SpongeBob, the lovably naive hero of the long-running Nickelodeon TV show, has hit the App Store once again with a new game that’s chock full of SpongeBobian charm. Marbles and Slides is a game that combines line drawing, pinball, and underwater physics to produce something unique and fun, especially if you happen to be a kid.
The game is set during dark times in SpongeBob’s underwater hometown, Bikini Bottom. The villainous Plankton has turned SpongeBob and his buddies (curiously, along with himself) into marbles, and has flushed them into a system of pipes. His master plan is to go to Mr. Krab’s restaurant and steal the secret recipe for delicious Krabby Patties. It’s up to you to help SpongeBob and his buddies put a stop to Plankton’s scheme.
The way you do that is by guiding the spherical characters to the exits in a series of physics puzzles (the game contains 70 levels at the time of this writing). Along the way, you’ll have to avoid whatever dangers await, from pits and poisonous ooze, to smashing hammers and laser beams.
Hurry, SpongeBob! SpongeBobs, rather.
The one tool you can always rely on to help you through your adventure is a can of spray paint. By drawing on the screen, you can paint walls, slides, and platforms to guide the marbles toward the exit. It comes in a limited supply, however, so you’ll have to use it conservatively. Once you’ve drawn lines that will bring your marbles to the exit unharmed, you hit the start button and watch the marbles obey the laws of gravity.
But you don’t have to rely entirely on physics to get the marbles to the exit. You can tilt the device to nudge the marbles in the right direction. Some levels also come with fun elements like magnets, portals, canons, and pinball flippers that you can use. The best levels end up feeling like zany playgrounds, with marbles rolling, sliding, and bouncing toward the finish line. The the worst ones feel like unbridled chaos over which you have little control.
Often, this is due to the game’s floaty physics. The marbles move sluggishly, and tilting the device doesn’t have much effect on the marbles. We realize that this is somewhat realistic because the action takes place underwater, but it does seem to affect the gameplay negatively. Other physics issues can hamper the experience as well, like when the marbles become bottlenecked in your hand-drawn funnels, or when one gets stuck on a line you painted.
Banksy was here.
Also, the game is very wordy. The story is fairly interesting, but you’re presented with line after line of written dialogue before starting just about every level. It’s all a little much, especially when you’re enjoying the gameplay and just want to get to the action.
On the plus side, the game tracks loads of stats for each level, including your score, your time, and the percentage of available ink you used. You also get a Patty rank (up to four cheeseburgers) for your performance on each level. Unfortunately, there are no leaderboards.
But the graphics are colorful and fun, and the music fits perfectly, and overall the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Older gamers will probably find the game too easy, but kids are obviously the target audience. And if they’re fans of SpongeBob they’ll enjoy this game, provided they are old enough to read and solve basic physics-based problems.