Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom is a rare treat; A good licensed game for kids and kids at heart.
One of the biggest blemishes on the legacy of Rocko's Modern Life, however, was the Super Nintendo game, Rocko's Modern Life: Spunky's Dangerous Day. I remember playing that as a kid, and I HATED it. Seriously, an awful game. Horrific, horrendous, garbage. I can't even say enough to do that game justice.
That's why I was a little bit reluctant (well, about 5 years) to play the game based on Spongebob. I was afraid it might suffer the same fate as Spunky's Dangerous Day. But, I read some good reviews on IGN and some of the other user reviews here on Gamespot, and finally decided to give it a try.
The story of Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, fits pretty well with what you'd expect from the show. The evil Plankton builds a machine that builds robots, made to obey him. However, he made the mistake of forgetting to set the switch on the machine from "Don't Obey" to "Obey", so the robots simply acted on their own, setting out for the destruction of Bikini Bottom.
Plankton then charges Spongebob with defeating the robots and help Plankton get back into his lab in the Chum Bucket. Spongebob later recruits his pals Patrick and Sandy to help the cause as well. From here, the story really doesn't progress much. The story is mainly just an excuse to play as Spongebob, Patrick and Sandy and go through Bikini Bottom destroying robots and collecting items.
Then, we get to the actual gameplay. Spongebob is a 3D Platformer, which undeniably draws much inspiration from other games in this genre. If I were to compare it to another game on the PS2, I think it's most similar to the original Jak & Daxter. The gameplay elements, controls, and item collecting are basically a clone of Jak & Daxter, with a few obvious changes. Still, that automatically means it's a good game.
Instead of collecting Power Cells as in Jak & Daxter (Originally inspired by the Stars in Super Mario 64), you collect Golden Spatulas in Spongebob. There are a total of 100 to collect, although only 77 are necessary to complete the game (75 to enter the final boss, and two you get from beating the two stages of the final boss). To get these Golden Spatulas, you complete missions for various characters in the game, such as Plankton, Mr. Krabs, Larry the Lobster, Mrs. Puff, Gary, Mermaidman & Barnacleboy, The Flying Dutchman, and more. Most of these missions are very well varied, and never get boring.
The other collectible items in the game are Shiny Objects, which are plentiful and you use to trade for Golden Spatulas, or to giant clams who open up new parts of the level. There are also Patrick's Socks, which you can collect and trade with Patrick for Golden Spatulas as well, although the socks are well hidden, and oftentimes just as hard to find as the Spatulas themselves.
Overall, the gameplay in Spongebob is good. It's nothing special (especially if you've played other 3D Platformers on the PS2), but it's fun and more than gets the job done. It's fun from beginning to end, and only gets tedious when you face a particularly hard mission (most of which are skippable anyway, unless you want to get every single Golden Spatula).
The graphics in Spongebob are very good. The character models all translate very well from their hand drawn cartoon to fully 3D. The environments in the game all look very good as well, and are very true to the show. The enemy robot characters aren't very varied, but they all look good and animate decently as well. Overall, Spongebob is a pretty game.
The sound in Spongebob is even better than the graphics. The voice acting is very good, as it's done by the actors from the show, with the notable exceptions of Mr. Krabs and Mermaidman, who both seem to be played by a horrible soundalike. Since Mr. Krabs has such a huge role in the game, probably the most frequent non-player character in the game, this is a serious flaw. However, barring that, the voice acting is very good and true to the show. The sound effects are also very good. The background music is very good, and even small details like the squeaky sound Spongebob's shoes make when he walks, is replicated perfectly (and it somehow manages NOT to be annoying). The sound of collecting Shiny Objects may get a bit grating with time, but overall, Spongebob's sound is its best feature.
Spongebob is not a hugely long game, but it is pretty decent length. It took me about 15-20 hours to get through the first time, but that's just to beat the final boss. To find all of the Golden Spatulas and extras, you're probably talking more like 22-25 hours. Add to that, if you're like me you'll probably keep revisiting the game after that, because it's just a solid game with a lot of charm. Overall, Spongebob's lasting value is good, not fabulous.
In the end, I'm glad to say that Spongebob Squarepants: The Battle for Bikini Bottom did not continue the trend of Rocko's Modern Life and many other crappy licensed games. It's a rare treat; a good licensed game for kids and kids at heart. If you're a fan of Jak & Daxter, you'll find that Spongebob is similar, and not quite as good, but a very solid worthwhile game. In fact, any fan of 3D Platformers in general would do well to give this game a try, especially if you like the show. It uses the license very well, and backs that up with a solid gameplay experience to boot.