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SpongeBob Moves In

For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

First, second, and third impressions

Product: SpongeBob Moves In | Developer: Nickelodeon Kids & Family Games Group | Publisher: Nickelodeon Kids & Family Games Group | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Strategy, Time management | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 2.00
SpongeBob Moves In iPhone, thumbnail 1
This is a (sort of) freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about. Click on the links to jump straight to day three or day seven.

I'm ready!

Ready, that is, to play another freemium game for seven days to see whether it's worth recommending.

This week it's off to Bikini Bottom to catch up with SpongeBob SquarePants and his aquatic pals.

After being thoroughly bored by the builder game I played last week, I'm hoping this one from Nickelodeon is more entertaining.

First impressions

What is the defining property of a "freemium" game?

Is it the presence of waiting periods while things build? Is it the inclusion of pay walls that force you to cough up money, or spend an age grinding resources until you can progress? Or is it simply the fact of a game being free, but with optional payments?

If it's solely the latter, then perhaps this isn't a freemium game at all, as I've been charged £2.49 (that's $3.99, America) for the privilege of downloading and playing it.

But if it's either of the first two, SpongeBob Moves In absolutely fits that description, because from what I've played so far this is an exercise in creating and gathering resources, completing missions, ranking up, and creating more buildings.

You know, the usual freemium stuff.

I'd say that I'm enjoying the visuals - as I'm a fan of the TV show on which it's based - but SpongeBob doesn't quite look right. His spongy yellow face is too square (he's actually rectangular), and he's gained a bit of a chin that now protrudes from his shorts.

Even the voice actor playing him sounds wrong - almost bored. I hope that's not a sign of things to come.

Day 3: Tasteless

I adore the soundtrack in SpongeBob Moves In. It's probably one of the biggest reasons for the significant download size, but it's worth every single byte.

IAPs explained
Your premium currency for purchasing certain content and speeding up actions is Jelly.

You can purchase Jelly for as little as 69p / 99c for 25 Jars, and it's an absolute rip-off. Say you want to buy Squilliam's Tower: well, that's premium-only content and will cost you 250 Jelly Jars.

You can also purchase a measly 100 Coins for 69p / 99c. 100 Coins will barely buy you a few burgers, let alone anything you would actually want in your town.
With a laidback, easygoing vibe, the score is filled with sliding, leaning, flowing Hawaiian guitars that, though evocative of an island landscape, never fall into cliché. It's delectable stuff.

It certainly makes the repetitive gameplay a little easier to swallow - not to mention the nagging feeling that I've paid good money for a game that, without the licence, would have been free.

The overall goal seems to be finding a balance between completing Quests to earn experience, fulfilling the food-based Wishes of the populace for bonuses, and expanding your version of Bikini Bottom to include more Bottomites.

You run out of Coins very quickly, though, and completing actions still takes time. You have to wait for crops to grow, you have to wait for patties to cook, you have to wait for buildings to build, you have to...

Wait a second. I'm running out of resources quickly, and I have to wait for my actions to complete so that I can play the game more, and I have to pay for the game up front?

I get the appeal of building your own version of the Bikini Bottom of the TV show, and I like the little nods to elements of the series that only fans will appreciate - the Tattletale Strangler was a nice touch - but none of this is desirable enough to justify the entry fee when combined with the other freemium elements.

Day 7: Getting Krabby

If SpongeBob Moves In were free, I'd be telling you that it's your run-of-the-mill builder - the kind you've played many times before, albeit one with a slight tilt towards halting your progress with significant grind.

However, SpongeBob Moves In is not free.

I'm at a point now where moving a central character into my town - the grumpy but loveable Squidward - is going to cost me an arm, a leg, and 12 hours of real time. Unless I'd like to pay to speed up the process with a little premium currency, of course.

This is a main character, in a game I paid for, who will take half a day to have move in.

There are the typical hooks that will grab you if you let them: setting up your town just right with decorations, the compulsive levelling systems, the desire to see everything the game has hidden away. But it does nothing more than other games like this do. Just more expensively.

All of the challenges you're set are very similar to one another, asking you to make some of this, some of that. When you're tasked with making Krabby Patties – a signature dish in the SpongeBob world – you'll curse Mr Krabs's existence, because it's one of many items on the menu that contain several components, and so take a long time to make.

If you've played freemium builders before, there's little to hold your interest in SpongeBob Moves In, besides the licence. It's a pretty standard take on the genre, and you'll rarely feel rewarded for progress you make.

I do still love the music, and it's clearly the best aspect of the game - but if that's what you're after then you're probably better off watching this rather than shelling out your hard-earned money.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.
SpongeBob Moves In
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 20 June 2013
A basic freemium builder with a cartoon skin. A pricey game to get into, SpongeBob Moves In definitely sounds the part, but it doesn't quite look it
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