When I saw Spongebob Square Pants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, I instantly recognised the game. I was suddenly thrown back to memories of my younger brother, gliding around on Patrick or Spongebob’s tongue, hitting tikis and fighting robots. I can remember the jumping sound effects perfectly.
If you don’t already know, I was a big Spongebob Squarepants fan as a kid. I had the F.U.N. alarm clock before I could even read a clock. I had stuffed animals, action figures, a toy chest covered in foam stickers… Spongebob was often on TV in our household. My brother shares this love of the strange sea sponge with me.
My brother came to visit me for about six months, around the time of Gamescom last year. I took him along with me while I travelled for work and he was interested in one game alone: Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated. We made our way over to the massive building that publishers THQ Nordic had built, straight out of Spongebob, while my poor brother — who was at his first ever huge gaming event — looked at the building awestruck. We entered the building, got in line for the demo, and were surprised, and almost dumbfound, when we realized this was the exact same game we had played as children, down to the exact hidden places for secrets. My brother completed the entire demo in three minutes flat, then continued to show me the secrets, before resetting and playing again. Honestly, I was hoping ‘Rehydrated’ meant more than ‘Remastered’.
We played the game quite recently, within the last 10 years, and remembered a lot of the game. There wasn’t a massive difference, as this is just a graphics upgrade and a new — previously cut — multiplayer mode, and that made me sour at first. Personally, I am not sure if it’s worth it making an entire game again, in an improved graphic style, for a newer console. But alas, I still had an itch to check out the full game, so I did.
Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated has everything you’d expect in a Spongebob game: the main characters Plankton doing something dumb and dangerious to destroy the world, Spongebob mindlessly cleaning up after it. The main town, including Spongebob’s home, is the center of the map. From there, if you get enough golden spatulas which are found around various levels, you are able to unlock new areas. There are robots invading, due to Plankton, which can be bashed with your bubble blowing wand as you travel around grabbing spatulas and ‘shiny items’ (think tiny, undersea flowers).
It’s a platformer that opens up the various stages as you progress, allowing you to go wherever you want, with only vague directions. There are other characters scattered about, who talk to you in the same tone and manner as they speak in the TV show. Small cutscenes give you updates on what is going on, almost switching to be like the TV show itself, with Spongebob saying something wacky and a character wondering how he’s gotten this far in life with so little knowledge. I mean, when the extra lives are represented by Spongebob’s underwear — even when you play as Patrick or Sandy who comment on this — it’s a game that you’re not to take too seriously.
Defeating the robots is simple enough — my favorite move involves double jumping twice then using my bubble wand to make bubble shoes to explode onto, which defeats some enemies and stuns others. My least favorite enemy is the ones that shoot tartar sauce, as they have far too much range and take too long to get to when they are doing their victory dance for shooting out a few times. Boss fights at the end of each level are fun, collecting Patrick’s socks are challenging and provide a lot of secret spaces that are off the track for player’s to find. It’s a solid platformer, full of polish.
There are downsides to Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, the most obvious of which being the loading screens. There are a lot of loading screens in this game — sometimes between the “exit” sign at the end of the level, then again to actually exit the level through the door, just so you enter the town and enter a new area. That’s three loading screens in moments. These screens are long, with nothing but a tiny animated word that says ‘loading…’in the right hand corner, and otherwise a grey screen that’s a bit blotchy with false-black darkness and zero background music. This loading screen lasts too long and needs something more interesting on it, even if that was just the animated word ‘Loading…’ in the middle of the screen instead of off to the side.
Apart from the loading screen, there are a few places where spaces are missing in text or where you can easily fall out of the level — which is corrected by a giant hand — but isn’t too fun to face when you have to hit that long, grey loading screen once again. I personally wish the developers had decided to move around some of the ‘secrets’ and added another bonus boss, but apparently loads of people are interested in remakes for better graphics rather than more content:so I guess that’s worth noting as most of the audience will enjoy that.
Another major issue for me is the lack of direction when it comes to the level design. Especially if you quit the game and reload. It’s quite easy to end up with no idea of where to go, and there’s no direction — in UI, or environmental — on where to go. This means that you either need to play it in one go or become patient when it comes to seeing where you have been. Most of the tikis and robots respawn between deaths and plays, which means that they do not give you any clues as to where you have been either!
The multiplayer mode, which allows up to two players — either online or in couch co-op — was cut from the original game. This is a wave-attack deal, but actually contains a lot more content then the words ‘wave attack’ bring to my head. Squidward, for whatever reason, is a giant robot spawning more robots in. You and your friend, after selecting a character to play as, move from island to island, clearing waves of robots on those islands. I feel this multiplayer is really well balanced — you don’t even need to play with someone who knows how to jump.
On the island you are playing on, you will get to face a bunch of waves, but if both of you completely die in a wave, instead of restarting at the start of that island, you just have to replay that wave and the waves after it. This is a great feature if you want to play with younger people who may not be that amazing at playing games. I do have to mention at this point that some of these younger players might also hilariously refer to Spongebob as ‘Cheese Man’ something which more than justifies the price of entry for the game.
Anyway, back to staying alive.in the wave defense mode When you have to go to the next island, there are a bunch of different floating items for you to parkour across, which can be challenging for those who haven’t played the base game enough. It turns out that 3D platforming has changed a lot over the years — we all used to rely on watching shadows for jumping sections. If your friend isn’t jumping well then you can just make it to the next island and they will be teleported to you, meaning you can really carry the game and don’t need to actually wait for the other player to figure things out. Again, this is great for playing with younger kids! The world starts off quite full of trash and broken metal, but moves to islands, floating candy areas and beyond. It’s a fun little multiplayer mode and I honestly wish it scaled up to local four player!
Now, you probably want to know what I think of Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated. Personally, I feel this is a game that I would pick up just for the nostalgia value — I remember the base game and have very fond memories of actually playing it with my siblings. I love the bit of the game where you get to ride on your tongue, almost like surfing, smashing into items and collecting shiny objects as you go. There are lots of fun features in the game like that; Spongebob can turn into a ball and roll around, giving limited controls that feel fun. Patrick can freeze areas, slipping and sliding around. Sandy can swing a rope, using it to glide or swing to new areas. The characters are fun and familiar, their story is far fetched and full of strange aspects and weird conversations.
Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is just a fun game with good voice acting, nice cut scenes, and a world full of joy that most children and fans of the show alike will enjoy playing through. Now, the game is more accessible to consoles that are currently in use, and yes, the graphics are really lovely in this update.