Originally released on PS2, the original Xbox, Gamecube, and even Gameboy Advance, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom has been revived on modern consoles with the “Rehydrated” tag to indicate an increase in resolution and new features. Unfortunately, this re-release doesn’t attempt to update the gameplay to modern standards and leaves this package feeling entirely like a licensed game from a couple generations ago.
Battle for Bikini Bottom is a 3D platforming collect-a-thon that was regarded as one of the better licensed games back in the day. Despite being loaded with fan service, the platforming, combat, and collecting mechanics are average and tedious at best. Players eventually unlock a few difference playable characters, each with their own unique abilities, but can only be swapped at dedicated bus stops awkwardly spaced throughout each stage. Swapping characters to utilize unique features brings variety to the gameplay but forcing dedicated spawn points is a time wasting chore – why couldn’t this have been updated with a single button press? Combat is really nothing more than button mashing or an occasional butt stomp too. Also, it is strange how these are creatures that live under the sea but yet die when they jump into water…
Visually, everything looks and sounds as you would expect for an up-res’d game from nearly two decades ago. Each environment is filled with bright colors and looks like everything is made out of neon candy. The biggest problem with the environment are the non-interactive platforms. After my dozen deaths by falling off the stage, I stopped looking for secrets off the beaten path because those rocks that look like a secret ledge is really just background material made to look pretty, another disappointing feature that wasn’t fixed with the re-release. The Xbox One version I played on an Xbox One X also featured tons of non-game breaking but annoying pop-in. Also, pro tip, turn off the “smart camera” option in the main menu. This feature doesn’t assist the player but makes the camera the biggest foe, even more so than the lame but annoying ham-mer robots. Fans should appreciate the voice work by the actors that portray them on the show but will notice the ones that didn’t make the final cut. The same few voice quips also repeat at every opportunity as well.
Battle For Bikini Bottom isn’t a difficult game and has a few bright spots but the lack of modernized features makes most of the campaign feel like busy work. Even if the character swapping mechanic was more intuitive, the player still needs to deal with predictable, mindless enemies, chore-like tasks, and monotonous collecting. Understandably, young kids are the target audience for this Nickelodeon licensed game but even slightly older players will probably find the handholding tiresome. Yes, I am pretty sure I can figure out I need to use Patrick to throw the thing at that enemy, or to bungee jump using SpongeBob’s underwear on a hook.
There is a new horde mode available for multiplayer but this feature misses the mark by only offering repetition. Since each playable character mostly plays the same and enemies can be destroyed with simple button mashing, the new horde mode is the most disappointing of the new features.
Even with the lower retail launch price, Rehydrated should really only be played by curious fans or players that want to relive the nostalgia of the original. It isn’t the worse platformer out there and surely not the worst licensed title out there, but lack of modern upgrades to the gameplay is rather disappointing. Fans would be better pointing their attention to other remasterings like the Spyro, Crash, or even the Medievil titles.
Also available on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Not As Good As: Donkey Kong 64
Also Try: Poi: Explorer Edition (Switch)
Wait For It: the rumored return of Super Mario 64