The game is played by moving SpongeBob around a grid to accomplish certain missions without becoming frightened to the point of running away. There are zombies, ghosts, and clowns that scare SpongeBob if he runs into them. If the blue meter shown at the top-left of the screen goes down, SpongeBob will faint of fright. Clowns can appear if a chest is opened and it contains a clown. Plankton zombies are found walking around levels. Ghosts appear if one steps on a tile with a ghost or open a coffin.
There are three possible missions: "Save Patrick," "Eat The Patty," and "Trigger The Switch." In "Save Patrick," SpongeBob has to rescue Patrick by finding a key and unlocking his tower. The gate to the door is unlocked and SpongeBob can proceed.
In "Eat The Patty," SpongeBob has to find and eat a Krabby Patty to open the gate which may be in a chest or coffin, but in these, one has a higher risk that if it does not contain the Krabby Patty, it contains a clown or ghost.
In "Trigger The Switch," SpongeBob must trigger a switch to open the gate. He can also push crates, but not onto the sand. Ice cubes slide when pushed and can be pushed onto sand but will melt. SpongeBob will slide on ice. With these rules, SpongeBob must get through nine levels. There are also power-ups. A spatula can be used to stun zombies, while a clarinet gets rid of them completely. Gary makes the fright meter go up.
On the Nickelodeon version, players can also make their own levels and post them.