THQ Nordic has been on a roll recently, and its next success story is SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. This faithful remake of the original 2003 title takes players back to the underwater Nickelodeon world to once again rid the city of evil robots. With updated visuals, improved framerates, and previously cut-content stitched back in, Rehydrated is a cool glass of water we all need in these trying times. Though it does have a few graphical and technical hiccups, they don’t get in the way of a nostalgic experience.
Back in 2003, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube players were treated to SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. While the game scored above-average reviews, it quickly became a cult classic, with fans swarming to the title to relish in its faithful recreation of the Nickelodeon cartoon in video game format.
Some 17 years later, the team at Purple Lamp Studios have brought the game to a modern audience with a remake of the same name, just with Rehydrated on the end.
The story is still the same. Plankton is once again trying to steal the secret Krabby Patty formula from Mr Krabs. This time, he’s designed a machine that can spit out robots that will obey his every command. But wouldn’t you know it, he forgot to throw the lever from “don't obey” to “obey”, and now Bikini Bottom is overrun with evil robots.
From here, the player takes on the role of SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to fight back against the robots and the various mechanical bosses. Each of the three characters has unique abilities that allow them to fight robots and explore the environments in different ways.
The locations players adventure through are lifted straight from the show, with the likes of the Jellyfish Fields, Rock Bottom, and even Sandy’s water-free underwater dome beautifully created in-game.
As far as an adventure platformer goes, Rehydrated offers the usual fare. There is a main collectible to find (Golden Spatulas) whereby collecting more unlocks access to more levels, smaller collectibles that require a bit more experimentation (Patrick’s Socks), abilities to unlock over the course of the game and backtracking to early levels to use said abilities. While it doesn’t push any boundaries and simply does these things well, the main appeal is in the faithful recreation of SpongeBob in video game format.
A Perfect Circle
In terms of the Rehydrated remake of Battle for Bikini Bottom, the biggest boon is going to be its visual overhaul. While the original game certainly holds up, Rehydrated lifts it to new levels. Each environment has vibrancy to it and the character models look more lifelike and less flat.
Then there is the framerate, which manages to remain a buttery smooth experience, even when there are a dozen robots on-screen. This framerate also helps the controls feel smoother and more responsive.
One addition that would have lifted the visual experience further would be a function similar to that seen in Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. These two games allowed players to switch the visuals back and forth on the fly. It would have been nice to see how Bikini Bottom has improved since its early 2000s counterpart.
Outside of the visual update, Rehydrated also features a couple of UI improvements, the most notable of which is the pause menu. Instead of the levels listed out for players to teleport to, there is an actual map that features a small rendition of what the area looks like. Bikini Bottom is represented by the three iconic houses, Rock Bottom is a pit, and SpongeBob’s dreamscape is all clouds and rainbows. This small upgrade adds a bit more flavor to a simple pause menu.
For everything Rehydrated gets right with improvements, there are a couple of hiccups. Early on in the piece, there were some slight detail pop-ins when transitioning between zones. It doesn’t detract from the overall experience but it is noticeable.
Then there’s the vibrant nature of the visual upgrade. Though it does look good, there are some instances where it’s almost too much, as if the gamma is cranked up way too high. It can be a bit overpowering.
The only overt technical problem encountered in SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is an extremely frustrating camera issue. Whenever the player needs to switch to another character, either at one of the bus stops or as part of a boss fight, the game will revert to default camera settings. For those that invert the Y-axis, this means going into the options every single time to flip the setting back on.
Aside from upgraded visuals and improved framerates, Rehydrated also adds back in previously-cut content. Included in this is a multiplayer horde mode which contains a Robo Squidward boss fight. Though the idea of playing previously-cut content is alluring, the end result is found wanting.
In the horde mode, players can pick one of several SpongeBob characters. There are the main three characters from the singleplayer as well as Squidward, Gary, Mr Krabs, and Plankton. All of these characters feature the same moveset though they have a different weapon. It would have been nice to have greater variance between the characters rather than just a skin-swap.
The entire horde mode takes place in a giant ocean with players moving between islands that act as arenas. After clearing a few islands in an area, one of the Robo Squidward’s tentacles is destroyed. This is repeated several times, totalling some 26 islands of increasing difficulty.
Ultimately, it’s not a very challenging experience and there’s really no reason to play it multiple times. Even the ability to play as a different character offers no significant new abilities or gameplay options.
It’s not just the gameplay that is disappointingly hollow as the audio is also oddly barren in the multiplayer mode. There is a lack of atmosphere, with the only audio coming from the attacks of robots and the music.
As far as a multiplayer experience goes, there’s really not enough here to warrant playing it more than once. Players are given no rewards to chase, there’s no sense of progress, or unlockables associated with it. For most players, this will be a one-and-done experience.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated may be the same game from 2003, albeit wrapped up in a pretty package with some extra, slightly frivolous bells, but it’s delightfully nostalgic. It’s a solid execution on a game that has only grown with popularity since its release. For those ‘90s kids out there, it offers a moment of relaxation, a short break to slip back to a time that was a bit easier than now. Much like SpongeBob, I need it.
This review is based on an Xbox One download code provided by the publisher. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated will be available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on June 23, 2020.
- Art style remains true to the original while improving visuals
- Rich environments taken straight from the show
- Improved framerates are always a good thing
- New, previously-cut content
- Some graphical pop-ins
- Swapping characters resets controller settings to default
- Multiplayer is hollow