SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated rolls out the red carpet for one of Nickelodeon’s most beloved characters. When the game first released back in 2003, it was a hallmark 3D platformer. It released at just the right time for fans of the now long-running series.
Plopping that game into 2020, it’s a stark reminder that nostalgia is a powerful drug. Like a sponge, Rehydrated has soaked up and preserved the memories many of us have playing Battle for Bikini Bottom all those years ago.
Developers Purple Lamp Studios have made significant changes to the game’s presentation. However, it’s sadly not enough as Rehydrated refrains from living up to today’s standards and trends held in regards to a modern game.
Are ya ready kids?
SpongeBob and his friends are timeless characters. The humour and reverence Nickelodeon has shown the series over the past two decades and remained strong. Battle for Bikini Bottom released during the golden age of 3D platformers. At the time, the game really spoke to me, a young fan of the television series. It was a chance to really explore and get a sense of scale and a deeper appreciation for the setting of the show.
For those who may not have had the chance to play the original upon its release on Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube, Battle for Bikini Bottom sees SpongeBob and co. reclaim the titular city. Hordes of Plankton’s robots have begun running amok. Players will venture through various hubs of Bikini Bottom to complete tasks dolled out by other familiar characters.
It’s here you’ll interact with Mr. Krabs (though unfortunately not voiced by Clancy Brown) and Squidward. Even though the material is 17 years old, the banter between SpongeBob and friends is delightful. Die-hard fans will be quick to point out the many nods and easter eggs from the show as well.
As with games such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, Battle for Bikini Bottom is a collectathon at heart. Throughout the nine core levels, players will find Golden Spatulas, Shiny Objects, and Patrick’s Socks to collect. Characters will also assign you tasks to track down other objects in order to progress through the game’s story.
I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready
You’ll explore semi-open environments like Downtown Bikini Bottom, Rock Bottom, and Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard. Here, you’ll find copious amounts of robot enemies to fight. There are a variety of enemies to be found throughout your progression, although all it typically takes to defeat one is a simple button press to bash them. You’ll also scale different pieces of the environment to locate the various collectibles.
Each level has a handful of mini-games to complete to unlock a Golden Spatula or one of Patrick’s Socks, none of which particularly stand out today. The ‘Rolling Ball Room’ puzzle in the Mermalair level is still one of the more frustrating highlights the game offers.
Some of the core gameplay revolves around swapping characters between SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy. Each of the three characters has unique abilities needed for progression. For instance, Sandy has a lasso that she can pair with her double jump for a slower descent. Patrick, on the other hand, can pick up and move objects like Tiki boxes and watermelons to throw at enemies.
Finally, SpongeBob himself can catapult himself into the air, and later learns to throw bubbles as bowling balls.
17 years later
Rehydrated maintains the moment-to-moment gameplay longtime fans of the original will remember, for better or worse. A lot of the camera issues the original was weighted down by have been improved. The fluid movement of the camera now makes completing puzzles easier.
Platforming sections are improved as you can maneuver the camera accordingly. The game’s UI had also been refined now that the collectible tracker can be brought up onscreen without diving into the game’s menu system. Small touches to character movement, such as the physics in Sandy’s lasso swing, have also been made.
Rehydrated’s overall appearance is greatly improved. 2003’s version of Battle for Bikini Bottom was a lot less vibrant and pleasant to look at. Of course, keeping in mind the technical limitations at the time, character models were more polygonal and environments looked flatter. Rehydrated has put a lot of polish into revitalizing the graphics of the game.
The game undoubtedly boasts a visual improvement. However, the technical bugs that come along with it damage the overall experience. In my experience playing, I’ve faced numerous audio issues. In one instance, the character’s mouth ran out of sync with the dialogue. On occasion, the dialogue wouldn’t play all together.
Rehydrated also features slow loading times, upwards of 15-20 seconds long in some places. While these numbers may not be the most egregious, it does take you out of the experience after a minor slip up.
F is for friends who do stuff together
Rehydrated offers a new multiplayer mode for online and couch co-op enjoyment. The new Horde mode offers players a chance to play as characters not included in the singleplayer component.
In it, two players face off against waves of robot enemies as each wave gets more challenging. Characters both old and new only have two attacks, which is slightly disappointing. Though, the multiplayer component does offer some new content to fans of the original.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a game stuck in 2003. That’s not to say the experience brought to modern consoles is bad by any means. It’s only that the game feels dated. The gameplay loop of collecting various objects for no other reason than the hunt can become repetitive after a handful of hours. This is especially true as the advent of a new era of 3D platformers is upon us.
Rehydrated will surely delight diehard SpongeBob fans. The charming humour between characters is met with the vibrant, cartoonish revitalization of Bikini Bottom. This mixture captures some of the show’s magic. While the game does offer some new multiplayer components, they air on the side of being a distraction from the game’s heart and soul, rather a truly enjoyable addition.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
A Xbox One copy of SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated was provided for review purposes.