Often cited as an example of a licensed game done right, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom has remained a fan favorite ever since its launch back in 2003. Bolstered in part by a large speedrunning presence, fans have been clamoring for a remake for a while. Their calls have now been answered, as SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is out tomorrow. Is this remake worth a trip to the deep blue sea?
After so many attempts at stealing the Krabby Patty secret formula, you’d expect that Plankton would’ve learned his lesson by now. Of course, he hasn’t and has decided once again to steal his treasured prize, this time using an army of robots produced by a machine known as the Duplicatotron 3000. Confused as to why they aren’t obeying him, Plankton realizes the machine was set to the “Don’t Obey” option, causing the robots to do as they please. The robots kick Plankton out of the Chum Bucket before terrorizing the town.
Long story short, SpongeBob later runs into Plankton, who convinces SpongeBob to help him get back into the Chum Bucket by defeating the robots and collecting golden spatulas.
Being a SpongeBob game, the overall plot is fairly lighthearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Each level also has its own little plot detailing how the robots are wreaking havoc in that area. Dialogue with well-known characters such as Squidward and Mrs. Puff is as humorous as you’d expect. Overall, the plot feels like it could be plucked right from the show, which is exactly what it should be.
Gameplay as you remember, for better or worse
The structure of SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated feels almost like a mix of Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. Each level has a number of golden spatulas to collect, which you earn by completing specific objectives. These objectives range from getting to the end of an area to collecting a specific number of objects to solving a simple puzzle. Most of these objectives are straightforward, and I was able to complete almost all of them in my first trip through an area. In addition, you’ll be collecting shiny objects (which act as a currency of sorts) and Patrick’s lost socks. Both of these can be exchanged for golden spatulas, though the shiny objects can also be used to open new pathways within the levels.
Though SpongeBob has a suite of abilities at his disposal, to save Bikini Bottom, you’ll have to rely on (and play as) your friends as well. Some golden spatulas can only be obtained by either Patrick or Sandy. Patrick, for instance, can pick up Tikis or fruit and throw them, while Sandy can lasso enemies or grappling hooks. Both of these characters feel unique without stealing the spotlight from SpongeBob.
The biggest complaint I have about SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is that it all feels a little too simple. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. After all, it’s based on a show aimed at children, so it’s important to cater to that audience. But as an adult player, I can’t help but wish there were something more. I wish that there would’ve been more variety in objective difficulty. I wish there were more variety in the moves you can pull off. These are more complaints with the original though.
As a remaster, there’s not much that was done to update the game outside of presentation. That’s not to say there isn’t any new content though. Exclusive to SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a multiplayer horde mode. You and a friend can pick one of a handful of beloved characters to fight across a number of islands to take down Robo-Squidward.
Unfortunately, while I tend not to describe these things as “tacked on,” I can’t help but do so with this multiplayer. The combat is generic, there’s no real penalty for dying, and there’s no real instruction whatsoever. In a few instances, I got confused as to whether the game glitched out or whether the lack of enemies was intentional. Plus, if you’re going to add multiplayer, why limit it to only two players? While I appreciate the effort to go above and beyond by including a multiplayer mode, there are so many other paths that could’ve worked better.
Generally, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated looks great. Environments are vibrant and varied, helping your favorite locales spring to life. Purple Lamp has also made a number of improvements over the original to help players differentiate aspects of the environment. For instance, each type of Tiki looks distinctly different, which allows players to tell at a glance how to handle them. Buttons are marked by icons that indicate which abilities are needed to hit them. The user experience is greatly enhanced by these renovations.
The voice acting is generally really great too. The game mostly uses archived lines from the original game, though some new lines were recorded as well. For most characters, these lines were delivered by the original voice actors, adding further to the SpongeBob experience. While these performances are great, I wasn’t as big a fan of the new talent. As a longtime fan, it’s entirely possible that this is simply a result of spending years of my life with the original voices. It’s not so much that the new actors are bad; they’re just different.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a tough game for me to rate. On one hand, as a lifelong SpongeBob fan, the game is exactly what I hoped it would be. For observant players, there are tons of nods to the show, and the humor and charm of SpongeBob shines through brilliantly. If you were to remove the license from it though, the game would be just “good enough.” It’s competently made but falls short of greatness. Ultimately, SpongeBob fanatics and hardcore platforming fans won’t want to miss this release, but otherwise, you need not rush out to get it.
Release Date: June 23, 2020
No. of Players: 1-2 players
Category: Platformer, Action, Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Purple Lamp
A review code was provided by the publisher.