SpongeBob SquarePants: Lights, Camera, Pants! is a fun and entertaining game offered on the Nintendo GameCube system. It let’s you take control of many of the characters you’ll find in the underwater world of Bikini Bottom, presented in the SpongeBob SquarePants Nickelodeon cartoon. However, this is more of a party game than it is a straight up single player action game, in the same type of category as the Mario Party series. The main plot is that a Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy movie is being filmed in Bikini Bottom and the town is abuzz because of it. Everybody wants in on the film so auditions are being held, open to the general public! Your task is to pick the character of your choice and then lead him, her, it, whatever, through a grueling series of auditions that are set up in the form of mini-game trilogies. Successfully complete all of the auditions and you’ll win the role of super villain, gaining a leading roll in the movie!
At the game’s main menu you will be faced with six options, the first of which is called “Story Mode”. This is the main single player mode of the game, where the various auditions will unfold along the way to filming the entire Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy movie. The audition locations/details unfold as such: The Krusty Krab, hosted by Bubble Bass (includes the Flippin’ Out, Order Up, and The Bouncers mini-games), Goo Lagoon, hosted by Larry the Lobster (includes the Inflatable Pants, Weight & Sea, and Surf Resc-Goo mini-games), Mrs. Puff’s Boating School, hosted by Mrs. Puff (includes the Goo-Ladiators, Pedal of Honor, and Floor It! mini-games), Sand Stadium, hosted by Squilliam (includes the Rock Bottom, Jig on the Brig, and Beats Me mini-games), The Chum Bucket, hosted by Karen the Computer (includes the Machine Meltdown, Surface Tension, and Charge! mini-games), Jellyfish Fields, hosted by Kevin C. Cucumber (includes the Jellyfish Jamboree, Jellyfish Swish, and The Tide Piper mini-games), Bikini Bottom Jail, hosted by Don the Whale (includes the Seahorse Stampede, Breakin’ Out, and Rubble Rabble mini-games) & Downtown Bikini Bottom, hosted by Cannonball Jenkins (includes the Blisterin’ Barnacles, Rope Burn, and Flingin’ & Swingin’ mini-games). The types of mini-games you’ll play here include anything from a 3 lap race around Mrs. Puff’s boating school, to a game of sea horse polo, to a contest seeing who can reel in the most refuse floating in the water with their fishing poles! The mini-games featured in Lights, Camera, Pants! are all very unique and interesting, they mix things up quite a bit.
The way these mini-games work is that on each one you can earn a maximum of 5000 points, depending on where you place and how well you perform in doing so. After the three mini-games in any given audition are complete, your points will then be totalled up. If you reach a certain target score you then unlock the next audition and can advance further through the game, and if you have the highest point total of all four participants you also earn a bit role in the part of the movie they happen to be casting for with that audition! If you make it through all eight auditions (encompassing 24 mini-games) and finish with the most points of all four participants, you have won the game and earned the role of super villain in the Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy movie!
It is important to note that when you first select Story Mode there is only one option available to you initially, that being “New Game”. Once you have started on your quest to be in this feature film and saved your progress, two more options then appear. They are “Continue Game” (where you go to continue a previously saved game) and “View Progress” (where you go to view the progress you have made so far, in a map style format, the same map that pulls up before you start each audition). There are three levels of difficulty in this game. When you initially start out on Story Mode you are playing the Bronze level, once you complete the game on that level you have to choice to continue and do it again on the Silver level, and once that is complete, finally the Gold level. The auditions and mini-games all stay the same, they just get more and more difficult the higher the level you play. As a side note, before you begin each mini-game you have the audition to “rehearse”, to practice the mini-game before you play it for keeps.
Back to the main menu the second option we come to is “Tournament”, an alternate game mode that supports multiplayer action. When you enter this mode you first select how many human controlled players are going to be participating (between 1-4). Once you do so you then pick your actual characters and set their difficulty (for human controlled players it’s between Easy/Med/Hard, and for CPU controlled players it’s between Silly/Norm/Smart). The characters you can choose from include SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Mr. Krabs, Squidward Tentacles, Sandy Cheeks, and Plankton. After the characters are decided upon you then select which individual mini-games you want to complete in. The beauty of Tournament mode is that you can pick between 1-5 different mini-games and then go head to head over a series of contests, the person with the best overall performance at the end of it all wins! For any ties along the way the game offers up some tiebreaker options like games of rock, paper, scissors, etc. It is important to note that for any mini-game to be available in Tournament mode it must first be successfully completed in Story Mode.
Third is the “Single Audition” game mode. This mode works exactly the same as Tournament does, but instead of being able to play between 1-5 consecutive mini-games, you play just one lone mini-game in this mode for all the marbles.
Fourth on the main menu is the “Load Game” option. This is where you go when you first fire up your GameCube, to load any previously saved progress and be able to continue on with your adventures.
Next comes the “Bonuses” option, where you will find all of the unlockable content the game has to offer and more. This option is divided up in to three sub-options, the first of which is “Rewards”. Under Rewards you can view your “Art Gallery” (one mini-game in each audition on each of the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels has a secret performance stipulation behind it that, if met, will unlock for you a cool and unique piece of SpongeBob SquarePants themed artwork, there are 28 pieces in total), “Action Figures” (the same as with the Art Gallery, one mini-game in each audition can potentially earn you an action figure featuring the characters in this game doing an activity featured in the game, there are 27 figures in total), “Mermaidman Movie” (where you can go to view the entire pieced together Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy movie once you’ve beaten the game) & “Codes” (where you can input any cheat codes you may have come across). The second sub-option under Bonuses is “Trailers”, where you can view trailers for Tak: The Great Juju Challenge, Barnyard, and Paramount Home Video. And finally comes the “Credits” sub-option, where you can view a list of the great people who brought us this zany adventure.
The sixth and final option from the main menu is “Options”, which is broken down in to two sub-options. The first of these is “Music & Sound”, where you can adjust sliders controlling both the Music and SFX volumes. And the other is “Controls”, where you can simply toggle the controllers’ rumble feature on/off.
Due to the simplistic nature of this title, once you are out and playing the mini-games it contains there are no items or powerups to watch out for. As for the game screen, it changes quite a bit depending on which mini-game you’re playing. The one constant that will always be on display are four character icons, each one representing one of the players currently competing in said mini-game. Beside each character’s icon is his or her current score/level of progress. Another on screen item that is prevalent in a lot of the mini-games is the timer, which counts down how much time you have left in your competition. These character icons and the timer can be located in various areas of the screen, it all depends on which mini-game you are playing at the time. There are some other more oddball things that will be displayed on the screen at times as well, such as instructions from another character who may be leading your mini-game, etc., but again their placement on the screen all depends on the mini-game in question.
When you pause the game action you are presented with three to four options, depending on which game mode you’re playing. For Story Mode the options are Resume, Restart Audition, and Exit Story Mode. For Tournament mode the options are Resume, Restart Audition, and Exit to Main Menu. And for Single Audition mode the options are Resume, Restart Audition, Choose Another Audition, and Exit to Main Menu.
As for controls, there is no set control scheme to this game because every mini-game is so different from the next. Before you start each mini-game in Lights, Camera, Pants! a screen is displayed that describes the purpose/objectives of the mini-game you are about to play. This screen also gives you a rundown on the various controls that are required to participate in it. Basically you use the control stick to move your character around the screen, if applicable, and then the A, B, X and Y buttons are the main action buttons you’ll use to accomplish your various tasks. All other buttons on the GameCube controller are not featured at all in this game with the exception of the Start button, which pauses the game.
The overall presentation behind this title is good. Considering the type of game it is it’s not all about the graphics or anything, it’s more about the gameplay and fun factor as it’s more of a party game, the interactions between players the main focus. That being said everything behind how this game is presented can probably be ranked above average. The character renditions aren’t perfect, but they are pretty good and represent the characters of the SpongeBob SquarePants universe fairly well. It’s a very colourful and loud game, and you get to visit many of the different areas of Bikini Bottom throughout your adventure. Suiting the funny, crazy type of game it is the soundtrack is a zany one and the sound effects and speech clips are pretty wacky! Gameplay and controls are good too, it’s very easy to catch on to the theme of this game and get used to how it works.
The pros and cons are pretty even for Lights, Camera, Pants! What I really liked about this game first and foremost, was the fact that it was a SpongeBob game. I love the cartoon, so being able to play a game featuring him and his crazy counterparts is pretty awesome! Also, I love the type of game it is. The first time I played a Mario Party game it blew my mind and from that point onwards I’ve always loved these “party” style of games, so that’s a big plus for me. Once you get in to the game you realize the length of it is pretty good. 24 mini-games in total makes for a long enough journey to satisfy anyone, especially considering they get significantly harder as the game nears it’s conclusion. Finally, I love the various bits of unlockable content you can try and obtain throughout your play. The action figures are really cool, and the artwork is amazing, so funny and different! As for cons, the biggest one I found was the load times, this game seems to take forever to move along. Whether you are waiting between mini-games, heading back to the main menu, or waiting for a cutscene to cue up, this game just takes forever to unfold! Also, with having to replay the same auditions again on the Silver and then the Gold levels of Story Mode, there is a fair amount of repetition going on, but I found this not nearly as big a deal as the load times. And lastly, it could have used an alternate game mode that strayed away from the mini-games that were featured in it’s three game modes, just something that was a little bit different from the rest of the game, to give more variety.
There are a couple of tips and tricks I can offer future players of this game. First and foremost, whenever you start this game up your first step should always be to go to the “Load Game” option and load up your latest progress. I learned the hard way that if you go in and forget to load your game and simply go play the Tournament or Single Audition modes, it overwrites everything from square one and you lose all your Story Mode progress! So even if you are not planning on playing the Story Mode at all, always load your saved game anyways so that you don’t overwrite it by mistake. Also, there is usually one mini-game in each audition that you won’t be as good at, compared to the other two. A poor performance on this one mini-game may be what holds you back from reaching your target point total and advancing to the next audition. It certainly helps to practice said mini-game and get as good at it as you possibly can, then take your new skills in to that audition and nail it once and for all. Other than that there really isn’t much to offer, this game is pretty straightforward and easy to grasp, and it is all explained to you along the way, so enjoy!
In summary, despite the couple of drawbacks this game has to offer, Lights, Camera, Pants! is worth the effort for two primary reasons. First . . . it’s SpongeBob!! And second, it’s a really fun and wacky party game that will have you and your friends laughing all the while. Overall I would give this game a 7.5 out of 10.