There's no end in sight for the bizarre phenomenon that is SpongeBob SquarePants. Children and adults alike have been captivated by the animated adventures of the plucky little sponge and his friends since the cartoon debuted on Nickelodeon in the summer of 1999. The delightfully absurd premise, personality-packed cast of various underwater denizens, and clever dialogue have all contributed to the series' popularity, and they're all present in this latest game, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom.
The story begins with the conniving Plankton (yes, he's a plankton) plotting to steal the Krabby Patty formula for his own eatery, the Chum Bucket. To this end, he creates a robot army using the Duplicatotron 3000, but, unfortunately, he trips the "Don't Obey" switch, and now the robots are running amok and making a mess out of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob and his starfish friend, Patrick, meanwhile are under the impression that they've created the robots, by way of a "magic" shell and a wish made upon a toy. Our intrepid heroes set out to right the wrong they think they've caused and save their town from the rampaging mechanical invaders.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom is a 3D platformer, and its controls are reminiscent of Jak and Daxter and many other similar games. You can play not only as SpongeBob, but also as Patrick and as Sandy, a squirrel in a diving suit. Each character has slightly different abilities that become necessary at different times. SpongeBob can attack with bubbles, double-jump, and do a stomp from midair, and he has a couple of aerial bubble attacks. Patrick has the ability to stun enemies and throw various enemies and items, and Sandy is able to hover over large gaps with her lasso, which she also uses to attack creatures from afar. There are bus stop areas in many stages, where you can switch your character using the R1 button, and oftentimes you'll need to do this to achieve all the objectives in a given area. Those objectives usually revolve around collecting golden spatulas, which you can use to unlock new destinations. You can also collect shiny objects or Patrick's lost socks to trade for even more spatulas. If you've missed a spatula in a particular area, you can select it from your menu, and a taxi will drop you off in the general vicinity so that you can make an attempt to pick it up. This feature saves you from some unnecessary wandering.
The game is styled like the cartoon it's based on, with plenty of bright colors and crazy characters and architecture. Some of the environments are fairly large, with different subareas to explore. The characters have a good amount of detail and move fluidly, and each has a number of sometimes amusing idle animations. The game runs respectably and looks comparable across the various platforms. Voice work in the game is well done and is helped along by an inventive script that can be just as funny as a good episode of the television show.
Fans of the show and those who enjoy platformers will want to keep their eye on this game. It's currently scheduled for release at the end of October on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.