Spongebob is Metroid for 7-year olds!
"Ah, scenic Bikini Bottom. Home to Spongebob Squarepants and his pals. Look here, our hero is out for a walk with his pet snail Gary. How nice. OH NO! Gary smells kelp nip! He's running away! What will Spongebob do?"
With these lines SpongeBob Squarepants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman tries to set us up for a grand adventure featuring everyone's favorite sponge ever created. But will they succeed in this endeavor? Let's follow Spongebob for a while and see.
Our yellow friend starts by following Gary in a fairly straight forward line, until they stumble upon a odd looking chest. Being the curious, little bugger he is, Spongebob takes a peek at the chest, when suddenly a 'genie' appears! Bob (yes Bob! his name is annoyingly long!) fills his eyes with joy, for he will get a wish! But wait! The genie is actually The Flying Dutchman awoken from his slumber. Now Spongebob has to go out into the world and find The Flying Dutchman's hidden treasures, scattered around Bikini Bottom. Still thinking he's a genie, Bob gladly goes on an adventure to get a wish from the nice green genie.
Enough with the set-up, let's talk business: This platform game will take you through all the parts that Bikini Bottom, and thus the show, have to offer you. Armed with a bubble blower and different kinds of soap for different bubbles, you set off jumping, bouncing, floating and gliding through this colorful world. Bob can entrap jellyfish in his bubbles, so he can use them as platforms and reach hard to get places and Bob can glide! Yup, this sponge learned how to inflate itself and glide gently through the breeze. At this point (and that's 5 minutes into the game) you either turned off your brain to all logic or turned off the game. Nothing in this game will ever make sense, as Spongebob never makes sense. There's underwater snow and winds and all the normal rules of gravity work underwater. And the worst example is: There's pools of water inside the water and Spongebob can't swim! A FLOATING DEVICE IN ITSELF THAT CAN'T SWIM! You jump into the water and that's it, you're dead!
Though this affects the gameplay a little, it shouldn't be a problem if you don't stop to think about it. This game is in fact a very agreeable platformer that will try and suck you into it's world. With cleverly built levels, nice little mini-games, guest appearances from all your favorite characters (some even active) and challenging, yet not too hard puzzles for you or your kids to solve. You can jump or glide to other platforms, crawl in hard to reach places and discover all sorts of nice features and parts in the level.
At a certain point, I started finding a lot of hidden compartments in the level that made me link this game to a lot of similarities to the Road Runner game on Snes. You see an item behind a cracked wall and if you jump on the right spot, you can discover the little cave where that item is. It's quite fun, because it keeps your eyes peeled for all sorts of special things. As you jump back and forth in this game and from one screen to the next, you'll find yourself backtracking a lot. Some things are in this screen, but you can't get to it, but maybe later. Other things in that screen seem ridiculously hard to get to now, but when you find Float Bubbles it becomes clear.
As this progressed, this game took me further than the analogy with Road Runner and brought me to this conclusion: SpongeBob Squarepants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman is a lot like Metroid! Sure, Bob is no Samus, but let's face it, our kids would much rather play with this critter than have some sort of cyborg woman blast even scarier aliens off a screen. In this way, Spongebob is Metroid for 7-year olds! It's the perfect answer for younger kids to venture into a simple platformer and have it deepen into an adventure game where you start thinking about where to go and what to do and how. And don't underestimate Spongebob either, because some parts can be tricky. Tricky, but rewarding. I must admit, even I was pleasantly surprised to suddenly find myself wrestling with myself to let go of my GBA to pick up at a different time. This can't be? You can't be challenged by Spongebob? That's impossible, right? Well, you're right and wrong. Part of this is really because some parts will take some time thinking over if you're not experienced in these games. But some parts will be because the controls kind of fail you at times and you've shut down an option that later on seems obvious but didn't work, because of those controls.
It's a double trouble situation really: Some of the jumps are pretty brutal in this game. One little slip and you're dead. Especially when it comes to the weird water puddles I was quite annoyed. On the other hand Spongebob doesn't stay put where he's supposed to and sometimes will walk like he was a square block...oh wait. Anyways! He shouldn't act like a square ADD patient if you want him to complete some of the platforms he's facing. There are times where you will miss a jump, because he doesn't handle correctly and you will be brutally punished for it by having to go back the entire level. it's a sad downside to this otherwise very decent game. However, not every time will it be a problem, because though enemies constantly respawn, there are points where health respawns as well. Also, sometimes it will be a lot easier to get hit once and race on through while invulnerable, than to take on enemies one at a time.
Another helpful AND amusing trait is the recurring mini-game "Jellyfish Rodeo". Here you can race a big jellyfish in frontview through an obstacle course to obtain coins and later on bonus health and lives. Though the front view is not optimal, this game is fairly easy. You can also boost your speed, but this will only result in you getting hit a lot more and obtaining a lot less, so I wouldn't know why anyone would want to do that.
Later on, Bob will also get help from his friends to train him in the art of Karate and Jellyfish catching, so he can unlock a few more items to aid him in his quest.
In conclusion I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself playing SpongeBob Squarepants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman. I didn't find all the coins, so I didn't unlock all the extra mini-games, but those I had were very fun. There's reward in putting in the extra effort to see Spongebob dance with the jellyfish and interact with even more funny details of the show. All in all, it took me 3 gaming days to complete and that's a good run for your money if you ask me. If you don't mind the shifty controls, you or your children will really enjoy playing (and replaying) this game and watching it's colorful world through the eyes of a 7 year old.
Childhood is so nice, it's awesome to relive it sometimes. Even with a ADD sponge as your guide.