Review: SpongeBob vs. The Big One: Beach Party Cook-Off

The DS is one of the biggest platforms to feature SpongeBob titles, and most that I have played through have been quite enjoyable. While most of them tend to shy away from the people, places, and occurrences that really go on in Bikini Bottom, developers have finally hit the nail on the head when it comes to a great game for the sprightly yellow sponge – a Cooking Mama-inspired collection of food prep minigames that work great on Nintendo’s fabulous little cash cow. As a fan of titles such as Diner Dash, Order Up!, and Cooking Mama, I have to say I enjoyed this entry into the SpongeBob series even more than the SpongeBob-themed Drawn to Life, which was quite the enjoyable romp. With that said, SpongeBob vs. The Big One: Beach Party Cook-Off is an interesting mix of depth management and vibrant cartoony mischief to keep both the younger set and the layman gamer entertained.

Both The Chum Bucket and The Krusty Krab, both venerable denizens of Bikini Bottom’s restaurant scene are competing for the honor of catering Kahuna Laguna’s big beach bash. The big man himself suggests that both establishments put their skills to the test to see who should be allowed the honor of serving food at this mega party. Obviously The Chum Bucket can’t emerge successful, as megalomaniacal Plankton is a veritable bad guy on the show, so we all know The Krusty Krab has got to pull through. Always the optimist, Spongebob enlists the help of his friends as well as some of Plankton’s extended family to aid in The Krusty Krab’s quest to serve up some tasty lunches at one of the biggest beach blasts to hit Bikini Bottom – that is, if you consider a quivering lake of goo a beach.
Starting off you’ll choose a difficulty and it’s on with your shift at The Krusty Krab! As SpongeBob you’ll be overseeing a multitude of operations going on simultaneously at various stations scattered throughout the restaurant. At each station you’ll be in charge of overseeing the workers assigned to the task. While they should complete each job on their own, it ends up being much easier if you jump in and complete each cooking step yourself. Each cooking station contains several different minigames, such as slicing tomatoes via an up-and-down slicing motion with the stylus, mixing up a salty shake by imitating a mixing motion, and even garnishing shakes and completed dishes via Elite Beat Agents-styled button tapping. All of the mini games have much in common with previous titles this game has obviously borrowed from, but each in a sequence flow well together. While I went into this experience expecting wonky touch controls, they are actually quite precise and the only real errors you should have are, honestly, user error.
Finishing up each minigame completes a step in the process of cooking the first-class meals you’ll be serving customers at The Krusty Krab…or not. The menu is chock full of some of the most disgusting underwater fare that you can think of, but while it may be unappealing to us, it sure does sell out quickly in Bikini Bottom! The game will track how many orders are completed and tally them up for a shift total of money made, as well as any new recipes you may have unlocked to add to your arsenal.
It is prudent to allow your tiny employees some time behind the grill. The more you allow your Plankton helpers to work in your kitchen, the more skill points they will acquire, which will eventually ensure that they perform tasks at an expeditious pace rather than squandering time and screwing up orders entirely (you receive grades on how well you play through each task from “BAD” to “GOOD”). Eventually you’ll be able to pump out orders even faster when working with an efficient staff!
The cast of SpongeBob voice actors reprise their roles in the game, with SpongeBob doing most of the narration and even some smart-alecky commentary throughout. Music has that distinct Bikini Bottom-esque quality and is rather calming even amongst all the havoc going on in your stint as a short-order cook. Graphics are fair, and a mix between 2D illustrations as well as 3D renders of characters. The renders are a bit lacking, as licensed games often suffer from poor quality in that respect, but they are up to par with many other titles on the system so it is not too big of an issue. Luckily the game delivers on fun so minor graphical issues are more easily dismissed.
SpongeBob vs. The Big One: Beach Party Cook-Off is an interesting hybrid of SpongeBob humor and Cooking Mama/Diner Dash’s addictive gameplay. While it’s clearly aimed at children, hardcore gamers such as myself can find something here to enjoy as well. Whenever we happen upon a children’s game that’s even remotely fun, we should always cherish it and I believe this would be a great DS candidate for gamers of any age despite its graphical shortcomings and obvious reliance on previous titles for gameplay ideas.

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