This pineapple is rotten.

SpongeBob Moves In is a city-building game that lets you assemble a life for Mr. Squarepants. You know, just in case you weren’t totally convinced that he does live in a pineapple under the sea. SpongeBob Moves In lacks polish and is slow and clunky at times, but its biggest sin is its price: the game costs $3.99 USD, but expects you to buy and dish out premium currency at the same pace as its free-to-play brethren. Talk about a monetization scheme that’s worthy of Squidward’s deepest frown.

SpongeBob Moves In begins as soon as SpongeBob’s parents drop him off in Bikini Bottom (population: 8). The tiny town lingers on the edge of death; its few inhabitants are grey, sad fish-people with nothing to do except watch the tumble-seaweeds roll by.

SpongeBob Moves In

SpongeBob’s arrival changes all that. He sets up his pineapple house, procures his beloved burger-flipping job at the Krusty Krab, and uses his earnings to turn Bikini Bottom from a weed-ravaged wasteland to a city worth living in (especially if you love burgers).

SpongeBob gathers up funds by collecting rent from the denizens of Bikini Bottom. Curiously, he can also get paid by fulfilling “wishes,” many of which involve serving townspeople types of food that they’re craving. For instance, you can grow lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, and then fry up a beef(?) patty to build a Krabby patty. If you feed the burger to a townsperson who has an image of a Krabby patty floating above his or her head, he or she will reward you with coins. In some instances, you may also gain access to new items and recipes. 

Aside from building houses and frying up meat of questionable origin and stuffing it down townspeople’s gullets, SpongeBob can also decorate Bikini Bottom and expand its borders. As you play, you unlock animated movies that illustrate SpongeBob’s impact on the community.

SpongeBob Moves In

SpongeBob Moves In is obviously trying to reap the success that EA has enjoyed with their own licensed city-builder, The Simpsons: Tapped Out.But whereas Tapped Out is packed full of humorous references to the show’s best seasons, little of SpongeBob’s charm is present in SpongeBob Moves In. There are some half-hearted references to some characters’ traits (Mr. Krabs is as cheap as ever), but fans of the long-running show will be disappointed at the game’s generic dialogue.

And then there’s the issue of cost. SpongeBob Moves In is styled to play like any other free city-building game on the App Store: there are long wait periods while buildings go up, and the most desirable content—like the dwelling of Mr. Krabs—cost an obscene amount of premium currency (in this instance, “jellyfish jelly”). Problem is, the game comes with an initial price tag of $3.99, a pretty high price tag for a licensed city-building game.

But SpongeBob Moves In isn’t worth its asking price to begin with. The game has lengthy load times, boring writing, and tiny sprites that make navigation difficult, even when you’re zoomed into Bikini Bottom as closely as possible. It should be rolled up in a carpet, and then it should disappear into the depths of the Krusty Krab’s dumpster.