SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom for the NDS is proof that a simple name can sell a game. This game doesn't even star SpongeBob SquarePants. You'll spend perhaps 10 percent of game time as SpongeBob, but the rest of the title features a mishmash of characters from Nickelodeon shows. Danny Phantom, Invader Zim, Jimmy Neutron, SpongeBob, Tak and other characters are brought together in Globs of Doom to save the day. The result is a mediocre platformer that feels like it's on the wrong game system and is trying to cash in on two things: the popularity of SpongeBob and the large customer base of DS users.
My main issue with Globs of Doom is the handheld console on which it's available. This is a platforming game based on co-op, so there are always two characters that you'll be controlling. When playing by yourself, the AI is activated by toggling the R shoulder button; all the other character will do is try to run in the same direction as you. Babysitting two characters at once is tedious and can become fairly annoying. This title was developed with co-op in mind, but single-cart play isn't available. Forcing both players to own a copy of a game like this is a giant misstep. Globs of Doom would definitely work better on a system that has support for two local players; there are PlayStation 2 and Wii versions of this title, so if you have your heart set on playing this game, you should try those iterations first.
Globs of Doom is a side-scrolling platformer. As you play, you'll be weaving your way through about 15 platforming stages and several run-of-the-mill boss fights. Stage design is all over the place; some stages can be frustrating and require pixel-perfect platforming while others can be well-designed and fun. This is a pretty easy game and it's extremely difficult to die; falling into a pit of lava or being hit by an enemy doesn't cause much damage for your character. The only time I managed to reach the "game over" screen was intentionally during one of the boss fights. You see, if you manage to run out of health, control switches over to the other character, and about five seconds later, the downed character will get up again, albeit with low health. The only possible way to reach the "game over" screen is if both players are knocked out at the same time.
The title manages to keep the platforming reasonably fresh by dramatically changing the gameplay mechanics every few levels. Globs of Doom has five worlds in it, and although each looks distinct, they don't feel all that different. In each world, you'll control two different characters, and each character has a special ability that will be used extensively as you play through every level. SpongeBob can create bubbles that act as rising platforms, Danny Phantom can phase through some walls, Invader Zim has a grapple arm that can latch to hanging objects, etc. The game requires you to use these abilities frequently to progress; an obstacle that is insurmountable by one character is easily bypassed by the second character's special abilities. Even though you only spend three levels as each character, this can get stale in a hurry because there's usually only one thing that each character's ability deals with, and there's hardly any variety to it.
The unfortunate issue is that even with frequent changes in mechanics, the game isn't that fun to play for stretches longer than 10 minutes. The platforming doesn't hold up, whether it be because of boredom from the mediocre level design or frustration from the pixel-perfect platforming sections. Maybe it's the tedium from having to run through the majority of areas twice because of the brain-dead AI. In my time with the game, I was never able to sit down and play more than two levels at a time. These are short levels, and with each level lasting anywhere between five to eight minutes, you'll likely complete the game in just a few hours.
Of course, this assumes that you can find some sort of motivation to keep playing. The story is extremely bare-bones, mentioning something about meteors crashing into various cities and spreading a goo that's turning things evil. It's simply a paper-thin excuse to cram as many Nickelodeon characters as possible in a single game.
In terms of visuals, Globs of Doom looks fairly average for a DS title. All characters in the game are 2-D sprites, and the actual environments are made up of 3-D work. The latter gets the job done but won't win any awards, especially with some of the graphical bugs that show up. Some items decide to stop rendering toward the edge of the screen, and on several occasions, I saw pools of lava just vanish from the game world for several seconds at a time.
On the other hand, the audio segment is extremely disappointing. Music is about as forgettable as humanly possible, and the rest of the sound effects aren't exactly impressive either. Considering how small the game is from a content standpoint and the extensive voice work seen in the console versions, it's extremely disappointing to realize that there isn't an ounce of voice work in the DS iteration other than a battle cry uttered by characters when you switch to them. Anything else that a character has to say is displayed in a text bubble, and this usually occurs in a cut scene that involves several characters standing still on-screen.
The rest of the production values aren't exactly impressive either. There are noticeable load times, which is unforgiveable on a cartridge-based title. Although the game is on the DS, there is a total lack of support for the touch-screen, which means that the title is a complete waste of the handheld hardware's unique abilities.
Even as a game directed toward kids, SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom for the NDS isn't impressive by any stretch of the imagination. The co-op platforming can be fun from time to time, but the mediocre level design and extremely easy gameplay result in a title that just isn't fun for more than 10 minutes. There are a few decent ideas going on in this game, but the DS is the wrong platform for a co-op platformer. If you need a DS platformer, there are dozens of titles that would be much more fun and are more worthy of your hard-earned $30.
More articles about SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom