SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated Review: Shallow F.U.N.

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated hits you with nostalgia, but that's not enough to carry it forward in 2020.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It's the driving force behind many beloved franchises, especially in video games. The hype surrounding the return of a game or series you loved as a kid is unlike anything else. Though, a lot of times, our memories of these games can make them seem more enjoyable than they actually are. 

That brings us to SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, a remake of 2003's SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, as developed by Purple Lamp Studios and published by THQ NordicRehydrated keeps the gameplay, story, and themes of the original intact, but it improves the presentation for modern consoles.

Rehydrated doesn't deviate too far from the original, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you're looking for. Those wanting the same experience as the 2003 game but with a modern touch will likely enjoy Rehydrated. However, don't expect a total overhaul. In many ways, this isn't a bad thing, but Rehydrated still feels like a game from 17 years ago. 

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated Review: Shallow F.U.N.

Developing a remake is probably quite difficult. Some fans might want an experience that feels exactly like they remember, while others might want something new and iterative. At the same time, many older games are severely outdated and in need of a contemporary touch-up. Unfortunately for SpongeBob fans, Rehydrated feels outdated, despite looking like a modern release. 

In Rehydrated, you play as SpongeBob and his gang of friends, intending to stop Plankton's army of robots from stealing the coveted Krabby Patty secret formula. It's a story that's been done before, but you probably aren't expecting a deeply emotional narrative from a SpongeBob game.

The gameplay revolves around collecting "Shiny Things" (which are basically coins from Mario), platforming, and taking out enemies with basic attacks. The game uses the classic 3D-platformer formula, and it has multiple stages to explore linearly. Most of Rehydrated's stages allow you to swap between SpongeBob and other characters, who each have their own abilities, some of which are required to advance through the game. 

The levels vary in theme and location, offering a breadth of things to do, like solving minor puzzles and partaking in combat challenges to progress. However, after six hours or so, the levels start to feel the same when it comes to gameplay, even if your goals from stage to stage are presented differently. 

That's Rehydrated's biggest problem: It feels trapped in 2003 in nearly every regard. Video games have evolved so much in the past 17 years, even when it comes to 3D platformers. So running around, collecting items, and using basic attacks to take out robots is cute — and maybe even fun at first  but it quickly gets old as the game goes on.

That isn't to say there's absolutely no change of pace or no fun to be had in Rehydrated. In fact, each stage has unique features that attempt to keep things fresh. One of the earliest stages, Jellyfish Fields, introduces you to Patrick, who plays differently than SpongeBob, along with a boss battle against a giant jellyfish. Another section, Downtown Bikini Bottom, adds Sandy as a playable character, who takes part in some fun platforming across the town's rooftops. 

Aside from its lackluster gameplay, Rehydrated's most significant issue is its bugs, especially the ones that halt your progression.

The most common problem I encountered in my time with Rehydrated was a black screen that could only be circumvented by quitting out to the main menu. This would only happen after getting to the very end of a checkpoint, usually after striking an enemy. It was as if the game was having trouble loading the next part.

Either way, having to restart an entire section because of a bug is unacceptable. And this happened around eight times throughout my playthrough for review. Let's hope Purple Lamp Studios rolls out a patch for this before the game launches. 

The other problem is Rehydrated's egregious load times. On average, it would take 25 seconds to respawn at the beginning of a checkpoint. That may not sound like a big deal, but since the game has long stretches without checkpoints, dying gets old fast.

It wouldn't be so bad if the game handled "death" differently. In some games, when you miss a jump, you're immediately put back where you fell, and the game deducts a small amount of health. Rehydrated sends you all the way back to the checkpoint. Implementing a different checkpoint system would help the game's pacing tremendously. 

Rehydrated also features a multiplayer mode, which sends you and a friend through a gauntlet of enemies as you try to defeat the evil robotic Squidward. Much like the main game, it's a shallow experience that you'll probably only enjoy for all of 10 minutes. If you're desperate for multiplayer, whether it be online or locally, there are far better options featured in other games. 

But Rehydrated isn't all bad. It does a lot of things right. It's easy to pick up and play. You don't need any backstory, and you don't have to keep track of complicated progression systems. It's a game that's easy to run through without having to think too hard. While many contemporary games often require a lot of your time and attention, Rehydrated can be a nice change of pace, letting you just kick back and play. 

It's also extremely funny, even if you aren't a huge SpongeBob fan. One of my favorite things is to sit through SpongeBob's idle animations, one of which features a callback to tHe MeMe ThAt LoOkS lIkE tHiS. You know the one. 

The visuals are also absolutely gorgeous, even running on an inferior platform like the Nintendo Switch. On other systems, 4K resolution is supported. Whichever version you play, Rehydrated looks and sounds just like the television show. The music, audio effects, and voice acting are all top-notch. 

Rehydrated also includes new content not featured in the previous release, like Patrick's dream level, which features one of the game's funniest jokes (we won't spoil it), and an additional phase to the SpongeBob SteelPants boss battle. 

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated Review: The Bottom Line

Pros: 

  • Looks and sounds like a game made for modern consoles
  • Just as funny and full of personality as it was in 2003
  • Easy to pick up and play

Cons: 

  • Doesn't necessarily play like a game made for modern consoles
  • Extremely long load times
  • Technical issues

If you loved the original game, then Rehydrated might be right up your alley. It's a better game in almost every regard. But if you're looking for a fundamentally different experience that revolutionizes the way 3D platformers are done, you might be disappointed.

Rehydrated isn't bad, by any stretch. In fact, there's a lot it does right. Just know that even if you were a fan of this game when it came out in 2003, it might not hold up for you 17 years later.  

[Note: A copy of SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom — Rehydrated was provided by THQ Nordic for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
6
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated hits you with nostalgia, but that's not enough to carry it forward in 2020.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Contributor

I love Nintendo and horror games. When I'm not writing about video games I can usually be found petting my cats and listening to some Progressive Metal. Meshuggah is tight. Twitter: @JosephYaden

Published Jun. 22nd 2020

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