SpongeBob makes his first début with his own game and maybe he should have stayed in Nicktoons MLB after playing this one. I’m sure the game had good intentions but I’m not sure what happened as the synopsis states:
SpongeBob may live at the bottom of the ocean, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have tons of fun up top! Get on board for a SpongeBob surfing and skating extravaganza as you ride the ocean waves and shred some pavement on the streets by the beach. Keep your balance on top of giant waves and through winding waterways, then hit the ocean-front ramps and roads for more boarding action. Story Mode strings together challenges that spring from a slideshow about SpongeBob and Patrick’s unforgettable trip to the beach. Challenge Mode takes you on a free-wheeling freestyle challenge in a place SpongeBob’s never been. Surf’s up!
The game is mediocre at best, but the controls don’t help it at all, I explain below. Even the SpongeBob fans out there, will probably turn their head at this one. Blitz designed this one, and so far they have been good with some games, not so well with others and unfortunately this falls into their not so well pile. I’m guessing this one was rushed as well as it just seems unfinished or something. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this without renting it first, or if you plan on purchasing anyway for the little ones, it may just end up collecting dust so be warned.
The menu system is fine, it’s using the hover and lock method. It was kept simple probably to keep the young ones entertained and right into the action. Your options are 1 Player, 2 Player and Options. There is another button in the bottom left corner stating Xbox Live Marketplace, and it also makes sure the kids confirm they have their parent’s permissions, but I can’t imagine what DLC would be available for this game. Once you go into 1 Player mode, you get 3 more options. Quickplay, Story Mode and Tutorial. The tutorial is very plain, but it at least makes you confirm that you are doing the right gestures. Quickplay starts you in the game right away with not being able to choose anything.
I suppose this is main mode of the game, but for a story, its way below par. It’s some slide show pictures with their voices. They look pretty but that’s about it. The story is so plain, in the options you can view the beginning and the end of the story and it’s very lame to be blunt, worse than some of the cartoons themselves. Once you begin, you are presented with a map. There’s a surf map and a skate map. Each offer 6 different tracks. Within the tracks, there are different challenges per track. Most of them are locked in the beginning.
To unlock them, you have to play the available ones and by completing the challenge, you gain experience points. Surprisingly enough, there is an experience/level up system in here. Leveling up unlocks extra tracks, challenges and boards for you. There are 10 surf boards (7 are locked) and 10 skate boards (7 are locked as well). I’m not sure what level you can go up to, but there is an achievement to hit 55, which just seems like you really need to like this game to go that far. I had mostly everything unlocked around level 25. What was kind of nice is as you unlock stuff, it ends up forcing you to switch back and forth between surfing and skating so it doesn’t get stale as fast as it would if you just worked on one activity at a time.
The challenges themselves aren’t too bad I suppose for a kids game. It offers 7 different ones, I’ll give you a brief on each.
This one basically is just score as many points as you can, no matter how long it takes. You score points by collecting coins and doing tricks/getting air time.
Against The Clock
This one is timed. You have 2 minutes to finish, but there’s blue coins scattered about that freeze the clock for like 30 seconds I think I counted. That’s all there is to it.
This one has explosive devices scattered heavily throughout the track. Hit too many and you fail, avoiding them is all you really have to do.
Red Gate Challenge
There’s a certain number of gates on the track that you have to pass through. The red ones are more trickier to get to making you do some jumps and things, but that’s really it.
Green Gate Tour
This is the easier gate passing one. Just follow the path and get the number of required gates.
This one you just have to avoid obstacles. Your board is also fiery as they call it so it’s a constant turbo boost.
This one has your awesome meter full in the beginning and you have to keep it full otherwise you fail.
Surfing has some jumps, certain challenges have an awesome meter that you can fill up, and filling it up all the way enables a short turbo boost. You actually don’t do any tricks on your own, it’s all automated depending on if you hit a ramp or not. There are long ramps that require you to do a pose, but that’s the extent of it. Here’s a video of a surfing event:
Skating is a little better as you can grind in it, and it requires you to lean left/right or stand up. That’s really the only difference between the two activities. It has jumps and everything else as that surfing does. Here’s a video of skating so you can compare for yourself:
When you do go to choose a challenge, you are presented with the option to play as SpongeBob or Patrick. You then get to choose one of two outfits for them. After that, you get to pick a board to use and then you start the race. I was really surprised these are the only 2 characters in the game. It’s really lacking a lot of content, just because it’s a kids game, they shouldn’t have to suffer as well.
This is probably the biggest problem with the game to me at least. They are really dumbed down but instead of leaning while standing sideways like we are all so used to, it wants you to step and move your front foot around to turn left/right. I tried to make sense of it, but it hurts your back ankle and makes you switch stances often during a race, so I can’t imagine it was because leaning was more of a strain on you. Kids even find it easier to lean than to play DDR with SpongeBob. I ended up just sliding my foot back and forth. What also doesn’t help is you kind of need to be a little accurate on where you want to go, and this method is just not good for it, forget about precise controls.
I had to show the tutorial video of what it wants you to do as I just don’t understand why these controls were implemented. Here it is:
Graphics and Music
The graphics themself are decent, I believe they were attempting to mix cel-shading and 3D graphics and its ok, but regular cel-shading would have probably looked better. The music and voices are right on though, and even SpongeBob and Patrick’s idiocy is included as well. There is something up with the game though as either the camera doesn’t move fast enough, or the game can’t handle the frame rate, so you’ll see some jerkiness about.
There is a 2 player simultaneous play in the game, but it’s kind of the same thing except you can attack each other. It works, but these controls kind of ruin the fun.
In my opinion, it should have been named SpongeBob’s Surf & Skate Halfpipe game. It lacks content, characters and controls so take it as is. Blitz is sometimes good and sometimes bad with games, and unfortunately this one is a bad one. I’m really not sure if fans will even like this game as my kid loves SpongeBob and he didn’t care for it at all. Hopefully, if THQ decides to have another SpongeBob release, they put require the developer to put some effort into it at least. The controls just give you a bad vibe, I mean it works, it just doesn’t work well for this kind of game, which is why I gave it a 5. If you or your kids are fine with the foot deal, then its really a mediocre game, may give them something to do for a day or two but that will probably be it. I’d wait until it’s in the bargain bin if you must have it.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of SpongeBob’s Surf and Skate Roadtrip
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