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Game Profile
Blitz Games
GENRE: Action
November 19, 2006

SpongeBob SquarePants: Underpants Slam!

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SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis

More in this Series
 Written by Joe Comunale  on January 23, 2007

Review: Bikini Bottom is famous for its Krabby Patties, but Creature from the Krusty Krab is no more than a milk-toast experience.

Nintendo's Wii launch lineup includes a barrage of animated movie and TV-licensed games. THQ has released a glut of SpongeBob Squarepants games over the last few years, with some fairing pretty well, while others not so much. SpongeBob Squarepants: Creature from the Krusty Krab is a mixture of platforming, racing, flying, shooting, and a few additional concepts. Despite this diversity, the elementary gameplay, unbearably repetitive objectives, and jumpy story prevent it from ever being overly enjoyable.

Krusty Krab plays out somewhat like the show. The story starts out in left field, and sporadically jumps from character to character as it moves forward. Your enemies and goals change as you switch characters, as does the way you play. Krusty Krab is a platformer at heart, but the constant switching of concepts makes the game's story feel more like a dizzying array of bad dreams. One minute you're roaming around the ocean floor and the next minute you're racing Plankton. Then you're roaming again only to make it to another racing level, flying level, or mini-game. This switching between game modes rarely makes sense and they serve as horrible catalysts to a story that doesn't really develop into anything until it's too late.

Playing mainly as SpongeBob or Starfishman (Patrick's superhero alter ego), you move from room to room until you complete the objective or attain a certain item. Both characters sport a handful of unique attacks, but the button mapping ultimately bears the same results with either character. You do a whole lot of winch turning, button pressing, and similar actions to open up new pathways and activate platforms. Flicking and shaking your remote and nunchuck perform all these actions. Unfortunately the moves don't always register on the first attempt. This is frustrating when it results in an enemy landing an unfair shot.

Neither the enemies nor the puzzles are overly challenging. The ?puzzles? are hardly that, due to the simple fact that the game holds your hand and never lets go. Not only are you basically told what to do before you can even try to figure it out yourself, you go through the same mind-numbing process over and over to the point that you know what to expect in the next room before you ever reach it. You kill a group of defenseless enemies, activate a switch (or twist a winch) to open a path, jump to the next platform, kill a group of defenseless enemies, and activate another switch ad nauseum. If in some rare occurrence your health meter is threatened, you need not worry, because every time you save the game your health is replenished. By the way, saying the save points are placed in generously short intervals is a bold understatement.

As previously mentioned, between the platform levels are brief interludes that break up the gameplay style--a bit of racing in the earlier parts, some flying later on, and a number of different mini-games. Each of these interludes forces you to use the remote in a unique way, whether it's as an airplane control stick, a steering wheel, or a point-and-shoot device. While this diversity helps to alleviate the mostly bland platform stages, it's probably the reason they are so bland in the first place. Because so much ground is covered, the game's decent-to-good at a lot of things, but not great at much. The racing portions are the most forgettable of the bunch, and with a few exceptions (notably the meteor and window shooting sequences) most of the mini-games are uninspiring. The flying is fun and clever in the way you are forced to maneuver your remote like an aircraft control stick. What's also fun is your brief stint as Plankton. The platforming here switches from 3D to 2D and you must avoid deadly drops and intrusive enemies, while being chased by a gigantic Krabby Patty gone mad. Think of the chase levels that made the Crash Bandicoot series so fun. Unlike most of the game, there's a high demand here to think and react quickly, and the unrelenting pace intensifies an otherwise unhurried game. Blitz Games may have actually had a better game on their hands if it included more of these side-scrolling, run-for-your-life levels.

When you complete the story mode, you can go back to look for hidden items you missed the first time around to unlock extras. Collecting all the Sleepy Seeds, for example, unlocks additional racers. Chances are though you won't want to replay many levels, much less go through them the first time. You can replay a select few mini-games and unlock harder difficulties for them, which is something worth checking out. You can also use various instruments to play alongside certain melodies from the game. This serves as a temporary diversion but not much else.

One of Krusty Krab's few saving graces is its excellent character portrayal, as the dialogue convincingly follows the routine of the show. SpongeBob and Patrick reinforce their unbelievable stupidity over and over with the comments they make throughout the in-game play and cut-scenes. Plankton is just as sinister and diabolical as ever, in his miniscule, less-than-intimidating manner. The cut-scenes allow the characters to soundly deliver their personalities, and the artistic design and the accompanying soundtrack are just what you would expect from the show. However, the use of cut-scenes is entirely overdone and somewhat diminishes the flow of the game, since you have to watch one nearly every time you enter a new room or defeat a crew of underlings. They are also too revealing at times. Memo to Blitz Games: Give us a chance to use our brains.

The in-game visuals switch themes frequently, but the backgrounds aren't always pleasing to the eye, especially some of SpongeBob's racing levels, which make you feel like a drunken mess if you play them for too long. The textures are bland and repetitive for the most part and edge-detection is a problem in some areas, as your characters feet will actually protrude through the bottom of some solid platforms and surfaces. At least the characters themselves look pretty close to the real deal.

Bottom Line
Creature from the Krusty Krab contains brief glimmers of fun, but these areas are short-lived thanks to a game that covers more ground than it can handle. By allowing players to employ the motion-sensing controller in a bevy of unique ways, the title has a lot in common with Wii Sports. Unfortunately many modes feel either underdeveloped, ho-hum, or both--also like Wii Sports. Credit Blitz Games for attempting to diversify the title, but trying to be a jack-of-all-trades was probably the wrong approach. Quite simply, Krusty Krab is an average game that isn't particularly attention grabbing or challenging, and will probably only hold the interest of the young, inexperienced gamer.

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