Title: SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated
Developer: Purple Lamp Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Genre: 3D Platformer
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Version Tested: PS4
Are you ready, kids? Aye, aye, captain! If those words perk your ears up before you immediately start singing “Ooooohhhhh!” as loudly as you can, then you better be paying attention. Yes, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is finally here. This remake of the 2003 cult-classic comes at a time when SpongeBob might need it the most. I’ve been excited and shouting from the rooftops (well, more like dedicating time to the game on our official podcast, The Nerd Stash Show) by counting down the days until I could get my hands on a game I enjoyed from my childhood featuring a character I, and millions more, have grown up with. Well, I’m here to say that THQ Nordic and Purple Lamp Studios’ do a great job with the remaster, but the base game might hold back anyone other than returning fans of the game from being interested.
Revisiting a Cult-Classic For SpongeBob Squarepants Fans
Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated (BFBB – Rehydrated) is a 3D platformer where you play as either SpongeBob, Patrick, or Sandy. Each character has their own unique abilities to traverse around fan-favorite levels and take down an army of robots such as SpongeBob’s Bubble Bowling and Sandy’s Lasso. Additionally, each level is littered with Shinies (the game’s currency), Golden Spatulas, and Patrick’s socks for those looking to scratch that old-school collectathon itch, and there are mechanical bosses of the three heroes to take down every few levels. I was reminded of how much I missed these N64-like platformers, and we need more games like this in a sea of open-world 50-hour games or online shooters that demand your attention for the rest of time.
The story of BFBB – Rehydrated is simple enough and feels like a fleshed-out episode of the long-running franchise. The evil Plankton has produced an army of robots to steal the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, but things don’t go according to plan as the robots quickly begin to disobey him. Elsewhere in Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob and Patrick are playing with toys wishing for robots to become real. The next day, SpongeBob finds his pineapple house trashed, Mr. Krabs asking him to collect Shinies in exchange for Golden Spatulas and Plankton tricking our yellow hero into helping him get the Chum Bucket back.
The story had me laughing at times from the cartoon-appropriate jokes and puns. While I’ve outgrown a lot of the humor, I love seeing licensed games that feel and sound like their respective property. We’ve seen shining examples in recent years, and Battle for Bikini Bottom shouldn’t be forgotten as an early example. That’s bolstered by most of the cartoon’s voice cast lending their talents to the game, though Mr. Krabs’ voice actor is noticeably different. While I appreciate the consistency between the original and the remake, this would have been an excellent opportunity to remedy that omission.
Running on Unreal Engine, the first thing that stood out to me was the overall presentation of BFBB – Rehydrated. It’s always been jarring to see SpongeBob and friends make the jump from 2D to 3D, but I fell in love with the charm of the updated graphics. The colors pop and the tricks the developers used to add in extra details — the use of bubbles coming out of the ground, the sway of seaweed, and seeing iconic Bikini Bottom locations off in the distance— it feels like you’re running around Bikini Bottom as everyone’s favorite yellow sponge. The game ran smoothly during my playtime, and I only noticed a handful of moments where enemies clipped into the environment. Animations do feel a bit stiff and slow, which makes the game look older than it might seem.
Classic locals are included, too. From the joyful Jellyfish Fields to the eerie Rock Bottom, early SpongeBob SquarePants fans will instantly recognize these levels. Accompanying themes songs play in the background, reminiscent of the cartoon. Each level includes different stages housing other sides of these classic locations, such as Jellyfish Lake or the Rooftops of Downtown Bikini Bottom. The love and attention the game provides to SpongeBob is seen throughout; it’s hard not to smile while playing.
Similarly to Activision’s Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy or Spyro Reignited Trilogy, BFBB – Rehydrated is a faithful remake of the classic game. There’s 100 Golden Spatulas to track down and 50 Socks to find to keep you busy while you relive your youth. But this time, Purple Lamp Studios went above replacing the outdated graphics by adding in cut content and other small changes that improve the overall package. Fans have previously discovered that Robo Squidward was cut during the original’s development, which has been restored, but Purple Lamp also improved platforming for Patrick and combat for Sandy. Both wanted and helpful additions.
I’ve spent so much highlighting the original game and what’s been included in the remake for one reason: this is an excellent remake of an okay game. The game looks great, and adding in new content makes this returning fan giddy with excitement, but BFBB – Rehydrated’s biggest problem is the base game itself. Battle for Bikini Bottom was outdone before it ever originally released by the likes of Super Mario 64, the Spyro series, and the dozens of more mascot platformers that flood this genre. It’s been outperformed by games that have come since in Super Mario Odyssey and A Hat in Time. Of course, that’s not its fault since modern games had a chance to learn and adapt from classic games, including the original release.
That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to love about SpongeBob Squarepants Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. Even though this isn’t a crowing example of platformers, I still had a lot of fun. After 15 hours of playtime, I still look forward to the next time I’ll have a free minute to track down a missing sock or locate those final few Golden Spatulas I haven’t discovered. This game will definitely scratch an itch for fans looking for a throwback to a long-forgotten genre and those looking for a palette cleanser to the gritty M-Rated games that fill store shelves today.
Bikini Bottom… With Friends!
Rounding out the other bits of new SpongeBob Squarepants content, BFBB – Rehydrated also includes a multiplayer mode. In this horde mode, you and another player team together to take on wave after wave of robot enemies as you try to stop the previously cut Robo Squidward as a boss-like character always looming the background. You can choose from seven different charters, including ones not playable in the campaign. My personal favorite would be Gary the Snail, if you were wondering. This mode is available in both couch and online co-op, though it should be noted that on PS4, the ability to invite players online wasn’t available, so I couldn’t test the online during my playtime.
Not that it matters too much. The mode itself was enjoyable and accessible to my non-video game playing wife, but nothing that stood out. The multiplayer mode didn’t provide a challenge other than frustratingly dying by falling into the goo. The enemies aren’t different from the campaign, the penalty for dying is starting the wave over at most, and there isn’t much variation to what you do to make it memorable. Horde modes are great, and we’ve seen shining examples in Gears and Halo that encourage team play, strategy, and a bit of luck, unfortunately, BFBB – Rehydrated’s newest mode doesn’t have any of that. Young ones might get more mileage out of this mode though.
Verdict: I can’t help but wonder if this what the future holds for classic Nickelodeon games coming back. We do know that THQ Nordic has a deal in place to revive those cult-classic games long gone. If SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is any indication of what’s to come, I eagerly await to see which titles come back. If anything, maybe this is a sign that THQ Nordic is interested in new adventures with SpongeBob. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this remake, just be aware that it doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to this classic genre.
- It’s Battle for Bikini Bottom!
- A great throwback to a long-forgotten genre
- Feels like an episode of the hit show
- Remaking a game that didn’t stand out, to begin with
- Forgettable multiplayer