I used to worship my GameCube the way that SpongeBob and Patrick worship the magic conch shell.
As a kid, playing video games was just what we did at my house. Even at my friends’ houses. If you didn’t have at least one console you just weren’t cool. So seeing games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and now SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, one of my childhood favourites, get a full remake is like a dream come true. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and rekindle those memories of playing it with my sister, friends and Dad. It’s a lovely bit of nostalgia – but sadly it has a few glaring issues, too.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a complete remake of the classic title from 2003. SpongeBob and his best friends, Sandy and Patrick, must work together to fight oodles of robots that Plankton has created. Plankton, having lost control of the robots, has begged the three friends for their help in getting him back into the Chum Bucket so he can shut them down. Of course, SpongeBob doesn’t know that Plankton is the one who released the robots in the first place, and is willing to help if it means saving Bikini Bottom.
“With its wonderful new graphics, Bikini Bottom has never looked better”
After a brief tutorial inside SpongeBob’s home, the players are given free reign of Bikini Bottom. You can venture inside Squidward’s House, talk with Mr. Krabs, Patrick, Plankton and Bubble Buddy and head out to various levels to collect the all-important golden spatulas. Golden spatulas are what SpongeBob and his friends are tasked with collecting throughout the game in order to unlock areas further down the line. Jellyfish Fields, the first level, is free to travel to, but you must get at least five spatulas before you can head into Downtown Bikini Bottom, for example. Each level after that costs even more spatulas; when you get to the last few, you’ll need upwards of 60.
You can collect golden spatulas in a variety of ways. First is simply by exploring. Bikini Bottom itself has a few spatulas lying about if you know where to look. Each level has a certain number of spatulas to be gained by completing tasks. The ski slope levels, for example, award you with a spatula for finishing each slope; and you can gain an additional spatula for beating a character’s record time. Mrs. Puff, Bubble Buddy and Larry’s times are incredibly difficult to beat – but with enough practice you’ll be wiping them from the leaderboard.
After completing all the levels in one section of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob and his friends will be forced to fight large robots that resemble themselves. Yes, you heard that right. The very first boss battle you’ll encounter is a giant Sandy robot who can karate chop you into next week if you aren’t careful. You’ll also fight the likes of Robot Patrick, Robot SpongeBob and Robot Plankton. In order to beat each boss, you’ll need to make use of various moves that you’ll learn throughout the game.
SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy each have different abilities that come in handy in different situations. SpongeBob has a variety of “Bubble Moves”, such as the Bubble Bowl and the Bubble Cruiser. The Bubble Bowl allows SpongeBob to bowl a bubble towards enemies or to press a button, and the Bubble Cruiser lets you control a Bubble Rocket for the same purpose. Patrick is able to pick up objects like melons to throw at targets, or ice cubes to freeze “goo” so it can be walked on. Sandy is able to use a lasso to float in between platforms and she can also lasso robots to destroy them.
“If you’re wondering about Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated’s new content, it’s best not to get your hopes up”
Unfortunately, things aren’t all great under the sea. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated looks absolutely fantastic – it’s bright, bold, crisp and shiny compared to the original. But outside of its visuals, there are some issues with the game’s controls and mechanics that are hard to ignore. Platforming is still clunky at the best of times. Jumping from platform to platform is something that players will be doing quite often, but it’s often unwieldy and imperfect. For a game that relies so much on jumping to traverse levels, controls should be tight and precise, but it isn’t the case.
On multiple occasions I would be sliding down a slope, ready to take a huge jump at the end, and fall flat on my face because the jumping just didn’t happen or I couldn’t reach far enough. But other times, when doing the exact same move in the same way, I’d fly through the air. The same thing occurs if you happen to jump into a group of tikis, SpongeBob‘s equivalent of breakable loot boxes; rather than smoothly bursting through them like you should, you’ll sometimes faceplant and find yourself plummeting to the deep ocean below. The game’s response to your input is just never consistent, and it leads to numerous deaths that could have easily been avoided.
“SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated still feels like the classic version – for better and for worse”
If you’re wondering about Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated’s new content, it’s best not to get your hopes up. The new multiplayer battle arena is abysmal. You and your friends can choose from a variety of characters, including Robot Plankton, Squidward and Mr. Krabs, and you’ll work together to defeat a giant Robot Squidward. You’ll jump between small islands, defeating waves of enemies each time. It amounts to far too much of a meaningless and drawn-out exercise; over half an hour and twenty-five islands later, you and your friends will have finally defeated the Robot Squidward, but there’s no sense of achievement or challenge. Die, and you’ll simply respawn a few seconds later. If you want to play the game with friends, just take it in turns to play the main game.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated still feels like the classic version – for better and for worse. The voice actors for SpongeBob, Patrick, Sandy, Mrs. Puff and more help to bring the game to life and, with its wonderful new graphics, Bikini Bottom has never looked better. Due to its issues, though, it isn’t likely to pull in a new wave of players. It barely managed to keep me invested – and I’ve been incredibly excited to get my hands on it. For those who played it as kids, it’s a joy to see it looking so shiny and new, but don’t go in expecting to get too much fun out of it.