Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Nicktoons Movin'

Though more EyeToy games were released following EyeToy: Groove, not many of them were released in the US, where instead the third game to be released for the peripheral was Nicktoons Movin’. Based on various Nickelodeon shows, it became the first EyeToy game in the US to not be developed by London Studio as well as the first to be based on a licensed property. In an effort to complete my EyeToy collection, I found this one for cheap at a local game store, not knowing what to expect going in. Once I played it, however, I walked away a bit disappointed for reasons beyond its content.

The core gameplay consists of 13 minigames based on five of Nickelodeon’s popular shows at the time, those being SpongeBob SquarePants (SpongeBob), The Fairly OddParents (FOP), Danny Phantom, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (Jimmy Neutron) and Rocket Power. In what seems to be a clear case of favoritism, the distribution of minigames between these shows is skewed in favor of SpongeBob, which gets four games, and FOP, which gets three, while the rest only get two. Additionally, there is a multiplayer function in which two to eight players can compete for points between one to 13 (odd numbers) rounds, with the winner getting to pick the next minigame and the option to also have said winner spin for additional points. While motion controls are required to play these games, a standard controller is necessary to navigate the main menus while some menus beyond that have the option to use both standard or motion controls, which is presented more overtly than in EyeToy: Groove.

One thing I will compliment the game on is that the visuals feature perfect recreations of the series’ art styles in 3D, Jimmy Neutron being more of a given, though the SpongeBob models noticeably look a little off, especially Patrick’s with his lower jaw. The UI design also has a very consistent Nickelodeon feel to it and each minigame is preceded by an appropriate clip from their respective series, such as Krabby Patty Match featuring a clip from SpongeBob SquarePants S1E11 “Pickles” where SpongeBob constructs a Krabby Patty. The voice actors from each of the five shows also return for this game, lending it more of a degree of authenticity that, when combined with the visuals, shows some care was put into making it feel like a Nickelodeon game.

The game, however, has some issues that bog the experience down a bit. The biggest issue is the implementation of motion controls, which, when compared to EyeToy: Play and Groove, feel uninspired to say the least and come with some spotty hit detection at times even while standing at the optimal distance from the TV. While some of the minigame are passable, most of them don’t really take much advantage of the motion control gimmick at all, as they more often than not require simply rubbing on-screen arrows or the edge of the screen to do anything, coming across as very lazy. The worst offenders in this regard are Magical Mix Up (FOP), which is a simple unscramble puzzle; Portal Party (Danny Phantom), which requires awkwardly rubbing the edge of a field to move around; and Hanging Out (Rocket Power), which involves manipulating hotspots on the screen in order to awkwardly fly through rings.

The best minigame in my opinion, however, is Rocket Hockey (Rocket Power), which actually places you in the role of a goalie in street hockey as you stop pucks from flying at you. Regardless of one’s opinions on Rocket Power, this one seemed to actually take more advantage of the EyeToy’s capabilities, which only made me wonder why the rest of the minigames weren’t more like that.

The box back makes it look more fun than it actually is.

Another issue is SpongeBob and Patrick acting as the hosts for the entire game. Now I’m a big fan of the first three Seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants, but these two characters do not stop talking and feel the need to say something every few seconds. Fortunately, you can disable them completely by turning Host Voices off in the Options menu. Having played the majority of my session with the Host Voices on, however, I noticed some wasted potential with this; I understand that SpongeBob was, and still is, Nickelodeon’s flagship series and their biggest cash cow, however I felt it might have been better if characters from each series had a chance to host their respective minigames (ex. Danny hosting the Danny Phantom games or Jimmy hosting the Jimmy Neutron games).

As for its bonus content, the game includes trailers for then-upcoming Nickelodeon product, including Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, The Fairly OddParents: Shadow Showdown, Jimmy Neutron: Attack of the Twonkies, and the SpongeBob SquarePants Season 2 DVD. Most notable, however, is an early pre-release promo for Avatar: The Last Airbender, which features an alternate version of the show’s opening narration and what seems like a slightly different visual style than what ultimately aired on TV.

Though it excels in the visual design, the gameplay of Nicktoons Movin’ is lacking and doesn’t take much advantage of the peripheral it was designed for. Aside from those trying to complete their EyeToy collection and/or desperately seeking out early 00s Nickelodeon nostalgia, this one is more difficult to recommend.

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