The game is split into three parts with the final game being the full game. The player moves SpongeBob with the arrow keys, brings up the inventory with the spacebar, attacks with their spatula sword using the 'A' key, attacks with their secondary weapon using the 'S' key, switching between the player's weapons using the number keys 1-7, and bringing up the menu with the 'M' key. SpongeBob can talk to other characters such as Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Squidward, and Sandy. SpongeBob can also purchase items from Mr. Krabs if he has enough money. There is also a health system that is made of Krabby Patties. If SpongeBob loses all of his health, the player will be forced to restart the game from the last time the player saved. Patrick also allows the player to save his progress into the game at any time and up to three save slots are available for the player to use.
Level 1 Sword (Spatula): A basic weapon that delivers a melee attack that deals one point of damage to enemies and can cut through sea weed.
Level 2 Sword (Swordfish): A more powerful version of the Spatula that can deal two points of damage to enemies and cuts through stronger materials such as coral.
Level 1 Shield (Plate): A basic shield that can block up but to no more than two Krabby Patties' worth of damage. SpongeBob cannot move while using it, and enemies can still damage him from the sides or from behind.
Level 2 Shield (Shell): A stronger shield that blocks all damage but has the same drawback as the plate.
Puffer Fish: SpongeBob can use the Puffer Fish as projectiles to damage enemies from a distance. They deal two damage points to enemies. SpongeBob can only carry 10 Puffer Fish at a time.
Volcanic Puffer: Same idea as the normal Puffer Fish, but Volcanic Puffers deal three damage points, explode on impact with an enemy or object, and can destroy rocks and cracked walls.
Boomerang: The Boomerang can only deal one damage point to enemies, but it is very useful for grabbing objects that SpongeBob could not grab himself. (e.g. an important item is on the other side of a wall but SpongeBob cannot get to it, but the Boomerang, when thrown, can fly over the wall and grab the item).
Neptune's Trident: Unleash the power of Neptune and summon a huge force field that pushes away any foolish enemies that dare get too close to the player.
Magic Wand: Abra-cadabra! Ala-kazam! The Magic Wand can shoot massive magic bursts that not only deal three damage points and freeze enemies made of lava, but can also cool down lava rivers!
Key: A normal key. Can be used to open locked doors. SpongeBob can only carry 5 at a time.
Boss Key: Unlike any other dungeon, the boss dungeons first require a special red boss key to gain entrance. The boss key is split into two halves where the player has to find both halves which are hidden in dungeons across the lands.
Chamber Key: This level also uses special keys. Before the player can fight the monstrous boss that guards the door to the next world, they will have to unlock the door that leads to his lair. The player needs to find the black chamber key. It is hidden in the Boss Dungeon.
Locked Door: A locked door? Nothing a key can't fix!
Guard Door: This door won't open until the player defeats all of the enemies in the room.
Combo Door: A locked door and a guard door combined.
Boss Door: This door keeps meddling sponges from getting into the secret lairs of the Lava King's minions. Not just any key will do for this door... the player will need to find both halves of the boss key to crack it open.
Chamber Door: The last thing that stands between the player and one of the Lava King's goons is the Chamber Door. The player will have to find one more unique key for it: the Chamber Key. Thankfully, this key is in one piece.
World Door: This is the magical door that leads to the next world, it will only open after SpongeBob has defeated the boss guarding it.
Green Coin: Worth one coin.
Purple Coin: Worth 5 coins. Oddly, this is the most common coin in the game.
Orange Coin: Worth 10 coins.
Krabby Patty: Regenerates 1 Krabby Patty in SpongeBob's health bar. Regenerates health immediately after it's picked up.
Health Potion: Regenerates 3 Krabby Patties. Once picked up, it is stored in the inventory where the player can use it at any time. SpongeBob can only carry three of these at a time.
Sandy's Pick Axe: Find Sandy's pick axe and return it to her, and she'll reward the player with a health extension.
Purple Chest: This chest opens up without a problem! No strings attached.
Locked Chest: Requires a key to open.
Guarded Chest: Won't open until all enemies in a room are defeated. These usually have the most valuable items inside.
SpongeBob: The only one left who can stop the Lava King and save the town! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Absorbant and yellow and porous is he...
Patrick Star: SpongeBob's best friend and guide. Just talk to him and he'll give the player useful tips and help them save their game.
Eugene H. Krabs: This cheapskate crustacean saw the oncoming crisis as a business opportunity and set up his very own shop right out in the Lava King's land. Mr. Krabs's shop is stocked to the brim with useful items that SpongeBob can buy, and for once the goods aren't too overly priced.
Sandy Cheeks: The town of Bikini Bottom, if not the whole world, may soon be obliterated by the Lava King, and all Sandy wants to do is study rocks! The only problem is, she seems to have misplaced her pickaxe! If the player can find it and bring it back to her, she will repay them with a nice health extension!
Squidward Tentacles: Oh, dear! Squidward has somehow gotten himself surrounded by a swarm of the Lava King's underlings! Should the player manage to defeat them all, the pompous octopus will ramble on about how everything was "under control" and how "it was all part of his plan," but at least he's grateful enough to give the player a health extension.
Jellyfish: Found in all three worlds. Jellyfish are the most simple and common enemies, whose only attack is to wander aimlessly.
Red Jellyfish: The weakest Jellyfish of all. Has one health point and deals half a point of damage.
Blue Jellyfish: Has one health point and deals one point of damage.
Black Jellyfish: Moves faster than the other two jellyfish. Has two health points and deals one point of damage.
Anglerfish: Only found in the Reef and the Dead Lands. Anglers are more aggressive creatures. Upon spotting a would-be attacker, they flash their lights as a warning, and then they bite.
Brown Angler: Has two health points and deals one point of damage.
Pink Angler: Has three health point and deals one point of damage.
Purple Angler: Moves faster than the other two anglers. Has three health points and deals one and a half points of damage.
Lava SpongeBob Clones: Only found in the Dead Lands. As a last resort to keep the player from thwarting his destructive plans, the Lava King will send out his strongest minions - SpongeBob clones made of lava! They are able to spit lava.
Black Clone: Has three health points. Deals one point of damage with direct contact, and lava balls deal two points of damage. Fires one lava ball straight ahead.
Red Clone: Has three health points. Deals one and a half points of damage with direct contact, and lava balls deal two points of damage. Fires two lava balls that spread out diagonally.
Orange Clone: Moves faster than the other two clones. Has four health points. Deals two points of damage with direct contact, and lava balls deal two and a half points of damage. Fires three lava balls straight ahead, but takes longer to fire them.
Miscellaneous: Other enemies that don't fit into any categories.
Electric Eel: Found in all three worlds. Electric Eels patrol small areas by slithering in circles. There is a small gap where the player can maneuver past the Eel, but this is generally a bad idea as the Eels occasionally release electrical discharges. It's also not safe to attack Eels with the swords, because the swords will conduct the Eel's electricity and electrocute the player. Has six health points. The amount of damage dealt varies.
Reef Guard: Only found in the Reef and the Dead Lands. Stands in one spot and throws bombs. Has four health points. Bombs deal one point of damage.
Magma Mallet: Only found in the Dead Lands. A giant mound of lava armed with a sledge hammer. Doesn't move, but uses the hammer to deal a massive slam attack. The slam attack deals 3 points of damage and stuns SpongeBob for a few seconds. Has six health points.
Gas Coral (Forest Boss)
Attack #1: Belches out a massive wave of toxic gas (a shield is necessary to block this attack)
Attack #2: Belches three small gas clouds that home in on SpongeBob in quick succession
Attack #3: Delivers a melee attack
All attacks deal one point of damage
Reef Slug (Reef Boss)
Very slow movement; will chase after SpongeBob
Attack #1: Slam attack with his tail (two and a half points of damage)
Attack #2: Bite (two points of damage)
Attack #3: Spits slime balls (doesn't deal any damage but will keep SpongeBob from moving for a few seconds)
Lava King (Dead Lands Boss)
Attack #1: Will teleport by turning into a puddle, crawling to where SpongeBob is standing when he began the attack, and then reforming (deals one point of damage if the Lava King touches SpongeBob)
Attack #2: Delivers a melee attack (two and a half points of damage)
Attack #3: Slam attack with his fists (Three points of damage and stuns SpongeBob for a few seconds)
Can be stunned using the Magic Wand
Shower In A Can!
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The game was released in 3 parts.
This game has been awarded as "Game of the Year" for 2008 on the Nickelodeon website.
If the player has a profile in which they have reached the second or third world but they play a version of the game that doesn't support that world (e.g. the player has reached World 2, the Reef, but they play Invasion of the Lava King 1 which only supports the first world, the Forest), they will experience a very bizarre glitch: instead of awakening in Patrick's cave, the player will immediately spawn in Reef Slug's chamber, but the Lava King will be there. Also, the environment will be distorted. If the player defeats the Lava King, instead of getting to the screen that says they saved Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob will just die.