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SpongeBob SquarePants -
Employee of the Month
Release date USA: 09/2002
Release date Germany: 02/2003
Developer: AWE Games
ESRB: E = Everyone, comic mischief
USK: for all ages
A review by slydos 13th January 2004
This cartoon adventure for all age groups was created after the Nickelodeon cult TV series of the same name and connects simplest point&click control with handpainted comic scenes, which are populated by endearing and scurrile underwater-3d-characters.
Those who don't know dear SpongeBob SquarePants yet (the series is running in Germany in the evening/night program of SuperRTL), the yellow sponge head is the leading actor of a successful child TV series, which takes place in a multicolored scurrile underwater world, where everything is nearly like above water... only without so much oxygen.
Well-tempered and a little naive he holds down his job at the Krusty Krab restaurant, which belongs to the enterprising Mr. Krabs, a giant crab. Some would say, Mr. Krabs is rather of the exploiter type, but at least he recognizes, that his employee SpongeBob is as good as gold and makes him again and again employee of the month. This time he not only leaves him with this honorable accolade but makes him even employee of the year. So it suits him that he receives a pair of gratis tickets for the Neptun amusement park, which he gladly passes to his best employee - as they are for free - as very valuable gift, without worrying at all about how poor SpongeBob could get there however. Sponge is pleased enormously about the gift regardless, because he always wanted to visit the entertainment park. He takes his friend Patrick with him on that journey, which - ho could it be different - doesn't take him straight to their destination.
"SpongeBob SquarePants" comes on 1 CDROM as well as the illustrated manual in a funny, multicolored box bearing the embossed image of the dignitary. You don't have to ponder much, simply have to insert the CD, wait for completion of the 500 MB installation and start playing. The fresh pirate melody sung by Patchy the Pirate accompanies the short intro, which can be skipped by a single click at any time. One then arrives immediately in the main menu. At the start and also at the beginning and end of each chapter a comic film tells SpongeBob's story. A mouse-click can also skip these films immediately and we find our hero in front of his working place, the Krusty Krab. From now on we can control him in 3rd-person-perspective.
SpongeBob SquarePants is mouse-controlled while you can execute most functions by keyboard too. To move Sponge to a spot on the screen we click with the left mouse button. Hotspots, possible scene changes or actions are indicated by text during mouse contact. With a left-click you start conversations and selects multiple choice dialogue options, take objects or use them.
The inventory is visible as a crate in the left upper corner but can be opened with a right-click in addition. Through the opened inventory one can also reach the main menu or the help-function, that gives hints by clicking on the question mark, if you are at a loss (what doesn't occur very often honestly said). In each chapter there is a map function, which can be accessed by the telescope-icon in the right upper corner. The accessible locations are marked in colours, as soon as an interlocutor tells us about the exact position of the places.
If we click on an object that can be taken, it rotates for some seconds enlarged at the screen and disappears then automatically in the inventory. When getting informed about a new location, a rotating telescope-icon appears. Inventory objects can be combined by drag&drop or used at the screen. You will barely be carrying more than 2 or 3 objects at the same time!
If one should still have questions despite the downright intuitive controls, one can open the help-option in the main menu and read about the control functions again. The options menu let's you also adjust graphic- and sound-settings and can switch on/off the sub-titles. In each case you store a user-defined text together with a large picture of the scene and can also scroll back and forth by arrow keys through the savegames. When loading always the last saved game is suggested, we can likewise scroll back here too. There is nothing to criticise about the controls, it is adapted to the needs of the players and doesn't expect that the players adapt to the needs of the game!
The funny, multicolored, screen-filling backgrounds are hand-drawn and -coloured and correspond to the TV series. In certain places SpongeBob receives video cassettes, which document the "making of" the game graphics. A beautiful adjunct, which shows the different steps of the background and character models. On the other hand the film scenes, which one can repeat by the way at any time over the main menu, appear somewhat rougher and cannot completely match with the in-game graphics.
And there is much to see, from Goo Lagoon ("There is nothing like being at the ocean ... except being under the ocean!"), Barg-N-Mart, Rock Bottom with Marlin's Cave, which can be entered through a magic hat (the sorcerer Marlin has elfstrucked a TV-weather-station), the Rusty Anchor, Sardine's Sundries, Waverly Hills (the quarter of the super rich, who grow golden coconuts) and even the dream world of the good Squidward must be investigated, before one actually stands before the gates of Neptune's Pradise.
The characters, particularly of course our hero, fit in in their new-won 3D-shapes amazingly well into the scenes. Expression and movements are exaggerated comic-like but applied to the point. Beside several well-known characters such as Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Sandy Cheeks and Plankton many new 'faces' appear (if one can speak of faces e.g. with one-eyed sea-cucumbers!), like Gary Grouper or Cowfish Craig, who likes to watch 'The Good, the Bad and the Orca" in the underwater TV.
SpongeBob himself can be easily controlled by mouse-clicks everywhere and then speedily starts with his thin legs. If he wants to shed some tears, then he simply throws himself on the ground several times with his saturated sponge head and it flows!
The graphics give often the keyword for the funny texts: e.g. the solid wall of Goo Lagoon seen from the rear is only a slotted piece, what animates SpongeBob to the following comment: "What a rip off! I think game developers need a bigger budgets to avoid this sort of thing!" Or if SpongeBob stands in the final simply at the forefront of a swing boat in Titanic-attitude with spread arms; or a for hours sun-bathing fish, which can be classified coloured beyond red, wants to explore 'the limits of tanning', the so-called 'Hamilton Horizon'.
While an allusion on Hollywood beau George Hamilton is still just understood in Germany, the other jokes are actually limited to the English speaking area and also explain, why THQ simply didn't release the game in German language. Too much of the fresh and funny comic texts simply would go down. If SpongeBob for example examines a locker and expresses: "This is Davy Jones' locker!", then none in this country would laugh about the translation of this wellerism, (Davy Jones' locker means grave of a sailor), because one would not recognize the double sense. Therefore, even if it's a pity for the non-English-speaking people, it was the correct decision of the publisher to release no German version. Thus the excellent original voices remained preserved. The spoken texts can be faded in by sub-titles.
Beside the already taled about title song there are lively Irish/English sailor tunes or an Indian psychedelic sound in Nelson's shop. If that's too much for you, you can adjust the sound in the option menu, which is sometimes indeed necessary. Just as in the first part of the Nancy Drew series we find a Jukebox in this game, where we can select and play different songs, without bothering the course of the game. The sound effects are set very unobtrusive, like the patter of the rain or the step-sound of SpongeBob's small feet.
The puzzles in "SpongeBob SquarePants" are from the beginning to the end easy and would be especially suitable for very young players or genre beginners, if there wouldn't be the language barrier. There are almost exclusively object or dialogue puzzles. As in each case there is a maximum of three objects stored in the (much to large) inventory, there is no spoiling for choice, which item could be the correct one. I would have wished myself a higher degree of difficulty or perhaps two difficulty levels, like e.g. in Tony Tough. Nevertheless the puzzles are funny and imaginative, for example SpongeBob must gain weight at a certain place, in order to trigger something - well, how may a sponge head make it? You'll be busy for approx. 6 to 8 hours with SpongeBob.
"SpongeBob SquarePants Employee of the Month" is a game that simply makes fun without stressing your grey cells. Unfortunately the target group is nevertheless quite reduced by the language and the somewhat flashy comic-style may also not be for everyone. Fans of the series and comic fans in general however will be very comfortable with SpongeBob's adventure and will be entertained at least just as well as I did. A bug-free game with so simple controls that you nearly can't stand it!
Total Rating: 74%
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Pentium 266
- Windows 98/ME/XP
- 32 MB RAM
- 4 MB video card
- 8x CDROM-drive
- 16-bit Soundblaster compatible sound card
- 500 MB free space on hard disk
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
SpongeBob gets his award from Mr. Krabs
The Krusty Krab
With Patrick searching for the bus-driver
Larry the Lobster owns something, SpongeBob needs
One of the maps
Mmmmmh ... buttered Barnacles
The local TV-station
This bar serves very special drinks
The "Rusty Anchor"
SpongeBob knows how to shock the waiter in the gourmet restaurant
Plankton too has its show
Finally in front of the gates of Neptune's Paradise