Bowling is all the rage in mobile gaming, thanks in no small part to the success of Jamdat's bowling games. Taking a cue from that successful series, SpongeBob Bowling combines the colorful characters of the Nickelodeon cartoon series with a game closely modeled on what makes Jamdat Bowling successful. However, SpongeBob Bowling lacks a few key gameplay elements that make other bowling games challenging.
SpongeBob Bowling has a story fit for a cartoon show. The residents of Bikini Bottom must defeat the robotic minions of the villainous Plankton by knocking them over with SpongeBob, who has conveniently rolled himself up into a bowling ball. You can choose from one of five characters, each of whom has different strengths. For example, Patrick the starfish has tremendous power but poor aim, while Gary the snail has great aim, mediocre power, and poor spin control.
The gameplay is similar to other mobile bowling titles. SpongeBob moves back and forth along the lane. You must hit the OK button at just the right moment to place him for a shot. A similar process sets the shot's power, aim, and spin, and a meter flashes from full to empty for power, or left to right for spin and aim. With good reflexes, you can select the exact aim, power, or spin that you want for a shot. The characters' ratings seem to cause the meters to move slower or faster, making some aspects of a shot easier and others more difficult. Characters with a weak power rating have a smaller meter than stronger characters.
SpongeBob Bowling's primary shortcomings rest in the interactions between these meters. Your power has no effect on your ability to aim. Increased power does decrease the effect of spin, but you rarely have to rely on spin to make up for an aiming error. The option of selecting a character makes up for some of these shortcomings, but SpongeBob still suffers in this area when compared to similar titles. However, since SpongeBob Bowling is easier than other bowling games, younger children or players who found Jamdat Bowling and similar titles too difficult may enjoy it.
The graphics reflect the cartoon show, helping add a droll sense of whacky fun. SpongeBob has an amusingly vacant look on his face as you prepare to roll him down the lane, and you can see his trademark pants and outfit flash by as he hurtles toward the pins. A short animation shows your character winding up to bowl, while the robotic pins spark and flash as the ball smashes into them. The graphics are a colorful and an accurate representation of the show.
SpongeBob Bowling has adequate sound. SpongeBob collides with the robots in a clatter, while smashed robots spark and buzz. The burble of bubbling water accompanies each menu selection.
The game offers three basic modes. You can bowl a practice game, compete against a friend using pass and play, or enter a tournament. The tournament requires you to win three games to unlock a hidden character. You also have the option of uploading your tournament score to compare yours against other players.
Overall, SpongeBob Bowling lacks the intricate gameplay of other bowling games, although its graphics and story make up for some of that lost entertainment value. SpongeBob Bowling might be a fun diversion for fans of the cartoon, younger players, and anyone who's looking for a simple bowling game.