"I'm SpongeBob, damnit!"
Where's Eddie Murphy when you need him to defend the good name of everyone's favorite talking sponge? Seriously. While I'm not a SpongeBob devotee, I can understand why the series has received such accolades. He's a talking sponge that lives in Bikini Bottom, and hangs out with lots of other oddities, including a squirrel. It doesn't hurt that that the show works as well for adults as it does for children; in fact, much of the humor is specifically directed towards older fans.
So how does the Nintendo DS version of SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis rate as an entry in the franchise? Poorly, I'm afraid. Granted, the target audience is a lot narrower than the animated show. Sure lots of adults have Nintendo DS's, but that doesn't mean all SpongeBob fans do. The real kicker is the game lacks the wit and multi-audience humor that has made SpongeBob such a classic.
Back-tracking, much like escort missions, should be banned. No one likes them. No one!
In search of the “World's Oldest Living Bubble,” SpongeBob and Co. hitch a ride on a magic bus and head to the fabled Atlantis. Sadly, Atlantis happens to be a very boring place. Each level requires two characters, the AI-controlled one being especially difficult to deal with. While they are styled in the vein of classic platformers such as Super Mario Bros., the addition of a limited 3D plane means you'll sometimes have to deal with judging platform jumps and other obstacles in a cumbersome way. Levels consist of completing partner-based puzzles, collecting items, and fending off various foes with standard and charge attacks.
Back-tracking, much like escort missions, should be banned. No one likes them. No one! I've become especially jaded thanks to my affinity for role-playing games, but occasionally, as in this game, this ancient, hated device rears its ugly head. What's especially frustrating is that you really won't know what characters to take into each level until you test it out. This tactic isn't necessarily a bad one. It's like trying to figure out the best boss order for Mega Man, but unlike Mega Man, the effort isn't worth the payoff. A platformer should be fast and leave you on the edge of your seat. Atlantis is neither of these things. It's a plodding, meandering sort of adventure.
Let's talk AI. Granted it is rare that non-player-controlled character's act intelligently, but expect to be switch back and forth quite a lot in order to navigate jumps and other height-specific challenges. The ability to play the story mode 2-player is a major plus, but for those like myself who are forced to make their way alone, it's not a fun experience. The partner system allows combo moves, necessary to pass obstacles throughout each level. Intermission means mini-games, such as one where you shoot jellyfish using Rez-style controls.
Am I being too harsh? Maybe. Yet this is a genre that has seen so many innovations, you might as well not even try unless you're going to step it up. Add to it the already proven quality of the original cartoon, and you have a seriously disappointing experience. This one is strictly for the kids who aren't able to relish the true humor of SpongeBob, and who aren't quite adept enough to see how much of a rehash Atlantis SquarePantis on the Nintendo DS is.