Thursday, July 27, 2017

Plug n Play Game Corner: Spongebob Squarepants The Fry Cook Games

Guess what?! It's been a year since I featured the first Plug n Play game on this blog! Guess what?! Nobody cares! ...Still, I guess this is as good a time as any to feature another Spongebob game. Like the Fry Cook Games for example!

Game: Spongebob Squarepants The Fry Cook Games
Manufacturer:Jakks Pacific
Release Date: 2005
Genre: Sports

Ah. One year since this blog started. And what exactly has happened in all that time?

I introduced you all to my love of brick sets and stop motion, as well as my avatar Brick Miser, who has evolved into the goofy, self-absorbed, Pink Lady-chasing character we know today! ...Or is that a devolution?

Heck, we introduced the Pink Lady last year in a review of Inside Out minifigures. And she's established herself as such a good foil to Brick Miser, that she went from character-of-the-episode to a recurring character! And soon, she'll have her own time in the spotlight!

I first began showing off my Plug n Play collection and gave you a short history of this niche of gaming with the Bikini Bottom 500 review!

The Mighty Legion Cheetah Transformer Team made their debut as the monster-mashing, terrorist-trashing team they are today! And don't worry, they WILL be showing up again in the near future.

I showed that even if something's a Plug n Play system made for little kids, it doesn't have to be terrible with the Bob the Builder game!

 I dedicated an entire month to the 20th anniversary of Pokemon! ...Which quickly became a dedicated WEEK thanks to some delays, but it did all get released in the end!

Star Wars Rogue One was released and I did a tie-in set review and Star Wars Plug n Play review to celebrate!

I did my first annual Advent Calendar unboxing!

I sunk to new lows by featuring a "POP Station" game!

I did my first subscription box unboxing!

I began a comic featuring a mystical brick with legs who questions the very foundations of the universe(and yet has no bellybutton.)

And, after a several month hiatus, Brick Miser returned, caught in the Fast & Furious universe!

But the greatest thing that happened in the previous year? The thing that towers above all the rest and lets me know life isn't a completely pointless experience highlighted by pain and misery?!

I got to do a Cinema Snob tribute! ... Which really SHOULD have convinced me life is nothing but pain and misery, but I digress...

And for the pedantic among you, yes, I know that my blog technically started earlier last year in March. However, I don't really count my intro or the rant as official posts, and the Mega Bloks Call of Duty sets really aren't interesting enough to make an annual thing(I'll be featuring more, just not as some special event.) Therefore, in celebration of my first Plug n Play review of Bikini Bottom 500, I'm basing the anniversary of my blog around other Plug n Play consoles in the unbelievably long Spongebob Squarepants line. ...It's nice to know that no matter how far you get, you always end up right back at the beginning...

Today, I present to you: Spongebob Squarepants: The Fry Cook Games! ...Yes, it's a console built like Spongebob in spandex...

Let's just get a front view of that obnoxiously goofy mug, shall we? It looks like he's trying to look determined to win the competition, but he just ate a box of bran muffins and there will be trouble if he doesn't get to a bathroom and fast.

The straps on his sweatband and singlet don't reach all the way around, so I have no idea how they're staying on. Then again, we're discussing the physiology of a sponge with legs, eyes, and a mouth that looks more like the kitchen variety than the kind actually at the bottom of the sea.

And yes, you guessed right, control is accomplished by grabbing his comedically oversized nose that looks like a cross between Jimmy Durante's and Pinocchio's. ...Maybe that's the source of his discomfort...

 And we have the standard A & B buttons, where A is usually the only button that does anything, while B mostly backs out of a choice. So now you know which button pays the check at the end of dinner.

Interestingly, this is a Plug n Play console with Jakks Pacific's "Game Key" trademark. I briefly mentioned it in my Scooby-Doo Mystery of the Castle review, but here, we actually have a game with a slot! And it has a key made for it!

Unfortunately, I don't have the key for this game. I was looking into getting it, but then I found out the included games were later repackaged into the Spongebob Jellyfish Dodge game, which I own, so I'll just hold off until I feature that game. Unless I passively find the Game Key at a thrift store before then, in which case, I'll do a quick update here.

This is another Jakks Pacific/HotGen-developed game, which I'm surprised we haven't come across more of here.

 Not much to add about Jakks Pacific since my short summary in the Bob the Builder review, but HotGen was apparently acquired by California-based Skyrocket Toys late last year, which is a company famous for their Sky Viper R/C air drones, their app-controlled Mebo robots, and a lot of prank toys. However, the Wikipedia page doesn't cite its source and I haven't found any news articles or the like about this acquisition, nor any updates to the company's social media, so take that information with a grain of salt.

 The Fry Cook Games, as you might infer from the title, is an Olympics-style competition where everyone competes in Krusty Krab-themed events to qualify for medals.

This game shares a name with the Spongebob episode of the same name, but besides one or two events being similar to events in that episode, they're very loosely connected. And I haven't seen it, so I'm not going to point out every similarity and difference between the two.

 You have a choice between playing as Spongebob or Patrick. I went ahead as Spongebob, since I don't care for this series and he's the lesser of two evils.

The game has a Training mode, where you can practice each event and their ascending difficulties, but since I'm hardcore(or embarrassingly stupid), I went straight for the Competition.

There's also a Multiplayer option, where players take turns in each event to see who comes out on top, but since I'm going solo, I didn't bother too much with it.

The game is split into 5 different zones, each representing a qualifying event to get to the next area:

Bikini Bottom Qualifiers
The Krusty Krab Open
Jellyfish Fields Invitational
Goo Lagoon Championships
The Fry Cook Games

Each zone differs in the number of events to compete in and how difficult each event will be, with Bikini Bottom Qualifiers having the fewest events and lowest difficulty and The Fry Cook Games having the most events and highest difficulty.

 For each event, you compete against computer players to try to get the top score in whatever the goal is(fastest time, most correct combinations, highest number of points, etc.) After you've completed the event, you're taken to the Results screen to see how you did compared to the other competitors, each assigned a place from 1st to 7th. Depending on your position, you are awarded between 6 and 0 points

Which are then added to the total tally on the Leader Board, with the one with the most points in first place. This means that you don't necessarily have to be proficient in every event to take the lead. If you're terrible in some events, but excel in others, you could still earn enough points to leap ahead of the rest and take first position. That REALLY helped me while playing this game, since I was indeed really good at some and terrible in others, but I'll get into that in a second.

After all events are completed, the three highest scores are awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals.

If you won the Gold at the end of the last zone, the next zone is unlocked for you to compete in.

Keep at it, and eventually, you'll make it to The Fry Cook Games themselves!

Since the events are shared and split among each of the 5 zones, it's pointless to go through and comment on each zone's lineup. Instead, I'll just give you the rundown on each event in the game and what I thought of it.


Runaway Tray: This is the event that starts off EVERY zone. You control Spongebob or Patrick holding a plate of food and try to get to the end of the track as fast as you can while avoiding hurdles. Each time you smack into a hurdle, you slow down and you lose a piece of food, which further demerits your score at the end. But if you time it right, you can get a speed boost by pressing Right right when the whistle blows and when you hit the ground after leaping over a hurdle.

I never did that well in this event. I could never figure out the right time to jump or use my speed boost, so I always ended up inevitably crashing into the hurdles. And that's when I was lucky enough to push the stick in the right direction at the right time. It has to be EXACT, like the same split-second you hit the ground! But in the end, the speed boosts just slowed me down since all I did was run or jump directly into the hurdles and lose precious milliseconds. I could never get to the end within the target time nor without losing any food.

Until the last time I did it, when I somehow managed to leap over every hurdle at full speed without spilling any food! ...But even THAT wasn't fast enough to reach the target time...

Also, for some reason, in all but that last time in The Fry Cook Games, whenever I jumped over the hurdles, I would slow down! I don't know if this was an intentional feature or some sort of glitch, but it made getting anywhere in this event impossible...

Air Patty: Basically this game's equivalent to hackey sack. Keep the burger up in the air by jumping while also performing tricks to up your point count.

I didn't have that much of a problem with this one, but I didn't excel at it either. You're expected to perform tricks while the burger is in the air, then catch the burger before it drops to the ground. Most of the time, you're given just barely enough of a window to perform one trick, sometimes two if you're lucky. But quite often, the patty won't launch high enough to even give you enough leeway! I don't know if there's a trick to getting it to launch higher or if it's just random, but most of the time, I was just air juggling the patty while it was only barely above his head!

I'd also sometimes forget that I had to jump in order to juggle the patty and I'd reset the counter. Luckily, this mostly happened early enough to leave me plenty of time to raise the counter relatively high again.

You're also told to find all "12 Secret Moves" for bonus points. ...That's literally it. How do I know when I've found one? How can I hope to trigger one? Do I need to push any buttons at an exact time to trigger one? ...Never explained. And you're kept so busy juggling the patty and performing the normal moves, you're not given much time to experiment. I tried every button combination I could every chance I got, but I'd either just pull off a normal move or it wouldn't do anything. On the Results screen, they'd say I pulled ONE off. ...One out of TWELVE! Was this move the secret one? ...I have no idea...

Stack a Snack: You're making burgers by standing underneath falling ingredients with a bun. Whenever you have something on the bun, you push A to send it off and make the next one. Make the one pictured for bonus points.

This one was pretty fun. It reminded me of this one Lilo & Stitch game I'd play on the Disney Channel website in the early 00s, where you also had to catch falling sandwich ingredients to make the tallest sandwich possible. ...However, even on easy mode, this was a bit harder. The bun is much smaller and the hit detection isn't that great. You basically have to be EXACTLY under the ingredient to catch it, and it has to hit the middle to stay. Also, there's a literal storm of ingredients, all falling at different speeds, so it's easy to miss the target ingredient, or miss out on other ingredients because you're trying to complete the target sandwich and the needed ingredient is taking forever to arrive!

And like I mentioned, the ingredients have to be in the center to do any good. If you grab an ingredient and it lands anywhere other than dead center, then you run too quickly or another ingredient hits it at an angle, it drops. And you're penalized for it...

This is the first game where the difficulty increase is quite clear. At first, it's not that hard to make the target burgers or just build random sandwiches to earn points. But by The Fry Cook Games, you're being pummeled by a torrential rain of ingredients, running back and forth, desperately trying to get the target, upsetting your sandwich several times along the way... If you can make the target more than three times, I envy you... Still, this isn't the hardest game on here.

Patty Sauce Showdown: Their interpretation of clay shooting. In fact, I swear I saw these exact mechanics on an NES game. When patties enter the target area, tap Left for ketchup and Right for mustard. You can press A to fire them both, but then there's a short recharge period, so only use it when appropriate. Bonus points if you're able to douse each burger with both.

This was one of my stronger events, as I do feel like I have a relatively good sense of timing. Once you get the pattern down, it's not that difficult to judge when the burgers will enter the reticules and when each sauce must be squirted to hit the same burger. It's likely that you'll still miss a few, but the margin for error is relatively large, so you'll achieve a high score with only moderate difficulty.

Unfortunately, this is also an event that gets mind-blowingly harder with each zone. Especially when individual burgers start coming at you from both sides with no discernible pattern! If you can even get ONE sauce on these burgers as they fly by, consider yourself lucky! Take advantage of the twin burgers at every opportunity, since these are the easiest to double sauce*.

*Double Sauce. That's totally what I'm naming myself if I ever become a Skrillex tribute composer.

Grill Skating: Played DDR? You know how this one goes then. Push A or the stick in the direction given onscreen when the icon is in the middle of the green area. The closer it is to the middle, the higher the score.

This was my strongest event and the one I had the most fun with. It's also a timing-based game, but it's much easier to see what's next, and there's a consistent rhythm emphasized by a background metronome. So as long as you can get that "1 2" rhythm in your head, this is a walk in the park.

Even at its most difficult, you're almost guaranteed 100% accuracy. And the chance to see Spongebob/Patrick pirouette when you finish the red sections. I still haven't gotten Perfect with every step, but for this event, you don't need to for first place.

Jelly Flop: Somehow the most straightforward yet confusing event on this console... Every time Spongebob/Patrick lands on the jelly, you press the A button to shoot them higher. While in the air, you just waggle the joystick in different directions to build up a combo for points, which can be broken if you land while performing a combo. You can alternatively perform poses holding A and a direction, which give you a few points, but you get fewer and fewer the longer you hold it, so you need to constantly switch between poses AND combos. Plus you get bonus points for bouncing on your head and switching back and forth between the jellies. ...I think.

Yeah, I didn't get far with this one. Mostly it was just "push buttons, see what they do." According to the Leaderboard, this should have been an easy event to rack up points in, but no matter what I did, I would usually end up in last place or thereabouts. It was fun, but I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything...

It was especially frustrating trying to bounce between the jellies. To bounce, you need to press A at the EXACT same time you land, so to bounce to the other jelly, you need to press A and the direction at the EXACT right time! And this is usually when you're trying to finish a combo, so you'll end up with a broken combo and a slim chance that you'll bounce to the next jelly. My advice is to ignore trying to build up the score and just jump around. Jump around. Jump around. Jump up jump up and get down.

Dessert High Board: Similar to Grill Skating, but the goal here is to correctly input as many strings of directions as possible before you hit the ground. Get enough of them right and you'll acquire a dessert piece for bonus points. But be quick and watch for the ending combination to successfully dive into the chocolate pool.

This was also fun. I thought I was pretty good at it, but since it's an event based around speed and accuracy, it was easy to mess up. And when a sequence is messed up, you're forced to redo it. This can put a LOT of stress on you, but at the same time, challenge you to see how quickly you can work.

And it is rewarding to see Spongebob/Patrick successfully make their dive.

 Better than the alternative...

Pickle Barrel Dash: Another event relying on doing things as quickly as possible. Quickly determine the angle to throw the barrel and knock the pickles out of the air. Continue until the end of the stage and avoid jellyfish.

This is one I THOUGHT I had, but I could never get the hang of. The margin for error for this event is microscopically small, so if you miss one pickle or complete a puzzle a microsecond too slowly, you'll end up in last place. And seeing as how I continually messed up, I had no chance...

I did manage to avoid the jellyfish though. ...By continually overshooting them, so my slowdowns were pretty self-inflicted...

Deep Sea Diving: Finally, we have a game exclusive to The Fry Cook Games, and the final event on the console. This is basically a skydiving-esque game. Once again, speed is the name of the game, since you need to fly through the rings as quickly as possible, while also picking stuff up on the way down.

This game took me completely by surprise, since after having most of the events being repeated across each zone, I wasn't expecting a new and exclusive event right at the end. ...In hindsight, I probably should have, but it was refreshing to finish off the events with a final, unique test. And it has the most impressive graphics, with a pseudo-3D "Mode 7"-esque scaling method to give the impression the rings are growing. It's not as impressive as Bikini Bottom 500, but that was still 4 years off, so I'll give them a pass.

Once you've cleared the rings, Spongebob/Patrick opens a parachute and sails downward. ...I really would have liked it if there was a quicktime event right before then where you have a chance to screw up and have them plummet to the ground, but we can't always get what we want...

And those are the events to be found in this game. I hope I've stressed that they can be pretty difficult, because... the game is pretty difficult.

Admittedly, it's a fair difficulty. There aren't any huge difficulty spikes, and, like I suggested, not all the games seem to have noticeable challenge curves, so if you can master it the first time, you'll probably have a handle on it in subsequent levels. ...But it works the other way as well, so training for the events you're not perfect at(aka what I DIDN'T do) is recommended if you get stuck, because if you screw up the first time, it's not going to get any easier...

While you'll win first place in the earlier zones without breaking a sweat

Later arenas, as I've shown in the video, will take a few tries...

Heck, when I played this game, I won The Fry Cook Games by the skin of my teeth! And if this were any other game, I don't think it would have counted...

But when you win the game, before you think you can be crowned the king of the universe... There's still the Gallery!

Right before Xbox and PlayStation made it a mandatory feature, Jakks Pacific incorporated achievements and trophies to this game in the form of "Medals." Several different categories of medals even, from beating the "World's Record" high score in each event, to taking a certain place place in each arena, to completing an event in a certain way, and so on.

Every time you unlock a medal, it announces it at the end of the current event, where you can then head over to the Gallery to view it. ...I wonder if Jakks Pacific can sue for doing pointless achievements first?

I was tempted to 100% this game and unlock all the medals. ...But seeing how there's around a DOZEN medals each in SIX different categories, including several that require you to beat the game over again in a different way and several whose requirements are kept secret, there aren't enough hours in the week I can dedicate to this. So if there is some super duper maxi-extreme secret to be found by unlocking everything this game has to offer, you're unfortunately not going to be seeing it from me. ...Unless it's confirmed that there IS a secret that's more than a static screen AND the requirements for each medal are posted, in which case, I guess I could play it again and show you the ending... I'll be waiting...


Design: The console's not as surreal as the design to the Bikini Bottom 500 console, but it is still cartoonish and weird. It's a very well-designed sculpture of Spongebob and most of his head-torso, so you still have Spongebob staring up at you while you're playing the game... The fact that you grab his nose to control him in game is just surreal, and it kind of makes me sad they didn't go all the way and make the A and B buttons his teeth or something relating to his costume. It also would have been nice if the pattern continued on the back as opposed to having the bottom half just smooth, plain yellow plastic. Still, for what it is, it's a very creative design, which is more than can be said for most consoles featured on this blog...

Controls: It's your standard joystick-and-buttons layout, very similar to what we saw on the Star Wars Original Trilogy console. For the most part, they worked just fine and were responsive, but the joystick felt especially flimsy and loose due to its thin build and wear. It didn't necessarily affect anything, but there were times I briefly didn't go the right direction, even though I swear I pushed the joystick in the right direction. Still, it's responsive and works for what it's attached to. Better than what Cars had...

Graphics: The graphics are pretty nice, especially for the time. There's a good variety of colors, the sprites have a decent amount of frames in their animation, there are quite a few nicely detailed backgrounds, including some that scroll during certain events, and everything looks almost exactly like the cartoon, including the animations and humor. I'm also surprised they opted for the "bubble transition" the show uses as opposed to the quick cut to black most other games use while loading(which made editing the video impossible, but I digress.) There are even a few 3D elements in the game, especially with the Jelly Flop and Deep Sea Diving events, that give the sprites more depth than your typical 2D sports game. Not as many as Bikini Bottom 500,but this was before that game, so I won't hold that against them. I guess there could have been more fluidity in most of the animation transitions, since otherwise they look pretty jerky, but for a Spongebob sports game, everything looks better than expected.

Music & Sound: The music honestly sounds too cheery for a sports-themed game, even a goofy one. It just sounds like basic "minigame compilation fodder" that you could stick into any goofy cartoon game and it wouldn't sound out of place. It really needed some more "pumped-up" tracks, something to emphasize the competitiveness of this game, like guitar solos or techno beats or something along those lines. The sounds are also your basic cartoon effects. Splats, dings, whooshes, etc, all sub-SNES quality. In fact, a few sounds sounded ripped straight from A Link to the Past, including the "dinging" from pushing buttons in Dessert High Board. I don't detect any original sounds I haven't heard in other games, so it's just the standard cartoon sound pack. Overall, the score and sounds are just there to set a generic mood and nothing more.

Gameplay: It's another compilation of minigames, but they're minigames that actually amount to something! They're still about getting the highest score, but you're competing against computer players to score the highest at the end AND each event in each zone is linked together to see how high you can get your final score! It's invigorating to have a competition that actually challenges you and gives you a reason to improve your game. It's also interesting that each game can appeal to different talents, so you can score higher in some games than your friends, and vice versa, but you're still given the chance to win based on how well you perform in your field. It's actually the most Olympic-style game I've played so far! Everything's varied, everything's challenging, and there's fun to be found in each event. ...Oh, and the multiplayer feature is nice too, even if I couldn't use it...

Replay Value: This has the highest replay value I've come across with one of these consoles. Besides competing against the computer players to see by how much of a margin you can win each event, and competing against your friends to see who has the "skillz", there are a LOT of medals to collect for the Gallery for both visible and hidden achievements. The obvious achievements alone will add hours to gameplay, but if you decide to go for 100% completion, expect to be spending the rest of your LIFE trying to figure out the secret medals. You can also practice each game to see how much better you can do, unlocking different levels(and medals) along the way, which will really help strengthen your game for the tougher arenas. There is a LOT to do in this game if you feel up to it.


This is one of those Plug n Play games I can call a "game." It has variety, structure, goals, good graphics, and even replay value, which is exceptionally rare with these systems. If you ported it to an early game system like the SNES or Genesis, I wouldn't have noticed. For them to have put THIS much effort into something clearly just leeching off the popularity of Spongebob, that is mind blowing! I might have scored it higher if, the music was more fitting, there was a bit more humor to it, and, most importantly, I actually liked Spongebob, but I can't recommend the actual gameplay highly enough! If you're into Spongebob or have kids or a friend into Spongebob and you want to get them something they won't immediately be bored with, then track this game down!

Thus we've celebrated our first anniversary! Be sure to like and follow, and stay tuned for more updates from Rick's Blog!

...Rick's Blog? ...Wait...