Review: Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated

22 Jun 2020

All of the Bikini Bottom locals are back in action to destroy robots and save the sea from Plankton’s schemes gone awry in Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. This remake comes seventeen years after the original made its way to the Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, and more. Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, developed by Purple Lamp Studios and published by THQ Nordic, releases on June 23, 2020 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be discussing the PlayStation 4 release. 

If It Isn’t Broken, Duplicate

Much like with the original run of the game, Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated begins with Plankton attempting to produce an army of robots when things suddenly go upside-down. Meanwhile, Spongebob and Patrick are wishing on a “magic wishing shell” that they could play with real robots. This is all to say that, based on my memory of the original game, the storyline for this remake is essentially identical. The opening, the cutscenes, and the motives or missions behind each level all feel the same as the console version from before. 

One thing of note is that this remake is certainly based on the console version of the original game and not the Game Boy Advance version, which I am also familiar with. The story for the latter is told in a different style but it is clear from the opening scenes that Rehydrated is following its console predecessor in all ways imaginable, story included. 

While the story for this action, 3D platformer is nothing expansive or deep it is fitting enough for the game and universe itself. Fans of the show or original game will be delighted to find the many different ways the writers have fit in jokes and references wherever possible. Though at times these jokes can get a little too heavy-handed, overall the game plays like an episode of the show itself. That is to say, when consumed in smaller doses the jokes and writing as whole can be more enjoyable than when you hearing the same references for hours-on-end. 

Are You Ready for Upgrades?

Similar to the story, the general layout and structure of the levels for Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated are the same. At some points, I was tempted to boot up my original copy and compare the two because of how uncanny the similarities were, with some serious upgrades of course. Generally speaking, the game is a 3D platformer with puzzle-solving and action-based mechanics. It functions, on the whole, very similar to the original but with serious improvements to the controls and accuracy of things like attacks, character abilities, and more. 

At first, the entirety of a level is played as Spongebob Squarepants himself but soon players unlock the ability to switch between other characters in designated locations within each level. This allows for a variety of gameplay styles and keeps things interesting as you progress through the game. Mechanics like this paired with character-ability-specific puzzles were part of what kept me enjoying myself throughout the game. Many of the level designs seemed to be improved upon as well to accommodate for the better controls and improved graphics which only benefits the experience. 

In Rehydrated, there aren’t just improvements to the existing levels and gameplay. There is also a brand-new multiplayer horde mode that allows for 2-player local or online co-op as you go up against Robo-Squidward. While it already feels like there’s a lot to see and do in this game, the inclusion of the multiplayer mode is a nice addition. 

Now, most 3D platformers are not kind to accessibility or the specific accessibility issues I have when playing games and unfortunately Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is no exception. Time and time again I found myself missing marks, losing the location of platforms, or just not seeing where enemies were. While this is something that can be typical of the genre, it’s certainly an issue I had with the original game, I did expect some improvements with the graphics and control changes this time around. Instead, I almost found this game harder to play from an accessibility standpoint for me personally and I fear that others with issues similar to mine will be in the same boat. Additionally, there are very few accessibility-friendly modifications available in the settings. There is the ability to turn on subtitles, which are a reasonable size, they just aren’t adjustable. But while the gameplay and levels can be plenty of fun for a wide audience, there’s still an even larger group of players out there that cannot have an enjoyable experience with this game no matter how hard they try through no fault of their own. 

While there are plenty of levels to explore, mechanics to try out, and different characters to switch between within the levels things can still get a bit tedious. It may be due to the genre style but even with the most generous of style-changing attempts within levels, there were still times I just felt a bit bored and needed a break. It certainly seems that, unless you’re a huge fan of both the genre and the previous title you may want to take this one in smaller doses to prevent yourself from running out of steam.

Fresh Paint on the Pineapple

As with any remake, the art has received a serious upgrade. While most of the levels, items, and characters are the same from the original game, they feel brand-new thanks to the fresh look from the new art. Everything feels more alive and full than ever before. 

The music was also remastered and sounds incredibly fitting for the look and feel of this game. Each level sounds better than before and creates an environment that feels true to the world of the game for fans of the franchise. It’s a fun soundtrack and many will recognize the songs from either the show or previous game.

A Fun Time in A Shallow Ocean

Remaking a game, especially one with an ounce of a beloved following, is no easy task. There are many different factors at play and tons of opportunities for the remake to go wrong. As far as recreating the original experience of its predecessor goes, Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated checks all the boxes and then some. It’s a solid remake that enhances the previous game for new and returning players that may have a warm nostalgia for the original console edition. That isn’t to say however, that this game is without its faults. There were plenty of times I got frustrated by its inaccessibility or just plain bored by playing the game for long periods of time. At the end of the day, it’s a tried-and-true 3D platformer which means it’s not to be taken in large doses and is something you may easily burn out on if you’re not a devoted fan of the style. 

This couples with the writing that, while good, doesn’t hit the mark consistently enough to be a knock-out. It’s a pretty great parallel for the entire experience of Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. Chances are, you already know if you’re the audience for this game. It’s not the 3D platformer to convert your realistic, RPG-fan friends by any means, but it’s exactly what it promises it is: a remake on the original game with updated controls, graphics, and a new multiplayer mode. Playing Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a fun enough time if you’re looking for a nostalgia kick with better graphics and if you’re a fan of the genre already you just might enjoy a trip to Bikini Bottom yourself. 

~ Final Score: 7/10 ~

Review copy provided by THQ Nordic for PlayStation 4. Screenshots captured by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of THQ Nordic.