SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom probably feels like an odd game to get the remake treatment to the majority of gamers, but it’s actually a title that’s kept fondly in the memory for those who experienced it in their younger years. Sure, it might not have necessarily been the BEST 3D platformer out there, but it was sill packed to the brim with charm, had its fair share of fun levels to play through, and, of course, allowed gamers to play as SpongeBob and friends… what more could the youngsters of the noughties want?
Well, they’ll get to experience it all over again as adults now, with SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated bringing the game to modern consoles with a fresh lick of paint. Has this fondly remembered platforming escapade stood the test of time though, or should it have stayed a sunken treasure that was just meant to remain as a part of gamers’ memories?
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated’s tale is as anarchic and zany as you’d expect from the SpongeBob TV series, with the dastardly Plankton looking to take over Bikini Bottom by unleashing a horde of robots into the wild. Of course, this plan falters since the robots don’t actually want to obey him, so they instead go out of control and cause havoc across the seabed. Typical, right? Fortunately, SpongeBob and friends are on hand to save the day, which naturally means they head out on a platforming adventure to beat up some robots.
It’s a very run-of-the-mill tale by video game standards, but it’s so jam-packed with the humour and charm that you’d expect from the TV series that it’s hard not to have a smile on your face as you play through thewacky escapade. If you’re a fan of the show, you’re going to love every moment of the tale and all of its silly jokes and quirky scenarios – if you’re not familiar with the show, you can still expect plenty of laughs thanks to how silly the whole thing is. It just really makes for a jolly little tale that gamers of all ages can appreciate.
Gameplay-wise, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated plays exactly as you’d expect a 3D platformer from the early 2000s to play, with an assortment of levels to traverse across that are full of platforming challenges to overcome, enemies to beat up, and collectibles to find along the way. Besides SpongeBob, you’ll even get to play as Patrick and Sandy with each bringing their own unique gameplay mechanics to the mix that add a bit of welcome variety as you work through each level – SpongeBob is naturally the star of the game though, so he takes up the bulk of your playtime and is also the one who unlocks new abilities during the adventure.
You won’t be able to find everything in the game without using all three characters though, whether that’s when using Patrick’s throwing capabilities to hit out-of-reach switches or Sandy’s glide to cover long distances, so swapping characters is important. It’s just a shame that it can’t be done on the fly like in most modern multiple-character titles, but instead requires you to visit one of the bus stops in the game. Whilst this was the case in the original, it just feels like a bit of an annoyance here and seems like an obvious change that could’ve been made to make SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated feel even better to play than before.
Progression is made through the Golden Spatulas you collect, with one-hundred to be found across the entirety of the game and a specified amount required to open up new levels for the player. The vast majority of these can be found across levels, so players are actively encouraged to go out of their way to clear any platforming challenges that are in their path or simply scour through any hidden areas to find them. However, some Golden Spatulas are also earned by completing side quests for the many characters from the TV show – these quests are mostly made up of simple objectives such as finding specific items across levels though, so don’t expect too many epic objectives for your trio of heroes to complete.
Levels are designed in a mostly linear fashion, so you shouldn’t expect to find yourself exploring an assortment of wide-open areas where there’s plenty to discover. That’s not a complaint though and I actually prefer my platformers to be a bit more straight-forward in design, especially when they have some solid level design like SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated does. I always felt like I was doing or seeing something different as I worked through levels, whilst the assortment of hidden collectibles to find does mean that there’s enough room for exploration as you progress without being overwhelmed by too big of a world to explore. The set pieces found across all of these levels are fun and utilise each character’s abilities in different ways from start to finish too, whilst the combat mechanics are neat and make beating up robots an enjoyable task – even if it is a bit of a simple and easy process.
It just makes for a charming platforming experience that still remains fun today, though it’s certainly a little dated in design. Whilst the platforming genre has evolved over the years, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated stays true to its roots despite being a remastered release. It’s going to be something that can only be seen as a good thing for those who love themselves a bit of nostalgia and played the game back in their younger days, but those who are completely new to the experience might find themselves feeling a little underwhelmed by what’s on offer compared to the other modern 3D platformers available on the Nintendo Switch.
Those who want to play with friends will be glad to see the inclusion of a multiplayer mode that allows two players to work together either online or locally to take down a robotic Squidward, all whilst facing off against hordes of robots scattered across twenty-six islands in between. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting of multiplayer modes I’ve seen in a game and my fun with it was a bit short-lived, but I’m sure it’ll appeal to gamers who’ve got youngsters (or someone who shares the nostalgia) that they can enjoy it with.
Given that SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is considered a revamped release, you can expect some big improvements to the visuals when compared to the original game. Naturally, everything looks significantly better, with the characters looking more colourful and vibrant than ever and the environments packed to the brim with additional details and more detailed textures. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a graphical powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but it still manages to look really good and captures the colourful vibe of the TV series much better than the original iteration of the game did. It’s just a nice looking game.
Whilst the visuals have seen a big improvement though, there are some technical issues to be found in SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated. The frame rate could be a bit sketchy at times for example, with it easily falling below 30fps during some of its busier sections – it never feels unplayable by any means, but there were a good few occasions where the platforming antics of the game could feel a little bit choppy. There were quite a few graphical flaws to be found too, most specifically with some textures failing to load or objects popping into the environment from out of nowhere. Again, it’s nothing game-breaking in the grand scheme of things, but they’re still minor issues that show a lack of overall polish within SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated isn’t a perfect remastered release, but it still remains a fun and enjoyable platforming escapade that fans of the TV show are sure to love. Sure, it can feel a little dated in places, but the charming level design and zany antics of the game more than make up for it.
It’s just a shame a few of the technical issues couldn’t be ironed out in time for release, but hopefully SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated will see some improvements made with additional patches in the future.
Developer: Purple Lamp Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC