|Dev: WayForward Technologies|
|Release: WayForward Technologies|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Comic Mischief|
by Sean Engemann
Does the 3DS version of SpongeBob SquigglePants work any better than its Wii counterpart? My short answer is yes and no. While the controls are better suited for the already successful touchscreen template of the DS as opposed to the limited functionality of the uDraw peripheral for the Wii, the content and fun factor are exactly the same. However, there are many issues with the 3DS version that bring down the overall value.
The game takes place in a typical suburban ranch house (as illustrated by its always-present still image on the bottom screen during cinematic cutscenes.) Here we find Patchy the Pirate, president of the SpongeBob SquarePants fan club, who is eager to showcase his collection of SpongeBob artwork. However, to unveil all the paintings, you must prove your worth to Patchy by completing a series of nanogames (a derivative of the WarioWare microgames) in six visually distinct pieces of art. All the cinematics are live-action, with actor Tom Kenny reprising his role as Patchy for the game. While his character stays to true to the not-so-authentic pirate like demeanor from the cartoon series, the script work, with the blatant misuse of slang terminology, will have all but hardcore fans of the series shaking their heads and crying foul.
SpongeBob followers will happily find all the main characters and some recurring characters present. SpongeBob, Patrick, Gary, Sandy, Plankton, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs are all here. Although they have no dialogue, all are animated according to their own respective temperaments.
After the introduction, you're free to dive into a nanogame series or check out some of the other features. There is a Movie tab that allows you to view any unlocked cinematics throughout the course of the game. The Tutorial has Patchy giving you a crash course on all the combinations used to tackle the minigames. It's basically just a lecture on the controls, all of which are straightforward enough that they don't particularly require a tutorial to begin with. It's all rather superfluous—perhaps just an excuse to give Patchy more dialogue.
The Options screen allows you to adjust the music and sound levels, but there is no indicator effect when adjusting the sound, so the only way to find your preferred setting is through trial and error. I wouldn't normally critique something as seemingly inconsequential as the options menu, but it's this type of minor issue that could have easily been fixed by to make this a more polished game. Even during the level select screen, I was often confused as to which frame was highlighted, as scrolling the selections proved to be inconsistent.
The Art Levels are where you'll be pitted against a series of nanogames, trying to complete twenty before failing five times. Each is only a few seconds long, with tempo increases at certain milestones. After successfully completing a level, a new painting is unveiled by Patchy. You also have the option of redoing the completed board, trying to attain a medal by successfully completing a designated number of nanogames: bronze at fifteen, silver at twenty-five, and gold at thirty-five. Doing this unlocks separate minigames, which are basically elongated versions of specific nanogames. Striving to reach the goal is where you'll garner the most enjoyment. Trying to complete the final few with only one life remaining causes all sorts of anxiety, but that just makes it that much more satisfying when you finally hit your mark. The downside is that the fun ends way too soon. You'll be shocked when the credits roll after less than an hour of gameplay. Even though there are over a hundred nanogames, none of them will hold your interest for very long, and you'll find replaying boards and tackling individual games for medals more of a chore than anything else.
Before you undertake a particular nanogame, you are shown what control type is required and also given a hint about your objective. The Tap, Draw, Drag, Flick, and Hold methods all utilize the touchscreen, while Slide uses the Circle Pad, and Tilt/Shake incorporates the accelerometer and the gyroscope. The controls and how they translate to the various games are not without their flaws, apparent in the fact that you'll generally fail in your first attempt to complete a new level. While the objective hints offer a glimmer of how to complete the nanogame, you'll often be left scratching your head while the timer quickly ticks down to zero. My most frustrating nanogame required me to "center" a camera lens, but there was no indication as to where on the picture of Mr. Krabs holding a hamburger in front of his Krusty Krab restaurant I was supposed to point. The tilting mechanism, paired with the 3D effect, has perplexed critics since the features were first revealed. These two ideas cannot possibly coexist in the same game. During the minigames that still try to use this inexplicable combination, you'll be forced to suffer through blurred screens while you shake or tilt the 3DS. However, considering the brevity of the nanogames and how easy it is to find that "sweet spot," most gamers won't take issue with this.