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The Shield

University of Southern Indiana's student publication | USI | student newspaper

The Shield

University of Southern Indiana's student publication | USI | student newspaper

The Shield

‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ video game is a flawed gem

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of ‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ video game
Photo courtesy of THQ
“The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” released Oct. 27, 2004, is a video game adaptation of the movie of the same name developed by THQ and Heavy Iron Studios. “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” video game is a flawed but enjoyable experience.

To say “SpongeBob SquarePants” is iconic isn’t enough to describe the impact of this show on pop culture. 

Between its premiere on July 17, 1999, and the two seasons that followed, the show spawned the best pieces of yellow-hued cartoon comedy since the first third of “The Simpsons.” The first three seasons are still regarded as all-time classics of animation, birthing endlessly quotable lines and unforgettable moments. This is still true today as, recently, Nickelodeon opened its broadcasting of Super Bowl LVIII with “Sweet Victory,” the triumphant ending song from the season two episode “Band Geeks.”

This “classic” era ended with the release of “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.” To market the film, Nickelodeon licensed the rights to THQ to create video game adaptations to coincide with the release, thus creating the “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” video game.

“The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” released Oct. 27, 2004, is a video game adaptation of the movie of the same name developed by THQ and Heavy Iron Studios. The game follows the storyline of the movie, with the player taking on the roles of SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny) and Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke) as they travel to a place known as “Shell City” to retrieve Neptune’s (Jeffrey Tambor) stolen crown to save Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) from execution and stop Plankton’s (Mr. Lawrence) plans of oceanic conquest.

THQ had Heavy Iron Studios create versions for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Nintendo GameCube. The developer had worked with THQ the year prior to make another SpongeBob video game, the cult classic “SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom.” Within only a year, the studio used the mechanics and engine for “SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom” as a base to build off of. 

The game is broken up into four level types: platforming, driving, sliding and boss fights. All level types, besides boss fights, include extra challenges. The platforming levels have the player jump, use unique traversal abilities and fight enemies to complete the level. Driving has the player pilot the paddy wagon, a Krabby Patty-shaped car. Sliding has the player slide down the level with a makeshift sled.

The platforming sections are the highlight of the game. SpongeBob and Patrick move with the weight expected of their characters, and the controls are responsive. The level design and enemies allow for the satisfying use of their respective abilities. My favorite level is “Three… Thousand Miles to Shell City,” where you unlock SpongeBob’s Bash ability, which is an attack where SpongeBob jumps into the air with a boxing glove to hit things above him. In the level, you use it to take out Flingers, which are enemies that float and spit harmful goo that makes you slippery, move boards to get across pits and take out radio towers. It works as a good tutorial for the ability while also making it rewarding to pull off.

The soundtrack is great and fits most levels perfectly. The level “I’m Ready… Depression” has you traverse an ice cream-wasted Patrick through a giant candy-engraved restaurant and bar to stop an ice cream-wasted SpongeBob from causing trouble. The theme’s instrumentals emulate instruments found at carnivals, like organs. It is supposed to be this jovial tune, but it’s off-note, giving it this sad drunkard vibe. This matches the setting and state of the characters at that moment of the story. You could apply this to most of the level themes, and they make sure not to sacrifice easiness on the ear. 

This is a game made for PlayStation 2-era consoles, so the graphics haven’t held up gracefully. However, it doesn’t make them bad. I think it aids in giving it a rougher aesthetic that fits the slightly more serious tone of the game and movie compared to the show. The visuals mixed with the soundtrack give the game a unique and grungy atmosphere, especially with the aspect of background characters looking dead inside.

The driving and sliding levels are mostly fun. There are multiple shortcuts you can take through them, and it’s fun to ride around in the environment. The levels will include scripted events that change up the scenery and keep you engaged. What holds some of these levels back are the ring challenges. They are a pain to get through. The timing required to get through rings is really strict, and missing one sets the player all the way back to the beginning. They’re easily the worst part of the game.

The cutscenes also aren’t a strong suit. Likely due to the film being unfinished when development began and the strict deadline, the story is told through narrated slideshows of frames from the film, with the occasional sound bite from the characters. The slideshows explaining the plot don’t sell the development SpongeBob and Patrick go through and make the plot progression feel like a second thought. If you have watched the movie, this probably won’t bother you, but it doesn’t make the game’s story stand well by itself. 

Another aspect I don’t like is the reuse of songs throughout the game. Even though I gushed over the soundtrack, the driving and sliding levels use the same song. It’s lazy and clashes with the level’s tone. All the driving levels have this upbeat bluegrass song playing, while the levels with it include a dingy parking lot of a biker bar and a dystopian metropolis where everyone is a mind-controlled slave. The sliding level’s theme fits their settings better because it’s a hard rock song, but it doesn’t accuse the reuse of it.

Even with my complaints, “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” video game is still an enjoyable experience. Despite the frustrating difficulty in some parts, presentation of the story, and repetitiveness of the soundtrack, it remains true to the movie with its atmosphere while having a great soundtrack and fun, engaging gameplay. I recommend it if you’re a fan of The Sponge or 3D platformers.