's somewhat refreshing to go back and see that, yes, developers did, at one point, know how to map basic combo moves to motion control. But, besides from some solid controls, the levels don't offer much. They're large, but very linear. The 3D characters are fairly well designed, but the game doesn't have a very large cast. Instead of all the favorite characters, all we got were a bunch of generic fish people, and a lot of repeating enemies. SpongeBob feels more like a tech demo that goes on for far too long rather than an actual title.
Further compounding the demo feel of the game is the disjointed story and mediocre cutscenes. Since each character's levels are his own personal dream, it really feels like three separate games happening simultaneously. The dialogue is out of character for much of the game. Since when did Patrick have the ability to speak coherently for extended periods? It's questionable whether the dialogue is even done by the actual voice actors. Unfortunately it's hard to tell if they got other people, or if Tom Kenny just dialed-in his performance, since the credits don't bother to list the cast.
Creature from the Krusty Krab offers a rather large variety of unlockables, but amazingly all of them are worthless. By fetching coins scattered throughout the levels, players can get prizes from a capsule machine. Earning concept art for the nameless extra characters in the game is even lamer when we had to work to get it.
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