Spongebob Squigglepants Review
When it comes to games with new control schemes, it seems we can't go two months anymore without having some new device or technology clogging up our living rooms. Many of these devices wind up getting little use, often not being worth the plastic they're constructed from. The jury's still out on THQ's new UDraw tablet for the Wii, but at least it's got a few unique entertaining games now. The latest is Spongebob Squigglepants, which takes gamers into the iconic cartoon character's world and lets you play a huge range of mini-games in the style of WarioWare.
It's tough to explain how this game works without stopping to talk about the UDraw tablet. It's a neat little device that you stuff the Wii Remote into, which not only feeds the tablet power but also allows the tablet to take advantage of the Wiimote's motion sensing capabilities. Then, you've got a stylus pen, both with a button on its side and a depressible tip, which you then use to swipe, draw, and scribble onto the tablet surface. You can just lightly touch the tablet, or press down and actually draw, creating the same pressure-sensitivity effect you see in real drawing tablets.
It's used heavily in Spongebob Squigglepants, which preps you for a basic action (Spin, Shake, Tilt, Draw, Flick, and more) and then drops you into one of its many unique and hilarious mini-games to perform the action for a few seconds. You need that prep time, too, because there's a ton of random stuff the game will force you to do, including nothing in some cases. You'd be surprised, after fifteen rounds of frantically doing these mini-games, just how hard it is to sit still with the tablet on your lap.
As you go through the game, Patchy the Pirate (done in live-action by Tom Kenny, the voice actor for Spongebob) opens up his art gallery, and you'll go through a series of mini-game collections, each in a different art style. Much like with WarioWare, you've got to complete a series of them - 20 in this case - without too many failures. You'll see art styles including sketches, comic books, abstract art, B-movie, and more, many of which showcase different Spongebob characters and recreate many of the show's in-jokes. Personally, I've enjoyed the show for a few minutes at a time here and there, but I haven't really sat down to watch even one whole episode, so I had to have a THQ representative explain some of the jokes to me. Kids, however, will surely get a lot of laughs out of it.
Now, maybe it's the reduced reaction time of my thirty-something-year-old body and brain, but there are a few mini-games that I found to be almost impossible to complete here. The ones where you have to drag the stylus around to tap multiple things, sometimes while avoiding stuff on-screen were very difficult for me, and the only times I ever completed them were with sheer luck. Games like this need to maintain that silly, manic energy to keep you playing, and nothing sucks the fun out of the experience like getting two or three seemingly impossible mini-games in a row. Mileage may vary, however, especially for an eight-year-old with ninja reflexes.
And yes, this game is made almost entirely for kids, and you can also tell this because you can get through most of the game's main mini-game collections in only a couple of hours. There are plenty of extras, though, like unlockable movies and extra games, and even modes that remix the different art styles' mini-games all together into one giant mashup, but it's still important to point out that unless you are just failing over and over again, you'll run out of new content in something like two and a half hours. Kids don't care about stuff like this, though, and that's definitely THQ's target audience here. One thing I do think is missing is some kind of multiplayer mode. Maybe one kid uses the stylus while the other uses the exposed face of the Wii controller (as it sits in the tablet) to work together or something, I dunno, but it does seem kind of weird to have a game like this only include solo play.
While I'm still not sold on the idea of yet another Wii peripheral making it into millions of homes, I don't think that's through any fault of the UDraw tablet, which works flawlessly and winds up being a lot of fun to use. Spongebob Squigglepants is a great game to showcase this device, especially with the huge number of ways it uses the tablet and even pokes fun at other, more "mature" video games now and then. It won't be terribly engaging for an adult, but this is a fantastic gift for a little Spongebob fan, and the total cost of a new UDraw tablet (which does include the UDraw Studio pack-in game) and this game together will run you around $85 if you buy them from Amazon (as of this writing). That's not too bad, considering you're getting a new peripheral and two full games to go with it.