Tom Quirk plays a lot of video games, but when he isn't, he is reading fantasy novels and watching way more television than is healthy.
Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
June 23, 2020
Purple Lamp Studios
Video games based on licensed properties are not usually given much credit, and understandably so. Spongebob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom was a 3D collectathon platformer starring everyone’s favourite sea sponge. The original title became a cult classic back in 2003 for actually being quite well-made, and capturing the charm of the animated show. Remastered in 2020 under the title Spongebob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, it remained to be seen how well this old platformer has aged. As it stands, Rehydrated holds up surprisingly well, even if its early-2000s origins feel quite apparent.
Spongebob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Hydrated starts off with Plankton’s latest scheme to steal the Krabby Patty formula, which in this case is a device which mindless robotic drones. Unfortunately, he forgot to flip the switch which makes them loyal to him, leading Plankton to be kicked out of the Chum Bucket, and crazed robots running amok around Bikini Bottom. Spongebob must travel to various areas around Bikini Bottom to help his friends and obtain Golden Spatulas, which unlock new areas.
“While Spongebob and his friends’ quips are funny once or twice, they become tiresome when repeated every time they attack or collect something.”
While Spongebob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom isn’t exactly plot-heavy, it does an admirable job of capturing the spirit and energy of the show. The majority of voice actors return to voice their characters. The only jarring exception is Mr. Krabbs, whose soundalike doesn’t sound remotely like Clancy Brown.
That said, what works in the scripted cutscenes becomes annoying in general gameplay. This game is a great example of why Spongebob’s fellow collectathon heroes, such as Jak from Jak and Daxter and Mario from Super Mario Sunshine, spoke very little during gameplay. While Spongebob and his friends’ quips are funny once or twice, they become tiresome when repeated every time they attack or collect something.
As for the actual gameplay, Rehydrated mostly stands up compared to the recent likes of Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time. Players play as Spongebob, Patrick and Sandy, all of whom have exclusive abilities. Patrick is able to throw objects to solve puzzles, whereas Sandy can glide and swing with her lasso.
The game’s greatest strength is its variety. This includes various challenges centred around combat, precision platforming, bungee jumping and sliding down a mountain on your tongue. The boss fights also managed to stay fresh with multiple phases per fight and interesting uses of Spongebob’s friends’ skills.
Spongebob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated brings some new improvements over the 2003 original. The main addition is a general visual facelift, making everything much brighter and colourful. Spongebob SquarePants has always had a striking and vivid art style, and Rehydrated really makes every location and character visually pop.
There are also some small gameplay tweaks, such as giving Patrick and Sandy some air attacks, and speeding up the pace of the boss fights. They are minor concessions, but go some way to making the game more accessible in the modern era.
That said, there are some things that maybe could have been improved. One feature I was hoping to be added is some kind of map feature. While getting through each level’s critical path isn’t too difficult, scrouging around each level looking for the last lousy collectable can be mind-numbingly frustrating. Some kind of feature to at least make it easy to tell where you haven’t explored yet might have eased some of that frustration.
The whole three-playable-characters gimmick also feels somewhat underused. You are restricted to two characters per level: Spongebob, and either Patrick or Sandy. Very few sections require using the different abilities in a certain order, and it is always very clear which character is required by the presence of Sandy-specific lasso targets or Patrick-specific throwable objects. On the few occasions where the player is supposed to use character abilities in tandem, the game’s flow grinds to a halt as I had to wander back and forth between the bus stop to change characters. Making character swapping less rigid may have opened the way for more intricate puzzles, and made Spongebob’s friends feel like more of a core part of the experience rather than momentary diversions.
The biggest addition to the Rehydrated remaster is the new multiplayer mode and… it’s not great. Up to four players, locally or online, can play as one of a number of playable characters in multiplayer horde mode against robotic enemies. The idea of playing as Mr. Krabbs or Gary the Snail against Robot Squidward and his minions is fun. However, in execution, it is strangely lifeless, especially compared to the more energetic single-player campaign. The characters all play very similarly, and the only audio is the sound of enemy attacks and the weirdly slow-paced and sinister background music. The actual combat is pretty easy, and there is no real penalty for dying. Playing through all 26 islands will take you about 30 minutes, and you probably won’t want to come back.
Spongebob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated isn’t particularly revolutionary, but it is a lot of fun. From its bright visuals to its uncomplicated platforming gameplay, it was a blast of nostalgia that really left me feeling quite happy and satisfied. If you have any love for the 3D collectathon genre, or Spongebob SquarePants for that matter, you should have a good time with Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated. Just maybe don’t try the multiplayer.