Developer: MTV Networks
Price: $4.99 (iPad optimized), $2.99 (iPhone)
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

SpongeBob Marbles & Slides (both for the iPhone and the iPad) is surprising. Oftentimes, a game tied to a license like SpongeBob will be weighed down by bad design, development and implementation. A crunch for time, lack of interest and license mandates have a knack of getting directly in the way of the game’s success. And that’s why Marbles & Slides is surprising; it’s a really good game.

Players are given a game board, some marbles sporting the faces of SpongeBob characters, a pipe of ink, some obstacles and a goal. The objective here is to move the marbles to the goal; sometimes all of them or sometimes only a set number. The marbles fall under the influence of gravity and device tilting, so it’s the player’s job to paint the correct path and send the marbles into their pipe.

With that baseline set down, SpongeBob Marbles & Slides works well over the first 60 levels (more packs are promised to come later) to introduce new mechanics that add to the game’s difficulty. Touching goo instantly ends the level, using button controlled magnets change the speed and trajectory of the marbles, tripping switches open shields, avoiding Plankton marbles or freezing time briefly repaints the slides. This laundry list of variety is, again, extremely surprising for a licensed title like SpongeBob Squarepants.

A few physical hiccups keep the gameplay from attaining perfection, however. Specifically, marbles tend to get stuck in odd places and can’t be tilted free. On tougher levels this can be frustrating. The only solution is to restart.

The art direction within the experience is spot on for the SpongeBob franchise. Absolutely pitch perfect design work brings the experience to life through well illustrated menus, characters and, yes, even buttons. The iPhone version suffers a lower resolution (even the iPhone 4) that makes the game a little less attractive, but the overall feel remains intact. The music is great for the license, but it would have been nice to hear some of the characters use their voices at any point, instead of a constant stream of mildly humorous text.

Counting the resolution issue mentioned above, there are only three major differences between the iPad and iPhone version. The iPad’s screen obviously allows for a larger, more inviting and invigorating canvas to play on. That one’s a no-brainer. To the iPad’s detriment, however, is the sensitivity of the tilt controls. Tilting the device forces the marbles to move slowly in a given direction. On the iPad, the tilt is slow to respond and accelerate, making it a last ditch effort rather than a game changing mechanic. On the iPhone, however, the tilt is snappy and responsive.

SpongeBob Marbles & Slides is a great game worthy of attention. The experience is fairly large, and the certain coming of new level packs will convince players to keep the game on their iDevice.


Posted in: iPad Games, Reviews

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