Yet another new gadget has appeared for a system and this time it's for the Wii. Nintendo released uDraw, a 'board' you literally 'draw' on with a 'pen' that's attached to the unit, and with it, the game Spongebob Squigglepants.
When I first saw Spongebob Squigglepants I thought it wouldn't be worth my time and, admittedly, wouldn't have even thought to try it if not for the fact I had a copy available to me. Then I started up my Wii and tried it out. I realized right away that this is a game that is just as ridiculous as the show itself, which is that good kind of ridiculous, and had the satisfaction one can only get by trying something they have no hope for, and getting a decent experience that proves their apprehension wrong.
Before I get into the game itself, I must say it was fun to use the uDraw tablet. After the always-awkward first minutes with any new anything, it was easy to 'draw' and 'drag' along the tablet's surface to cause responses in the game. The board can sense the pen when it's within an inch of its surface and will move the cursor on-screen accordingly. When you tap the pen, drag it across the surface, or even flip the pen upside-down so you're using its 'tip' as a button by pressing it with your thumb, it responds very well. The only trouble with playing with it is remembering to keep the pen in the middle of the tablet, as certain mini-games you do require you to drag your pen all over the board and you restrict your 'up' movement if you start at the top of the board; luckily you can always pull the pen away and press it back on a different spot, continuing your turn without any repercussions.
A new game starts you off with a video clip of a pirate snoring, and you must wake him up with a shake of your uDraw. The silliness ensues, complete with laughably bad video clips that are purposely done poorly, and blatantly so, earned through your progress as you play (one scene the pirate will have a hook on his right hand, the next on his left, and he'll 'walk' to the left or right yet the background will stay static). He leads you to an 'art gallery' dedicated to Spongebob, where curtains cover several 'paintings' you unlock as you play. After he opens the curtains to the first set of mini-games, it's up to you to work hard to unlock the rest.
Each painting contains a themed set of mini-games, with a scary movie theme for one, or even an 8-bit section. As you play through a set, the intermission between each game shows a clip based on whether you did well in the previous game (the character(s) will succeed in their task on-screen if you succeeded, or will start to fail if you didn't finish the mini-game properly). Your 'life meter' shows itself on screen during these intermissions, and when it reaches zero you're done.
Your aim is to pass at least 15 mini-games to get a bronze, 25 for silver, and 35 for gold. Naturally you aim for a high score so you can unlock more sections of the game. As you play, periodically the games will speed up and you'll be given less time to react, adding a bit of a challenge. It will only speed up three times, after which it will maintain the highest speed for as long as you go; I reached 111 mini-games in a row and the tempo was the same as it was when I'd been completing the 30th mini-game in the set. Even with that said, you feel the pressure's on as soon as the music's tempo speeds up and you can't help but get all the more involved in what you're doing.
The music is cheesy but it works. You won't be wanting to get the soundtrack but it definitely gets you into the games, especially since each painting 'stage' has a different theme and, in turn, different music to go with it.
The games are akin to WarioWare, where you have a few seconds to prepare to "SHAKE," "TAP," "DRAG," etc., before you're thrown into a randomized mini-game where you preform the requisite action within the 3-5 seconds or so that are given to you. At first, even going in knowing you must perform said action, some of the games take a few tries before you know exactly what you're supposed to do. Once you become familiar with them, it's easier to accumulate a higher score. Each round is different, in that you may see the same mini-game ten times during your first try, and the next two tries you won't see it at all.
The artwork varies in each mini-game, giving you a fresh look each time and keeping the monotony down. One scene may have a stick-figure drawing, the next a heavily-detailed work of art. It's fun to interact with the characters that are featured in the mini-games as well, and several of them are so ridiculous they'll have you laughing (one entitled "Off My Lawn" has you playing as Eugene Krabs, and you must chase characters off your property while the animated Krab is obviously shouting in frustration on screen).
As you unlock more curtains, you'll earn the right to play a painting where it randomizes all mini-games from all the paintings, giving those who become used to the game-sets a bit more of a challenge; you won't know what section the mini-game is from until it starts, thus preventing you from predicting what it'll probably be. Another painting can be unlocked, where the 'Re-mix' mode is the same idea, but instead it uses the fastest speed for the mini-games for each one you play.
Other unlockables include perpetual mini-games, where it's just one game you play as long as you can to get the highest score, and the final one is the ability to 'paint Spongebob's portrait' for the gallery itself. The painting portion is essentially Photoshop, but on the Wii. Complete with pre-set colour tablets based on your favourite characters (Spongebob colour set, Patrick, etc.), stamps of the characters that unlock as you play, and the standard paintbrush, you can make any masterpiece you wish and save it in the gallery. Personally I had no interest in painting and simply focused on the mini-games, however, while I was watching a pre-teen play the game, I found she especially had fun in the gallery painting her own creations when she wasn't trying to break her last mini-game record.
I had a great time playing this game, but as an adult with exceptional reflexes I found I flew through the paintings and, in turn, flew through the game itself in record time. While it's unlikely I'll continue to play it after having completed it, for once you're used to the mini-games the challenge is lost, it's well worth keeping on hand for when friends come over as you can't help but cheer them on as they try their luck.
Overall, while this won't be anyone's number one game on their shelf, Spongebob Squigglepants is a fun game to play, provided you aren't expecting more than a Wario Ware 'clone'. The mini-games most certainly keep you on your toes, giving your brain a little bit of a workout as you try to get through them all, and the video clips, which you can also re-watch at your leisure if for whatever reason you want to put yourself through that again, add a laughably cheesy breather between sets of heart-pumping games. The uDraw is awkward at first, but once you're used to it it adds a nice change to the 'usual' way to play the Wii. It's plain to see the game is more meant for kids since they'd find it more difficult and, as such, would be more likely to replay it so they can make progress, but even so I'd recommend that anyone who enjoys puzzle games or likes to challenge their reflexes should give this one a go.
Spongebob Squigglepants is already out in stores and is available on the Nintendo Wii.