SpongeBob: Truth or Square (Wii) - Review by Chris
Just over ten years ago, Stephen Hillenburg's first showcasing of his new kids television show, Spongebob Squarepants, took place. Little to no one could predict the popularity that the show would garner just from this small starting point and it quickly became apparent that the license was destined for big things. Having become such a hit, the franchise quickly branched out and became one of Nickelodeon's most successful, reaching into all areas of the market with CDs, movies and eventually games. And while the latter has particularly provided anything of high quality, the games sell extremely well and so THQ are back once again, with Heavy Iron Studios, with another Spongebob title that hopes to change the mould.
The game joins Spongebob and friends as they are preparing to celebrate Krusty Krab's eleventy seventh anniversary. But after being asked to hold onto Krusty's Krabby Patty formula and misplacing it, adversary Plankton turns up and decides he wants to 'help' relocate the formula. After shrinking robots down to microscopic size, Plankton lets them loose in Spongebob's memories in the hope of discovering the location of the formula so he can steal it for himself but the plan doesn't go to plan and so he jumps in to locate it himself. Worried about what's happening, Spongebob springs into action, sifting through his memories in the hope of beating Plankton to the punch.
Taking place over the course of 10 levels, you'll have to lead Spongebob through some of the most memorable locations from the TV show. Each of the levels is expansive and is created on a large scale but there is only one pathway through them making for an incredibly linear process. It's the standard platforming fare though, with some action thrown in for good measure as you'll have to beat a select number of enemies in sometimes enclosed areas of the map or take part in boss battles, ala the Super Mario games. As Spongebob, you'll have various attacks at your disposal with more becoming available as you progress through the game. Your initial attack is a spatula one whereby the character's head becomes a spatula and he flattens anything in the way. Subsequently unlocked attacks add new dimensions to the game while power-up items littering some of the stages also grant alternative attacks, some of which are time based and others last until you get hit. They change up the gameplay slightly but it never extends much beyond being above the basics already seen in the genre.
Unfortunately, the game's 10 levels can be completed rather quickly. There are hidden items in the levels that when found unlock artwork amongst other things that can only be accessed once you've completed the level fully, adding a slight Lego game feeling to the proceedings. You can play the entire game through in cooperative play though, with the second player taking on the guise of Plankton and the level of enjoyment when a second player is introduced heightens and the mode works well.
The game allows you to make use of various control setups, with just about every control option supported. The standard setup is just the Wii-mote and Nunchuk but you can use either the Classic Controller or the Gamecube controller if you wish. All work equally as well as the others but the standard setup relies heavily on gestures for the various attacks you have at your disposal, some of which become repetitive and don't always work. You'll get by but the lack of targeting system means at times you'll be flailing around trying to hit an enemy and it isn't helped by the poor camera controls. The game's camera tries its best to keep up but at times it just can't do it and so you'll have to adjust it yourself with the d-pad but its prone to snagging on the scenery all too often meaning that it doesn't always help. The Wii MotionPlus attachment is supported but it was hard to tell, when used, whether it was making a difference or not.
Visually, the game aims to emulate the visuals of the TV show and does a good job of doing so. The use of soft colours helps to make everything seem very much lively, much in contrast to the laidback nature of the music. But the use of these softer colours means that some of the graphical cutbacks show up, with some textures looking of a lower quality than others and some parts of the environment, such as foliage and platforms, looking a little ragged around the edges. The character models, however, look fantastic and really match up with their TV counterparts. They're animated well in all aspects and although the colours are a little on the paler side than the real things, they still look great. The robots you'll have to face through the game show a staggered rate of variety, with new types being introduced in subsequent levels but you will see quite a lot of reusing of prior models. The game maintains a steady frame rate throughout the entirety even when things get manic on screen, with multiple enemies and boxes and statues being smashed.
The game's audio work remains faithful to the show bringing in many of the trademark pieces of music and most importantly, the voices of the characters are provided by those who do the voices in the show. It all sounds great and really helps to bring the feeling and atmosphere, found in the TV show, to the game. The music through the levels provides the same very laidback and melancholy attitude of the show and its enjoyable if a little on the monotonous side as it is very similar throughout the game's many levels. These simplistic tones lull you into a false sense of security by making you think the game is as simple and laidback as the music but it is far from this.
With previous games having not been of a high standard, you could be forgiven for writing this one off from the start but luckily, Spongebob's Truth or Square is actually good. It manages to easily replicate the atmosphere of the TV show while remaining entertaining and providing some good if basic platforming action which fans of the show and younger gamers will love. It's a little on the short side but with some hidden unlockables and cooperative play, this is quite easily the best of the Spongebob licensed games on the console.
Pro: Excellent audio presentation, character models look great, gameplay is good especially in cooperative play
Con: Controls are a little repetitive using the standard setup, graphics are a bit variable in quality, game is rather short
Final score: 6.8
|Developer:||Heavy Iron Studios|