- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at a video game for the entire family.

SpongeBob’s Truth or Square (THQ for the Xbox 360, $39.99). It’s hard to believe that Nickelodeon’s popular porifera has existed comfortably in a pineapple under the sea for the past decade.

As part of the celebration of his 10 years of hilarious animated shenanigans, fans get a 3-D platforming, frenetic adventure adapted from the latest cartoon movie special of the same name.

A player controls the mighty sponge as he reflects on his life, looking for his happiest memories that will also help him remember where he hid the secretive Krabby Patty Formula.

Targeting the 9-year-old fan of the cartoon, the game delivers a smorgasbord of SpongeBob lunacy with plenty of ridiculous dialogue, a hero perpetually losing his pants, loads of humorous visuals tied to the show’s history and even trivia questions offered during load screens.

The bulk of the action involves exploring environments tied to 10 of SpongeBob’s pinnacle moments, including his introduction to Sandy, his first foray into jellyfish hunting and hiring by Mr. Krabs as a short-order cook.

A player spends plenty of time climbing, jumping, smashing Tiki idols and using our hero’s tongue to slide around while collecting coins and icons.

Plankton’s robotic minions constantly get in the way and SpongeBob can turn into a crushing spatula, spinning propeller and cannon to shoot water balls at his enemies.

Special icons also pop up in the mission arenas that can turn SpongeBob into his beefy form (MuscleBob BuffPants), transform him into a sledgehammer wielded by a barely controllable, serial smasher Patrick and become a clarinet to help Squidward musically destroys foes.

I’ll give the developers credit that they provide players plenty to do. In addition to the memory missions, players can revisit levels to unlock mini-game challenges and use teleport boxes to get around quickly.

Also, the player can roam around SpongeBob’s spacious pineapple abode to interact with characters and spend accumulated coins to unlock costumes for six characters (yes, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy garb included), and upgrade furnishings and appliances.

Additionally, a liberal supply of concept art from the show and game as well as video clips and cut scenes are unlockable and can be viewed on our hero’s television.

To top off the depth, a second player can join in the action to control a pint-size Plankton floating in the air over the shoulder of SpongeBob. In this quasi-cooperative mode, the accomplice uses a laser weapon to target and stun enemies.

My gripes, by the way, are minimal.

I would have loved to see a fully cel-shaded SpongeBob Universe, more faithful to the cartoon, rather than the cheesy 3-D character designs.

Further, the repetition of crushing and destroying hordes of enemies and length of levels might wear down the patience of even the most faithful fan.

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