REVIEW: ‘SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated’ (Xbox One)

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Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom — Rehydrated

Are you ready kids? SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, developed by Purple Lamp Studios and published by THQ Nordic, has arrived. This remake of the 2003 cult classic delivers a facelifted recreation with minimal additions. Play as Spongebob, Patrick, and Sandy as you defend Bikini Bottom from robots accidentally let loose by Plankton.

In judging a remake of a game 15+ years old, the biggest questions are not whether the plot or the game’s mechanics are good. Those aspects of Battle for Bikini Bottom are essentially immutable and shouldn’t be held against or for the remake’s rating. What matters most is whether the game holds up today, whether the updates or improvements are valuable, and ultimately, whether the remake is worth buying over just playing the original, or leaving the game in the past altogether.

Battle for Bikini Bottom was, in my opinion, one of the last successes of the Golden Age of Collectathons. The simple plot, stop robots and save Bikini Bottom, lends itself to the simple gameplay. You run around action-platforming stages collecting shiny objects, Patrick’s lost socks, Golden Spatulas, and a number of other level-specific items to progress forward in the game, unlock new areas and stages, and accumulate a few new powers along the way that send you backtracking to previous stages for more collecting.

While a genre mastered by the likes of Mario, Donkey Kong, Banjo-Kazooie, and Spyro the Dragon, countless other games came along utilizing this tried and true formula. Battle for Bikini Bottom could easily be seen as a cash-grab shovelware type of game taking advantage of an extremely popular IP like most children’s shows did making video games at the time. However, you would be mistaken. Battle for Bikini Bottom is, and remains, a well-crafted game with a difficulty level just high enough that it is not a breeze, but low enough that it is fun for gamers of any age or skill.

Furthermore, the game not only takes the most classic elements of Spongebob’s early seasons and transplants them into the game. It builds upon them to create entirely new scenarios and aspects of the game that remain equally classic among Spongebob fans. Bungie jumping with Spongebob’s underwear and his fights against giant robot versions of his friends are chief among those aspects. All of the game’s mechanics from its bubble-based move set to the special moves of each of the game’s playable characters hold up as smooth, creative mechanics.

Visually, Battle for Bikini Bottom — Rehydrated looks exactly as advertised: rehydrated. The original game may live beautifully in the nostalgia-centers of fans’ minds, but in earnest, the original game looks pretty bad today. The remake breaths plush, colorful live into the diverse and vibrant environments of the game. The character models look pretty swell in a perfect in-between of the cartoon and the recent 3D models from the upcoming 2020 Sponge on the Run movie.

The cutscenes are also provided significantly more animation that the original game. Where in the original most cutscenes would see the characters make a pose or two with limited facial expressions, the remake has a noticeable wealth of emotion and animation as characters converse. Additionally, in terms of presentation, the music is as catchy as ever. I have been humming the Jellyfish Fields theme all day. The other sound effects are endearing and the visuals on Spongebob’s bubble-based moves look great with the rainbow effects.

Where Battle for Bikini Bottom — Rehydrated falters is the same place most remakes falter. It doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience. Yes, there is a multiplayer mode, which will be reviewed separately. But beyond that and the graphic overhaul, the only noticeable update is the pause menu, which now sports a nice looking map of all the levels and their objectives when you click on each, rather than the list version of this in the original. Also, one of Spongebob’s idle animations now includes the “Mocking Spongebob” meme, which was a welcome, self-aware, tiny addition.

However, even the map is confusing, because the levels appear all at once and even as a veteran player of the original game, I didn’t recognize all of the levels and couldn’t tell at first how they were arranged. Also, the whole pause menu feels difficult to navigate with so menu submenus and only one or two options in each. I wish the remake would have included at least something more, like a hard mode or an extra level. Or classic cheat codes to unlock as you collect things, like Big Head Mode or Ripped Pants Mode or something.

Whether you have nostalgia for the original or not, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a genuinely worthwhile game to pick up in 2020 and enjoy. It offers enough to do to warrant the price tag and is certainly a step-up in terms of presentation compared to the original. While it doesn’t offer much new, what it does offer is a great looking, smooth playing action-platformer from the tail-end of the Golden Age of Collectathons.

Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Whether you have nostalgia for the original or not, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a genuinely worthwhile game to pick up in 2020 and enjoy. It offers enough to do to warrant the price tag and is certainly a step-up in terms of presentation compared to the original. While it doesn’t offer much new, what it does offer is a great looking, smooth playing action-platformer from the tail-end of the Golden Age of Collectathons.