SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a remake that no one probably expected.
First announced in fall 2019, Rehydrated is a remake of the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox game. And while I never had a chance to play the original – my friend, Martin Henely, reviewed it for us back in 2003 – it’s a game that I suspect a lot of people forgot about.
So when THQ Nordic announced that they were reviving Battle for Bikini Bottom with upgraded graphics, it drew my attention. That’s mostly because I enjoyed the SpongeBob cartoon back in the day and never played the original game. But the art direction at least looked promising.
As with the original SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, Rehydrated lets you play as SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy. Each of the game’s playable characters come with their own unique skillsets to thwart Plankton’s plot to rule Bikini Bottom.
For instance, SpongeBob has a basic attack using a bubble blower and the ability to double jump. With a power-up, he can morph into a ball and roll around stages fairly fast. Patrick uses watermelons and crates as projectiles. Meanwhile, Sandy can lasso from a distance and glide short distances.
Sometimes you’ll need to switch between the characters to make use of a specific skill in a certain situation. Also, you’ll gain more abilities as you progress throughout the game. SpongeBob gains an ability that allows him to bubble bowl, which can be used as an attack and a way to hit objects.
“Oh, how shellfish of you!”
Aside from the playable SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy trio, the game also has a number of cameos. You’ll see familiar faces in Bikini Bottom Rehydrated like Mr. Krabs, Mrs. Puff, as well as Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. And then, of course, there is Squidward.
These encounters are enjoyable. They often lead to lighthearted exchanges with beloved characters. And it definitely helps that some of the characters retain the voice talent from the show. It lends an authenticity that can be lacking in licensed video games.
Rather than just make a one-off appearance, these characters have missions and optional side-missions for you to complete. These tasks mostly involve collecting various objects, but they can include clearing out enemies as well.
Mr. Krabs gives you golden spatulas – which are basically this game’s version of stars from games like Super Mario 64 – in exchange for shiny objects. You collect shiny objects throughout each level, which act as a sort of currency. Aside from Mr. Krabs wanting them, you can also use shiny objects to unlock things in the game world.
In addition to collecting shiny objects, golden spatulas, and Patrick’s stinky socks, you’ll also do plenty of platforming. There’s a hub world outside of SpongeBob’s house to reach the various levels. Taxis (i.e. load screens) transport you to places like downtown Bikini Bottom and Goo Lagoon.
Also scattered throughout the game world are a few boss battles, like one with a giant robotic Sandy. Another boss battle has SpongeBob fight an over-sized “king” jellyfish. Ultimately, these prove to be temporary distractions, mostly because the bosses are too predictable.
Rehydrated or rehashed?
I’m not going to knock SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated for being too loyal to the original. It is a remake, after all, not a reimagining or an entirely new game. I knew that going in.
But is this a game that really needed a straight-up remake?
After playing, I’m less convinced. Yes, the graphics are vastly improved – as they should be, given that this is a PlayStation 2 game on the PS4 – but the gameplay is stuck in 2003. I’d be willing to forgive Rehydrated for all of its fetch quests – they can be seen as a throwback – but the fact that the game suffers from things like collision detection issues is inexcusable.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is definitely a throwback. And I will give Rehydrated this: it does a fairly good job of absorbing you in SpongeBob’s underwater world. Thanks to the graphics upgrade, it looks more like the cartoon.
Even though it has a fresh coat of paint, though, the gameplay is firmly rooted in the platformer formula of the late 1990s and early 2000s. For some people, the early 3D platforming vibe might be exactly what they want. But if you prefer more modern platformers, look elsewhere.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.