There are few names as widely recognised as that of SpongeBob SquarePants. In the mid-2000s, the iconic square sponge was an absolute media powerhouse with a slew of successful cartoons, numerous licensed tie ins and even a full-feature movie, which still holds up pretty well to this day!
One of the more beloved SpongeBob properties at the peak of popularity was SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, a character-focused platformer that follows SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy as they journey across Bikini Bottom in a bid to destroy all of Plankton’s evil robots.
Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated updates the original game with crisper visuals, tighter controls, a new multiplayer game mode and even some content that was cut from the original title. It’s a fair offering, enticing original fans with the promise of new and unreleased content, but how does Rehydrated hold up?
Firstly, this is a fantastic looking remaster. It manages to completely revamp the original visuals, without losing sight of the original style. It’s authentically SpongeBob, with characters, environments and other assets all exuding colour and life, bringing Bikini Bottom to life in a way no other medium can. This is further backed by a remastered soundtrack which captures the SpongeBob sound perfectly.
Gameplay has also seen a marked improvement, with all three main characters receiving tweaked and updated movement controls that make them far more responsive and snappier than they were in the original release. It’s a clever design decision that helps hide how old Battle for Bikini Bottom is. That’s not to say it doesn’t show its age, though.
Playing as SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy, it’s up to you to free Bikini Bottom of Plankton’s robotic army by visiting a number of iconic locations including Downtown, Jellyfish Fields and even SpongeBob’s House. Collectathon platformers were a dime a dozen in the mid-2000s, but in recent years we’ve seen a move away from the genre, outside of a few nostalgic releases. This is where Battle for Bikini Bottom – Hydrated really shows its age. The gameplay loop of visiting a level and hunting down every single collectible feels a little tired and quite shallow. It’s passably enjoyable, but it’s not something I felt I could commit hours at a time to.
It’s easy to forget that this was a game initially built with children and teenagers in mind though, and in that respect I think it’s probably the perfect experience for someone who is still relatively new to video games. It’s not a particularly difficult game at all and most experienced gamers would really struggle to find a challenge here.
Having said that, there are some occasional checkpointing issues that can make progress feel a little slow. Should you miss a checkpoint in an area, you will often find yourself having to traipse back through that same area again. The same could be said of some of the more vertical platforming segments, as I found myself forced to re-climb portions of a level after a slight misstep or fall. It’s moments like this that again make Rehydrated feel a bit creaky, highlighting just how far game design has evolved in the seventeen years since its release.
A new co-op battle wave mode provides players with an additional way to play with friends and family. Teaming up together, SpongeBob and friends must take on waves of enemies from the main game, with each wave increasing in size and difficulty. The inclusion of co-op is a great idea, but the wave mode is shallow and a little too easy. I would have rather seen a full co-op through the main story as the specific character abilities would have made working together far more engaging, though that would understandably have been a much bigger undertaking.
Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated also commits one of the most annoying sins of game development. Characters repeat their lines constantly. You’ll hear SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy deliver the same lines over and over again, and after the first few hours it really did start to irritate me. It’s a shame that so much work has gone into the fantastic visuals for my ears to be besieged by the small pool of dialogue being set on repeat.