THQ Wii Day: SpongeBob Squarepants Drawn to Life impressions

Before we begin, let me address those who sucked their teeth and snapped their fingers in the face of THQ after SpongeBob Squarepants Drawn to Life was announced on Wednesday. While it may seem like a “quick cash in” by pairing a well-received game with a popular franchise, there’s a bit more to it than that.

You see, back in 2002 (five years before the release of 5TH Cells Drawn to Life), an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants called “Frankendoodle” was aired. In this episode, a magic pencil falls into the sea, and anything drawn with its cursed lead comes to life. SpongeBob shoddily draws himself, creating the sinister and mischievous DoodleBob who wreaks havoc on Bikini Bottom.

So you see, it was Drawn to Life that was actually cashing in on an idea from an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants. Or was it the PlayStation 2 role-playing game Magic Pengel or its sequel? No use arguing about it – SpongeBob Squarepants Drawn to Life is most certainly coming to the Nintendo DS this Fall, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

While one could argue that a SpongeBob Squarepants game doesn’t necessarily need a reason to exist, this particular game happens to have a plot. In what I guess you could call a “sequel” to the aforementioned “Frankendoodle” episode, Spongebob’s hare-brained pal Patrick draws DoodleBob back to life. One series of ill-fated events lead to another, and DoodleBob gets his own magic pencil which he uses to sketch baddies who then make Bikini Bottom a rotten underwater vacation spot.

In this title, you don’t play as SpongeBob, instead using the magic pencil to design your own “super hero” to battle Doodle Bob and rescue your friends. The character creation will look similar to anyone who has played the original Drawn to Life, with spots to sketch the head, body, legs, arms, and hands. Each part is segmented and will be drawn in its own separate box, for each will animate accordingly; legs will walk, hands will be used for punching, etc.

Also like in Drawn to Life, the level of detail is completely up to you. In the demo I saw, a character was simply created using a blob for a head and very crude shapes for the rest of the body. Of course, if you wish to design a more detailed superhero, it will be possible to zoom in and spend more time with each body part. Whether or not this game’s demographic will spend time detailing their custom character remains to be seen, but it’s nice that they’ll have the in-depth customization options. It’s more likely every eight-year-old’s character will look like a turd with legs, which – the more I think about it – is probably how I will make my character look … on purpose.

Once designed, the character is exported into the game, which appears to play like a traditional side-scrolling platformer. The on-screen blob with legs that I saw hopped about the screen, impressively animated from the player’s sketches, and was even capable of doing a Mario-esque butt stomp from mid-air. The magic pencil can also be used in-game as well, for things like drawing check points (I will draw a turd), platforms (I will draw floating turds), and re-drawing enemies once defeated (I will make them all look like … you get the idea).

The game will feature 20 areas, each of which has its own specific objective; the first one I saw was a quest to rescue SpongeBob himself, the poor thing. Unfortunately, THQ aren’t talking about the game’s supported multiplayer versus modes, but there’s plenty of time for them to spill the beans – SpongeBob Squarepants Drawn to Life isn’t set to drop until Fall 2008.

Nick Chester