It’s incredible seeing how popular Spongebob Squarepants has remained over the twenty years since his creation. Admittedly, I’ve never been too much of a fan of his cartoon since it came out when I wasn’t checking Nickelodeon out anymore a whole lot, but his staying power proved true by the sheer power of the Internet, memes, and of course, social media. His charm is undeniable, and even after his creator Stephen Hillenburg’s death in 2018 he’s still a mainstain in children’s programming on TV.
The same can be said for his games, as one in particular seems to have been loved enough to get a remaster in this day of THQ Nordic-manned re-releases, 2003’s Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a full remastered version that retains what made a platformer back in the GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 era, that is a ton of collectibles, silly quests, colorful levels, and of course, jumping around whacking enemies silly.
You of course play as the titular hero in Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated as Spongebob well, bobs around using his trusty meat patty spatula to defeat enemies, and a jelly fish to thrust high up to hit those pesky tiki blocks, but you can also switch to some of his most trusted pals as well. His best friend, the dim-witted and sometimes brilliant Patrick Star can throw items around in order to hit far away switches as well as stun foes by throwing his weight around, literally hitting them with his big belly, while Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel that explores the sea floor wearing an astronaut suit is much more suited to jumping and floating around with her lasso.
The premise here is that yet another of mainstay villain tryhard Plankton’s plans has gone awry as a limitless amount of robots are now streaming out of his factory at the Chum Bucket and taking over Bikini Bottom and the many locations within. They’re are broken up in levels that Spongbob and pals need to explore and rid of the bots, collecting plenty of socks, spatulas, and most importantly, underwear if they hope to keep having their insane adventures without having to worry about some dumb bucket of bolts getting in their way. You’ll run into the show mainstay characters along the way, like Spongebob’s hapless neighbor Squidward, his boss Mr. Krab (who’s criminally NOT voiced by Clancy Brown in the game!), along with a bunch more, who usually have a quest for them to take care of, usually resulting in a golden spatula, which are needed to open up new areas to explore.
There’s another collectible that is plenty available and is used to buy your way into places that comes in the form of shiny colorful blobs which are all over the place, really. There’s no avoiding picking those up as they’re even more plentiful than Mario’s coins. In fact, those pickups aren’t the only thing that Battle for Bikini Bottom borrowed from Mario’s first 3D adventure, as Spongebob’s own is structured pretty similarly to the plumber’s Nintendo 64 debut. There’s a main hub in the form of Spongebob’s neighborhood where you’ll gradually open up new stages to explore, and those are split into smaller spaces with plenty of quests to finish, which you can conveniently warp to via the map.
While I would’ve loved to have a little more precision when it comes to platforming, I was surprised at how playable Battle for Bikini Bottom is in this day and age. It’s simple and fun to do battle with the hordes of enemies that permeate its levels, and the missions themselves can sometimes be pretty involved, spanning the location’s map requiring you to really explore it in order to get things done. For fans of the show, it also makes really good use of its cast, with plenty of callbacks to jokes from the cartoon, which I’m sure I didn’t quite get due to not religiously watching it, but definitely noticed. Sadly, I didn’t catch a cameo by David Hasselhoff. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
The look and feel of the show are even better translated in Rehydrated than the original version of the game, as upon comparison via videos online, it seems like the colors of the graphics have gotten a big bump up in saturation, and the models are now obviously much more detailed and better animated. Spongebob in particular looks absolutely great and really pops as you bounce around trying to get to those pesky socks and golden spatulas. There’s a lot to this remaster that feels a little janky in this department too, like the constant pop-in of not at all far objects and enemies, as well as textures not changing from low to high resolution quickly enough, which I’ll assume is due to the game running on Unreal and how much that’s been an issue with it over the years. The co-op multiplayer is something I didn’t get to try, but the idea of it sounds fun.
Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated really pops when playing in portable mode on the Switch and it’s by far my recommended way of playing it as the game can look somewhat crummy on a TV due to the constant aliasing that’s not nearly as noticeable on the Switch’s screen. I noticed some slowdown throughout my time playing too, especially when plenty of stuff was flying on screen, like collectibles floating to Spongbob and enemies getting defeated left and right. It didn’t detract much from the experience, though, since he and his buddies aren’t particularly responsive to the controls anyway, sometimes even missing button presses, but it’s something to be touched upon regardless.
Character platformers were in the up and up when Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom originally came out, and since then they’ve had time to go away and be demanded back by fans, so nowadays there’s been sort of a resurgence of them in the form of Yooka Laylee, A Hat in Time and co., so it makes sense for THQ Nordic to invest on this remaster. They’ve certainly succeeded at making it look much better, even though it plays not as well as it looks. For anyone feeling nostalgic for Spongbob and crew, there’s plenty to enjoy in Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, and even for someone who digs platformers but doesn’t really know much about the world of the cartoon, its sheer charm might enough to warrant at least checking out this new version of the game.