Game Review: Fun, Silly “Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton Rising”

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - boxSpongebob Squarepants and his pals live in an idyllic spot under the sea called Bikini Bottom. Spongebob works at a popular restaurant called The Krusty Krab where it’s endless fun and chaos and, to be honest, he’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. The problem is that there’s a nefarious underwater thief called Plankton (boooo!) who is desperate to steal the recipe for the famous Krabby Patty and open his own restaurant! Worse, Plankton’s not alone, he has a gang of fellow villains and they’re all collaborating to acquire this gastronomic delight.

Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton Rising picks up the story by challenging 1-4 players to work together to serve up enough customer orders at The Krusty Krab before Plankton steals the recipe! It’s a whimsical race to keep Plankton and his minions in check while building your team and completing those precious food orders before it’s too late!

Targeting ages 8 and above, Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton Rising is fun, fast, and guaranteed to draw groans as bad things happen and laughs as Plankton is foiled time and again. Each player chooses either Spongebob, Patrick, Mr. Krabs, or Squidward as their character, then build up their team to be able to quickly foil villains and complete those all-important food orders.

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS PLANKTON RISING SETUP

Let’s start with the basic game setup and components:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - starting setup layout

The center of the board is The Krusty Krab and you can see that it’s divided into two areas, the Dining Room and the Kitchen (with Mr. Krab’s office off to a side). The huge bucket figure is Plankton (booo!), who moves around in his desperate attempts to steal the Krab Patty recipe. There are white cubes – time counters – and orange cubes – theft counters – along with a batch of small square Spatula Tokens (purple edged, on the top left), Team Tokens are immediately below and the Friend Dice are below that. Notice that there are four red dice and two each of green, yellow and blue. Below those are the smaller Plankton Action Cards.

Lower center are Player Base Cards, in this setup one for Spongebob and one for Mr. Krabs, the two characters I’m playing in this solo playthru. On the top corner of each of those cards is their matching Team Token, and to the right is the matching Krusty Krab Card, as you’ll see in a moment. Finally, on the upper right are the Krabby Patty Ingredients Tiles. As Plankton proceeds, he marks stolen portions of each ingredient with orange cubes: When the particular tile fills up, it flips over. If they all flip over that pesky Plankton has stolen the Krabby Patty recipe and won the game.

Looking at it a bit closer, here’s Spongebob’s House playing card and the corresponding Krusty Krab Card for Spongebob:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - close up of spongebob's house

Spongebob’s starting dice are two red and one yellow and his card specifies that if you have at least one additional muscle (“effort” in the game parlance) friend, you’ll get an additional yellow die for each and every turn. This is quite important! As you build your team, you’ll be able to get more and more Friend Dice, which makes everything you have to accomplish easier.

You’ll keep acquiring Krusty Krab Cards to fulfill orders and build up your team, so let’s have a closer look at those. These cards can be Friends (like Frankie Billy and Marty, below), Villains (like that darn Squilliam Fancyson III), or Orders (below it’s a tasty Krabby Patty with Coral Bits):

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - krusty krab cards

Each has a Team indicated on the top left. Notice that Frankie Billy and that Krabby Patty Order are both trophy (“Teamwork”), while Marty is BFF (do I really need to tell you what that stands for?). Squilliam is EVIL so it says so on his card.

The other set of cards are called Plankton Action Cards, though they’re confusingly labeled “Chum Bucket”:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - Plankton Action Cards

Each turn has the player flipping over a Plankton Action Card, which specifies where Plankton’s going to be for this turn – in the displayed card, he stays in his Chum Bucket, not harassing anyone at the Krusty Krab, but he could be in the Dining Room or Kitchen too – and also shows what portion of the Krabby Patty he successfully absconds this turn. How do you note that theft? With an orange cube on that particular tile. In fact, here’s that first card’s theft marked:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - krabby patty tiles with theft tokens

Once all of the squares on a tile are filled up, it flips over and causes additional mayhem for the players. If all of the tiles are flipped over, Plankton’s stolen the full Krabby Patty recipe and you lose.

PLAYING SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: PLANKTON RISING

Play is simple and straightforward, with each turn comprised of four steps: Move your team to either the Dining Room or Kitchen, flip over a Plankton Action Card (which moves Plankton and causes the theft of a recipe element), pick, roll and assign Friend Dice, then resolve Friend Dice and do any necessary end-of-turn actions. Then it’s the next player’s turn.

For the very first turn, Spongebob doesn’t have any friends on his team yet, so his Friend Dice are two red, one yellow. Note that each color die has a different x2 face: red = BFF (friendship), yellow = muscle (effort), green = trophy (teamwork), blue = ukelele (fun). Since acquiring cards and performing actions require a certain number of each, different color combination makes it more or less likely that you can achieve those particular combinations.

Here are Spongebob’s starting dice:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - spongebob's starting turn

You aren’t stuck with your initial roll, however, because you can reroll “n-1” dice iteratively, so I could re-roll 2 of these dice, then re-reroll 1 if I really wanted to do so. The die you aren’t re-rolling does have to be placed on a card you seek to acquire or impact first, however, so sometimes you get everything you want and other times, well, things don’t quite work out. For example, I had two effort markers on this Krabby Patty order and rerolled the yellow hoping for a ukelele (fun) to come up, but it didn’t:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - placing dice to complete food order

In this instance, I ended up wasting my dice, which happens on an unlucky roll. There are always four Krusty Krab cards laid out on each of the dining room and kitchen sides of the Krusty Krab. Those are what you’re trying to acquire (depending on which side of the restaurant you’ve moved to beforehand). Acquire one or more and they’re immediately replaced from the deck.

You can see all of this more clearly in the following:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - in the kitchen

This is further along in the game where Spongebob has completed the Krabby Patty order and acquired Frankie Billy on his team. Note on the Krabby Patty that Plankton has been busy stealing things too (as shown by the orange cubes on the tiles). In this turn, the Plankton Action Card has moved Plankton into the Kitchen, which is a problem because that’s where Spongebob is too! Plankton showing up adds a Time Counter (the white cube) to each Friend in the kitchen card row along with everyone on Spongebob’s team since they’re also in the kitchen, as shown above. The bad news continues because Villainous Squilliam Fancyson III’s power is that if Plankton shows up, he causes every Friend to get another Time Counter. If a Friend’s spaces fill up with those white cubes, they’re kicked out of Bikini Bottom for the rest of the game. If ten are kicked out, you’ve lost the game!

Fortunately, when you acquire a Friend to join your team, all of their Time Counters are removed, a handy way to add capabilities while simultaneously avoiding that too-many-kicked-out problem. Each time you complete a food order, you also get a Spatula (the little square tokens) which turn out to be like bonus dice rolls. Much further along, Mr. Krab’s rolling two red, a green, a blue, and has a BFF (friendship) spatula. Spongebob has two spatula tokens too, a ukelele (fun) and a BFF (friendship). Since it’s co-op, Spongebob can offer one or more to Mr. Krab at any time, effectively meaning that Mr. Krab’s rolling the equivalent of 7 dice:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - dice plus spatulas

That’s about everything in the game demonstrated. The only additional element is that it’s hard to get rid of Villains. To do so you need to match the die faces shown on its card with your dice roll and any spatulas you might have twice. Like this:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - kicking out a villain

Notice on the lower portion of the card that Doodlebob requires one trophy (teamwork), one strength (effort), and one BFF (friendship), as matched. This then lets you fill in one of the two boxes on its card: Fill in the second one and they vanish. Yes, they’re tough to eliminate!

That’s everything. The game moves pretty quickly and the more you know the mythos of Spongebob Squarepants and the world of The Krusty Krab and Bikini Bottom, the more amusing you’ll find this game. It’s rated for ages 8 and up, which feels about right, and the solo game is fun, though I find myself racing to complete orders while generally ignoring Plankton’s thefts. I won this particular game handily, completing 7 orders well before I ran out of time:

spongebob squarepants plankton rising game - game over win

Notice how big the teams got and that I did lose one Friend to Time Counters (on the top left). Plankton never really got too close to stealing the Krabby Patty recipe, however, so I had plenty of time if I wanted to complete more food orders. The easy game level is 7 orders, but you can choose up to 10 for a tougher game.

THOUGHTS ON THE GAME

The Op is becoming a powerhouse for fun family games with popular commercial themes, and Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton Rising is a great example. This is a fun game that will take 5-10 minutes to explain and lends itself to lots of replay with its mix of characters, villains, and flexibility in terms of player strategies. Solo mode is fun and the theme is delightful; all of my older kids grinned and started singing the Spongebob Squarepants theme when they saw this box on the table.

My only complaints are that the phrase “Chum Bucket” on the back of the Plankton Action Cards is a bit confusing when you start playing and that the colors of the squares you fill in on the Villain cards is confusing because it suggests there’s a relationship to the Friend Dice colors, but, in fact, they’re just boxes to fill with Time Counters. Why not just have them white in that case?

Tiny nitpicking aside, I really like Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton Rising. If you’ve got little ‘uns who like a game that requires advance planning and teamwork, all packaged up in a super fun theme, this is definitely one to check out! And if you don’t have kids but still love the world of Bikini Bottom, this is guaranteed to produce a chuckle and some amusing banter at your next game night.

Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton Rising, from The Op. Ages 8+, 1-4 players, 45-60 minutes per game. $39.99 at Amazon.com

Disclaimer: The Op sent me a copy of this game for the purposes of this review. Thanks!

dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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