Spongebob: HeroPants Review + Video Review

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Title: Spongebob: HeroPants
Developer: Behavior Interactive, Activision
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.0 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Currently Unavailable
PSTV Support: Yes

If there’s one thing that’s been around since the dawn of gaming, it’s been movie games.  There have been games based on movies for years and years, generations and generations.  Think back to the NES and all of the movie games it had.  A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Back to the Future.  Batman.  ET.  Star Wars.  The list goes on.  This has always been the case, especially with family and children movies.  If you’ve been playing on a DS or 3DS the past 10 years or so, this is even more apparent with all of the show and movie tie-ins Nintendo consoles get.

How many of these games, however, do you see on the PS Vita?  One?  Two?  I can only think of one, aside from today’s review, and that was Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom.  Sony’s handhelds have never been a big outlet for movie tie-ins in general, let alone games based on family movies.  Until this past week.

In a move no one saw coming, Activision set up and published a movie tie-in with the new Spongebob SquarePants movie, Sponge Out of Water.  This game released on the Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, and the PlayStation Vita/ PlayStation TV.  Confused yet?  With this surprising move, however, we are now able to present our official review of Spongebob HeroPants!

Story

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The story of Hero Pants takes place after the events of the Sponge Out of Water movie.  Spongebob meets Patrick and Sandy in a seemingly-normal day of work at the Krusty Krab.  However, when they come inside, they find monster patties and Plankton Robots attacking everyone in the store, including Mr. Krabs,  Squidward, and Plankton, himself.

Before long, a Magical Dolphin (from the movie) appears to the characters and informs them that there are some missing pages from a magical book that can change reality based upon what is written inside it.  After a quick explanation, he writes in one of the pages, giving all six of them the ability to transform into their Super Hero personas (from the movie), and sends them off to combat monsters and recover the missing pages of the book.

The story of the game is nothing special, though it does have that charm that the series is known for in the intro and ending sequences.  All in all, though, it’s not that involved throughout the game and definitely isn’t the biggest point of interest.

Gameplay

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Hero Pants is a 3D Platforming game with combat elements.  As you play through the game, you will be tackling stages with your character of choice to collect items and defeat enemies to make your way towards the end of the stage.  It’s a pretty simple setup and you progress from stage to stage until you reach the end of the game.

Each stage can be tackled by any of the six characters, whom have similar moves as well as the ability to transform into their Super Hero forms, like Invinci-bubble or The Rodent.  These transformations is the biggest thing that tries to make itself unique as you play the game, since each characters’ Super Hero forms play a little bit different from the other forms, along with the normal improvements, such as faster attacks and movement/jumping speed and distance.  These can be used often, but not all the time, as a Hero Bar has to recharge before you can use this form again.

In each stage, there are coins to collect for currency and Keys to find to unlock the path to the next area of the stage.  Finding the keys through platforming and puzzles is the main objective in the game.  However, there are also hidden items in the stages, such as Missing Pages from the book and Memorabilia trophies you can collect.  While the trophies are minor, the Missing Pages are required for seeing the True Ending.

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Progressing through each stage will be a matter of solving puzzles and defeating enemies.  Puzzles could be stepping on a certain number of switches in a certain amount of time, moving blocks to allow you to reach a high ledge, or even playing Simon (yes, I’m talking about the color-matching game Simon).  As you solve puzzles, new paths are made open to you, leading you to the end of the stage.  For the most part, this is pretty linear in nature and it’s pretty hard to get lost.

While the game starts out pretty simple and easy, it will only stay easy if you upgrade your characters.  As you explore stages, you will be able to collect coins that are scattered around or in Treasure Chests.  These coins are your currency used for upgrades.  When you finish each stage, you are taken to an Upgrade screen for the character you’re currently playing as, where you can upgrade their skills.  This can range from increasing their health, adding an airborne Slam attack, extending the duration of Hero Mode, or even adding explosions to the throw-able Blaster Burgers you can find in stages to use against enemies.

The biggest thing that you should note about the game, however, is that it is very casual and very repetitive.  I highly suggest you do not try to do this entire game in one sitting.  While the combat and overall charm of the game is fun, it is basically the same thing over and over again.  Tying this with the fact that there are only 3 different environments and a few enemy types, the game can end up being very repetitive if you play more than 30 or 40 minutes at a time.

All in all, though, it’s a pretty short game.  Each of the 15 stages takes about 8-10 minutes to clear, so clearing the game for the Normal Ending shouldn’t take you more than a few hours.  If you want to see the True Ending, you should add at least twice that for going back and recovering all of the Missing Pages, many of which are hidden by character-specific doors.  All in all, though, it’s not a very long game.

Controls

The control scheme for the game is very simple, and this is mostly due to the fact that there are no touch controls for the game.  Perhaps this was done purposely for PlayStation TV compatibility, but you won’t be using any touch controls as you play through this game.  Everything will be controlled by the buttons on the system or controller.

Controlling your character will be done with the Left Analog Stick.  As a note, the D-Pad and Right Analog Stick have no function in this game outside of the D-Pad being used in the menu before playing a stage.  Interaction is mostly with the face buttons.  You can use the X button to jump and double-jump and the Circle button to go into Super Hero Mode.  Square handles your normal, physical attacks and Triangle handles your secondary weapons, be it a Blaster Burger or your Hero Mode’s special weapon.

Finally, the L and R buttons can be used to cycle which enemy you’re currently locked onto for your secondary weapon.  If you’re surrounded by enemies, this can be used to target better enemies for what you have in your arsenal.  When you’re playing on the PlayStation TV, this can also be done with the L2 and R2 buttons.

All in all, it’s a pretty simple control set to learn.  The game also does a good job of showing you how each action works in the initial stage of the game.  It is built around scenarios where you need to use each type of control, be it double-jumping, attacking enemies, or using Hero Mode to get across gaps your normal form cannot.

Presentation

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This is where the game’s biggest problems lie.  First of all, the game looks visually great.  There are some jagged edges here and there, but the game’s atmosphere and graphics look really well-done.  On the PlayStation TV, you can’t even tell there are jagged edges on some of the character models.  The developers did a really nice job on making the game colorful and look with the same designs of Bikini Bottom.

The downsides of the presentation are load times and how the game plays.  First of all, Load Times are lengthy.  Every time you load a stage or go to a new stage, you will be waiting at least 15-20 seconds, sometimes more.  Every load time is long and some stages have two loading sequences until you get to the next stage.

How the game plays is the biggest thing to worry about.  First of all, the frame-rate is not steady.  There are some stages where the frames run really smooth for the most part, and some stages where it runs very poor.  I’m talking about drops that are probably at least 10-15 FPS. It is very noticeable and a few stages are completely running on the lower frame-rate and nothing runs smooth.  It’s playable, but it doesn’t run very well in some stages.

The last thing to note about the presentation is the game crashing.  When I initially tried to make a video of this game showcasing every character, every attempt ended in the game crashing.  This doesn’t happen very often, but the game will crash every once in a while when you fall off the stage or when you’re going back to the Main Menu.    It happened too often while trying to record to pass it off as a coincidence.  It’s something that is frequent if you constantly go in and out of a stage to switch characters.

Summary

Spongebob Hero Pants is: Decent
Spongebob makes his way onto the PlayStation Vita in a casual little platformer designed for adults and children alike.  On the downside, the game is very repetitive and there are a lot of technical issues that the developer needs to patch for this game to be a recommended title.  Past these issues, though, is a cute platformer tie-in with the new movie that Spongebob fans will be sure to enjoy in small doses.  ­­

6/10

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