Since his TV debut in the late 90s, SpongeBob SquarePants has remained an enduring and endearing character, soaking up royalties from movies, merchandise, and dozens upon dozens of video game adaptions. While I hold fond memories of the Mario Party-inspired Lights! Camera! Pants! and the surprisingly well-received movie tie-in title, the game that really stuck with me was 2003’s Battle for Bikini Bottom.
Despite this nostalgia, I don’t remember ever completing Battle for Bikini Bottom, likely due to being an easily distractable child at the time. Thankfully, Rehydrated, from developer Purple Lamp Studios, brings the cult classic up to date, successfully capturing what made the original such a delight while enhancing it with vibrant visuals, new content, and an added multiplayer mode. The game does, at times, still shows its age in its simplistic level design and outdated mechanics, yet it’s charming writing, creative visual design, and addictive collectathon gameplay loop remain as enchanting and compelling as ever.
For newcomers or those of us with failing memories, Battle for Bikini Bottom’s story begins with Plankton concocting yet another plan to steal Mr. Krabs’ coveted Krabby Patty recipe. When his plan goes awry, Plankton’s robot army takes over Bikini Bottom, wreaking havoc on iconic locations from Jellyfish Fields and Goo Lagoon to The Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard and even our porous pal’s own subconscious. To access each of these areas requires Golden Spatulas, one hundred of which are scattered throughout the world, hidden behind a variety of challenges, puzzles, boss battles, and other collectables.
Each level has you completing tasks, whether that be finding Mrs. Puffs stray students in the Kelp Forest, beating Bubble Buddies’ fastest time on the slopes of Sand Mountain, or platforming your way through the Mermalair. Despite the repetitiveness inherent in collectathon games, Battle for Bikini Bottom manages to keep gameplay varied for the most part, due, in most part, to its three playable characters. Aside from SpongeBob, who has the ability to sneak, bowl bubble balls, and shoot guided bubble missiles, you’ll also be jumping into the boots (and I suppose Hawaiian shorts) of Sandy and Patrick, respectively.
Patrick’s thick frame allows him to pick up and throw objects, including the watermelon-like throw fruit which can be used to trigger switches or reach higher areas and freeze fruit which turns any body of water to ice for a limited time. Most useful of all, however, is Sandy, whose rootin’ tootin’ squirrel prowess lets her lasso objects and enemies, swing between platforms, and helicopter herself over gaps. Completing many of the games often intelligently designed puzzles or platforming sections has you switching back and forth between SpongeBob and one of these two allies, utilising their combined abilities to progress. Punctuating the ebb and flow of platforming, puzzles, combat, and collectables are several boss battles which help break up gameplay and offer some of the game’s quirkiest encounters.
While Battle for Bikini Bottom usually falls on the easier side of game difficulty, a handful of platforming sections, in particular, reminded me of how my reflexes seem only to have dulled since I was a kid. These moments, paired with some confusing level design that often had me going around in circles in search of an escape, are where the game shows its age. Equally though, these minor frustrations seem part and parcel of the nostalgia, reminding me of countless times I’d get stuck in a game and hound my dad to give it a go, only for my stubborn determination to translate to him.
Rehydrated’s persisting mechanical shortcomings are more than made up for by its most its complete visual overhaul. High-res textures and a vivid colour pallet bring the world to life, doing justice to the excellent art design of the original. These crisp visuals, paired with a mostly official voice cast, really help capture the look and feel of the show, making Rehydrated the most authentic SpongeBob adaption to date. While occasionally inconsistent presentation, including some stiff animations, prevent it from having quite the same Pixar-esque polish as the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Rehydrated’s visuals are lush and vibrant, manifesting the romanticised image of the game I’ve held in my head all these years.
Beyond its enhanced visuals, Rehydrated features content cut from the original as well as a brand new multiplayer horde mode. Without a side-by-side comparison, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s been added, but Rehydrated certainly feels like the complete package. While its multiplayer mode is a little forgettable, the amount of content it offers feels just right, ensuring gathering all its collectables and earning its platinum isn’t a grind.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated — easily 2020’s winner for longest game title award — is a joy. Rehydrated captures all the humour, fun, and charm of both the show and the original game, albeit with some of that game’s shortcomings, and presents it in a shiny, new package that proves that gaming still has room for bright and bold platformers. Whether you want to revel in nostalgia or have a respite from The Last of Us Part II’s intensity, Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is the perfect comfort food game.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8/108/10
Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated is a faithful remake of the 2003 cult classic. While some of the original game's frustrations persist, Rehydrated's vibrant visuals, charming, authentic game world, and addictive gameplay make it a joy to both look at and play.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.