Nickelodeon has a history of making great online games that were fairly large, immersive and focused on one gameplay-type. This time they wanted to try a new approach to bring something fresh to the roster with a mini-game format. This meant commissioning four smaller games instead of one larger one, which provides the user with more variety and a style of play that’s faster to get into.
It made a lot of sense to first try this new approach with one of their most loved properties: SpongeBob Squarepants. Creatively we had a lot of room to come back to them with something completely new, so long as it followed the mini-game format.
We wanted game ideas that felt fresh and slightly bizarre (in keeping with the feel of the SpongeBob Squarepants brand!) and the gameplay felt different to anything that had gone before it amongst the Nick stable (of which, when you’re talking Spongebob, there’s quite a few!)
We proposed going with an overall theme of “Bedtime in Bikini Bottom”. Each mini-game would take place in a character’s dream whilst they sleep. Keeping this as our creative theme across the games allowed us to design gameplay around each character’s unique fears, insecurities and desires. Using dreams as a setting allows us to dive into the SpongeBob SquarePants unique and surreal humour.
Of upmost importance was to design gameplay that was addictively challenging for the 7-12 year old target audience. This means making them easy enough to get into but tough enough to keep players coming back for more in order to master it and improve their score!
Coming up with an overall narrative theme that hadn’t been done before (there are a huge amount of SpongeBob games already out there!) And that would give us the creative freedom to do something really cool with the game design.
We wanted to really push the boat out with these mini games by encompassing gameplay that was new and different in the context of the existing games on the Nick website. This inevitably meant building games that were quite tricky to make and optimise on slower mobile devices! “Glide to Glory” for example, makes use of a full physics engine and infinitely scrolling programmable levels, which meant doing a lot of clever memory management and engine optimisations to get a constantly high frame rate on older devices (such as the original iPad mini).
The suite of 4 mini games sits against a theme of allowing the player to step inside the dreams and nightmares of the sleeping inhabitants of Bikini Bottom. This allowed us to go crazy with the game ideas and marry each idea to a dream or nightmare that specific character is having, allowing us to really bring the personality the brand to the fore.
Fan’s of the show will know that Gary (SpongeBob’s pet snail) hates bath time, so we built a game around Gary having a nightmare that SpongeBob is chasing after him with a soapy sponge endlessly trying to give him a bath! Similarly the character traits of a mean-spirited Squidward, an optimistic SpongeBob or maniacal Plankton are firmly on show.
We made sure all 4 games had completely different gameplay from physics stacker to happy-slapper, endless-slitherer to side-scrolling physics glider. We then added two types of power-up. One that is earned and used in-game and another even more powerful power-up that works cross-game, meaning it can be earned in one game, then spent in another if desired. The first type helps Nick present the games one at a time as stand alone-offerings, while the second type really helps glue the games together as a set, allowing the player more spectacular outcomes (and better scores!) if they play them as a whole.
‘Bedtime in Bikini Bottom’ has consistently been one of Nickelodeons top performing games since launch, proving to be popular with kids over a sustained period. We think this is down to the marriage of a strong brand with innovative and addictive gameplay, wether thats stacking burgers into an infinite tower with real physics, or slapping back an endless army of super-happy SpongeBobs trying to hug you, with expert timing!
This was our first venture into creating a set of mini games, we vaguely knew what we wanted but needed a fair amount of guidance. Peg took the idea, rolled with it, and came up with a brilliant set of games which link together perfectly. SpongeBob is a hard property to take on board as there are so many rules, but Peg understood these from the off-set and still managed to produce a set of games unlike any we had on our sites at the time. They have bundles of humour, are really addictive and so fun to play!