Everyone’s favorite sea sponge from Bikini Bottom has arrived on the iPad in a physics game from Nickelodeon. SpongeBob Marbles and Slides HD is rife with characters and settings from the popular Nickelodeon cartoon and while the gameplay is challenging and enjoyable, the confused visuals and unnecessary elements of the game ultimately make the app cluttered and frenzied.
At first, the game seems visually appealing. The graphics are true in style to the popular show, and feature some great textured backdrops. Fans of the cartoon will recognize SpongeBob’s favorite spots (such as the Krusty Krab and the jellyfish fields) as the settings. They’re all faithful to the distinct art style of the show and there’s no want for vibrant color or neon glow in SpongeBob’s world. However, as the levels advance, the scenes become more complex, creating a cluttered screen. It becomes hard to determine which staircases, pipes, or walls are part of the static background and which are part of the game. By the time I reached the final levels, the game was, visually, a mess.
The hectic visuals are mirrored in what often comes across as chaotic gameplay. While the goal of the game is relatively simple—lead marbles out an exit route—a heap of rules and caveats ultimately made the higher levels quite frustrating to play. Each level consists of some combination of marbles (depicting the likenesses of SpongeBob and friends) and the easy levels have simple requirements for completion (for instance, guiding all marbles straight into a solitary exit tube). However, on the harder levels, it seemed as though the game became less about strategizing or planning and more about trying to remember which items were dangerous and which tools needed to be used, and when.
Players are equipped with a tube of red paint that can be used to draw lines that guide the marbles or block them from floating off the screen or running into game-over-inducing obstacles. Additionally, tilting the iPad left and right can roll the marbles in the desired direction. The tilting control isn’t great. It’s inconsistent in that the physics of rolling the marbles doesn’t play out realistically. Even if the small glass orbs have a bit of momentum, they usually won’t roll uphill and constantly get stuck on a small bump in the line of red paint that was drawn. Total score is based on a number of factors; ink used, number of tries, marbles saved, and speed all contribute to your total score and patty rank which are stored in each level so you can return and try to improve.
SpongeBob Marbles and Slides HD’s has a good core concept, but the execution is muddled and confused. Some of the levels are really challenging, and require a good amount of thought and planning to complete—I’m not sure your child will want to patiently spend the time to figure them out.
Ultimately, the game lacked the ability to let me relax and stop thinking so hard about logistics. Still, SpongeBob Marbles and Slides HD has some redeeming qualities. There’s a really helpful tutorial to help introduce most of the rules of the game, and the developers do a good job of utilizing the characters and locations from the cartoon. This isn’t the best puzzle game out there, nor the best Spongebob-themed game out there, but the combination might tempt you into spending a few minutes on it. But I wouldn’t.
[Stephanie Kent is an editorial intern for Macworld.]