SpongeBob SquarePants is searching for the lost spatula of the flying Dutchman. You see, SpongeBob yearns to be the greatest fry cook of all time, and he's convinced that the legendary spatula is the way to fulfill his dreams. Based upon the highly rated Nickelodeon cartoon series, SpongeBob SquarePants: Legend of the Lost Spatula features all of the wacky sponge, squid, and jellyfish characters that have been captivating audiences for the past two years. Unfortunately, SpongeBob is also a prime example of how a good premise doesn't always translate into a good video game.
As is common with video game renditions of television shows, SpongeBob SquarePants is a side-scrolling action platform game. Across the game's 10 levels, you'll need to help SpongeBob seek out the four magic oven knobs in order to gain access to the Dutch oven's lost secrets. Along the way, you'll acquire six wacky weapons, including as a burger-throwing spatula and a jellyfish-catching net, and you'll participate in a few scavenger hunts for the residents of Bikini Bottom. Although this all sounds wonderful in theory, the implementation within the SpongeBob SquarePants game results in is a bland, repetitive, almost painfully tedious experience.
Unlike successful examples of the genre, such as Super Mario Bros. DX and Rayman, where clever level designs, varied bosses, and numerous power-ups create a constantly refreshing cartoonlike atmosphere, SpongeBob SquarePants sticks to the bare essentials and never really lives up to the antics of the television series. There are 10 levels, but each plays just as any other. Whether it is Goo Lagoon or the Dutch oven, you need only to leap from ledge to ledge until you reach the highest point in the level. Supposedly, you need to use the six items you'll collect to advance past an array of hovering jellyfish and spitting plants, but none besides the spring boots are actually necessary to pass an obstacle. Swapping between items is also a chore, as you need to hit four buttons just to toggle from one to the next. Most of the time, enemies are hidden out of sight until it's too late to react anyway, which is where a majority of the game's challenge arises. SpongeBob can take three hits before passing out, but even this is redundant, as there are unlimited continues and plenty of spare clothes lying around.
The best aspect of SpongeBob SquarePants is its four wild boss characters, each of which requires a different combination of tactics to defeat. For example, you have to use your bubble ability to ground a dive-bombing shark that's pelting you with hamburger patties. In another instance, a hungry gunslinger can be vanquished if you feed him hamburgers, and then you can capture him in your net. Barring these brief moments, though, SpongeBob SquarePants is quite dull.
To its credit, SpongeBob SquarePants at least looks decent. Its poorly drawn characters and eight-color backgrounds won't win any awards for technical excellence, but there is a lot of mirth to be had in watching a pants-wearing sponge collect hamburger patties and accost bizarre characters, such as a chipmunk in a space suit or Mr. Krabs, the crablike mayor of Bikini Bottom. A number of in-game cutscenes also helps to advance the story, which, if you actually make it through the game, turns out to be a hilarious tale of grease, french fries, and greed.
One could argue that SpongeBob SquarePants: Legend of the Lost Spatula is geared toward the younger audience of the TV series, which would explain the game's simplified gameplay and lack of variety. However, while the plot is endearing and the characters will no doubt appeal to the series' fans, there is no evidence to suggest that children would actually enjoy playing a game this unremarkable--let alone adults.