During the late ’90s and early ’00s, everybody was still cashing in on the ceaseless wave of Super Mario 64 knockoffs based on licensed properties. They were generally focused around collecting 100 or so special objects and were typically not very good. So anyone who looks at SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated would be forgiven for wondering why one of those games needed to be remade nearly 17 years later.
But it has a cult following for a reason and easily stood at the front of the 3D platformer pack with many of the games it aped. Nearly two decades later, it’s still a great time with colorful visuals, great level design, and excellent controls. It still feels very much like a product of 2003 and it isn’t perfect, but old fans and newcomers alike will find a lot to love about SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated.
Who remakes a platformer under the sea?
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated (did that title really need another hyphen and additional word?) starts with Plankton creating an army of robots to do his bidding. As this is a video game, the robots turn on him, take over the Chum Bucket, and start running amok in Bikini Bottom. Naturally, he seeks help from the weakest, least-threatening creature he knows — SpongeBob.
The only thing standing in our yellow hero’s way is the fact that there are roadblocks set up all over the place that require him to have a certain number of golden spatulas on his person (persponge?). That’s all the plot there is, and the game even lampshades it. At one point, SpongeBob asks Bubble Buddy why he needs to collect these tokens and why they’re used to bypass the roadblocks. “Because, SpongeBob,” he explains. Our hero responds, “I can’t argue with that,” and proceeds on his merry way.
Although the visuals are all brand new and largely fantastic, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated contains the same voice tracks as the original, but it does have new dubs for other territories. Although there’s very little plot, the game is very funny and the voice cast helps it sound exactly like the show, leading to a great many hilarious moments. The visuals also successfully capture the look of SpongeBob’s world admirably. There’s a lot of love for the source material all around.
Jump ‘n collect
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is very much a typical 3D platformer. You’ll usually play as SpongeBob, but the game’s nine main levels also let you switch to Patrick or Sandy, depending. All three of them have different skills that are useful in their own right. SpongeBob’s moves are all tied to his using bubbles — by swinging them around, shooting them, using them as a sharp helmet, or utilizing them to slam himself into the ground. Patrick, on the other hand, is really only good for picking up watermelons or robots and throwing them at things.
Sandy is my favorite of the three, as she carries around a lasso that lets her hover, grab foes from a distance, and latch onto Texas-shaped hook points and swing around. Regardless of who you’re playing as, though, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated controls well. You can choose for the camera to follow the characters automatically or to completely control it manually. Either way, the inputs are responsive, and it always feels like the characters are moving how you want them to.
Each character also has a double jump, which gives an extra boost to platforming precision. There are occasional instances where the camera just isn’t good enough, such as a completely optional bit in the Mermalair where you need to platform off of conveyors while dodging robots. The camera makes it difficult to properly discern how far away certain objects are. But this is very rarely an issue due to the way that the levels are designed. The playable areas are also more narrow than they look, and going outside of them will force you back within bounds.
Hub is home to me
Much like most collect-a-thon platformers, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated initially drops you into a hub that’s represented here by SpongeBob’s house and nearby buildings, such as the old folks’ home and the Krusty Krab. The hub and the game’s nine main levels each have eight golden spatulas each, making for a total of 80 that you receive on their own. Others are found via two boss fights, the final encounter, and from delivering collected items to Patrick and Mr. Krabs.
Patrick’s deal is that he had 80 socks and has somehow lost all of them. For every 10 you return to him, he’ll give you a single spatula. These are sprinkled all over the game’s levels and aren’t always in totally obvious places. And no, Patrick doesn’t wear socks, so it’d be weird for him to collect them if he were anyone other than Patrick. Mr. Krabs, on the other hand, wants you to bring him shiny objects, which are the little collectibles you find in Tiki boxes and receive from defeated enemies.
Unlike similar games where there are often a finite amount of comparable items, you can farm for them in SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. And you’re going to need thousands upon thousands of them to 100% the game. Mr. Krabs increases the number you need for a golden spatula by a few thousand every time he gives you a spatula. You also use them to unlock pathways to spatulas in the levels themselves, usually by paying them to a clam that will change the level and open a path.
A 3D platformer doesn’t have much without varied, interesting level design, but SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated has that in spades. The game’s levels are all visually distinct and have unique wrinkles that separate them in regards to gameplay. In one, you race against a timer to slide to the bottom of sand slopes. Another has you carefully jumping between platforms while deactivating lasers and traps in a museum. There’s even a level that takes place in SpongeBob’s dreams, with giant Krabby Patties in the distance. And the remake makes everything look great.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is one of the few licensed 3D platformers to still be worth playing today, and it’s quite the looker to boot. This version adds a bit of cut content, including a new boss that you can even fight with friends in the game’s multiplayer horde mode. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly.) Whether you’re returning to Bikini Bottom or experiencing the game for the first time, there’s a whole lot to make this a worthwhile purchase.