It's been a while since I've played one of the THQ Nickelodeon titles, and after sitting down to play SpongeBob SquarePants Featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom for the PS2, I'm reminded of why. I've played my fair share of titles that are geared toward a younger group of gamers, and while a few of them manage to surprise me with an unexpected level of complexity, most of them fall into the same vapid style of gameplay as this title.
It's a shame, too, because like most people, I enjoy the SpongeBob license, even as an adult. There's not much out there in modern animation that replaces the stuff I enjoyed as a kid, but SpongeBob is certainly an exception, so if anything is going to appeal to an older player, it would definitely be this character. However, I don't think I've played a single SpongeBob SquarePants title that I've enjoyed yet, and it's mostly because they're stuck in that N64 design of platforming and collecting, which has grown incredibly stale over the years. It's like Nintendo and Rare, to a certain degree, made the last step forward that was possible with 3-D platformers, and for whatever reason, the developers behind these licensed titles can't manage to pick up the ball and do their own thing with it.
Globs of Doom features characters outside of the SpongeBob universe, including other Nicktoons licenses like Jimmy Neutron, Danny Phantom, Invader Zim and Tak. Each of these character's worlds is represented by a series of levels in the game, and you'll hop and bop your way across them in order to fight off an alien invasion that's managed to spread across their various universes. However, unlike previous titles using these characters, you also gain access to the characters' archenemies, including guys like Plankton and so on and so forth. I'm surprised that I wasn't familiar with the villains used in comparison to the heroes, so I can only see that aspect of the game appealing to the hardcore fans of each individual series.
However, even though you get a number of characters to control, it doesn't mean a thing in the long run because they all control in the exact same way. It's odd because in a beginning cut scene, they go out of their way to explain some strange tech that Jimmy Neutron uses, which grants weapons to each character that's molded after their personality in some manner. When you get a chance to actually use the weapon, though, you find out that the majority of them have the same effect or idea, and you'll just mostly be swinging it around as a melee attack anyway.
Along with that, no one character has any particular special skill or ability that's unique to them. They can all double -jump, jump the same distance, hit for the same amount of damage, and have the same amount of health. The only real variety is in how they look and the really annoying catchphrases they repeat throughout the entire title. If you're going to bother giving me a game with more than 10 characters to use, at least spice them up a little bit. While I'm sure younger players will be happy playing as their favorite, I suspect even the youngest will realize they've been bamboozled a bit when it comes to how boring the move sets are.
Along with the multitude of characters, each level pairs you up with another character that's AI-controlled. They're always in a hero-villain pairing, but not necessarily from the same universe. Once again, this doesn't mean much past the point of visual aesthetics, and the AI is absolutely horrible at doing anything that's remotely helpful. They'll often fall into pits, deep pools of orange goo, or just stand around and get pummeled by enemies. There's no real threat of death in this game, though, and the checkpoints are usually pretty generous in their placement, so if you "die," you'll usually respawn nearby. The only penalty is the lost coins, but that's a pretty slight penalty to worry about.
The coins let you buy the various upgrades, which are shared between all the characters. The basic, important ones to worry about are health and attack, but you can also increase your weapon timer and some other options. The coins are pretty plentiful, and aside from enemy loot, there are a lot of destructible objects in each stage that will yield a few, along with a couple of hidden areas that have some tucked away. Along with that, there are a number of trophies to be found in each stage, and if you manage to locate all of them, you can also unlock various cheats.
The level design isn't exactly great, which is pretty much par for the course with the rest of the game. Some of the stages seem to drag on too long, the pacing feels off, and they're almost a chore to get through. You don't encounter a large variety of enemies throughout the game, and that becomes apparent by the second area, where the basic enemies start putting on armor. Between stages, you have to partake in an on-rails vehicle section that serves as a way of boosting your overall coin total. It seems like these sections should be optional because there's no story progression involved and they're not the least bit challenging, but you're forced into them before every level starts. With five or six worlds in the game and three stages apiece, that's a lot of boring on-rails segments to chug through for very little reason.
Visually, Globs of Doom looks OK, but the character models are pretty tiny, so a lot of the detail is lost. Also, the CGI used for the cut scenes isn't much of a replacement for some actual animation, and that seems like a cool opportunity lost. The music isn't anything that stands out after you play, but there's nothing that grates on your nerves or becomes too repetitive. However, the little sound bites from each character are really repetitive, and you'll find them annoying in a short amount of time.
Altogether, SpongeBob SquarePants Featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom isn't a great game, not even for the younger players for which it's intended. It's awfully dull, with no real exciting gameplay features to speak of, and an incredible amount of tedious gameplay that doesn't introduce anything new. Hopefully, we'll see a decent SpongeBob title at some point, but this definitely isn't it.Score: 4.0/10
More articles about SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom