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Review – SpongeBob SquarePants – Battle For Bikini Bottom Rehydrated

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom, released in 2003, is one of those ‘cult classic’ titles like Deadly Premonition, Dragon’s Dogma, or Earthbound that fans just won’t stop telling you about, even – or perhaps especially – if you’ve never played them. For the record, I never played the original Battle for Bikini Bottom.

I have played Deadly Premonition, Dragon’s Dogma, and Earthbound but no…I don’t want to talk about them.

Purple Lamp Studios has delivered us a masterpiece of a remaster with the Rehydrated version of Battle for Bikini Bottom, a gorgeous reimagining of the original game’s graphics that doesn’t – to my knowledge – touch the gameplay or design of the original. That adherence to the original is great for those oh-so-devoted fans of it, but I’m not sure how it’ll play (no pun intended) with today’s gamers. Game design has advanced a lot in the last 17 years, after all, especially in 3D platformers, and Rehydrated takes advantage of none of those advancements.

This feels like a 17 year old collect-a-thon platformer, even if it looks like a thoroughly modern title – and that means little to no holding your hand as to where to go or what to do next. That’s fine, and it’s a style of ‘let them do what they want and figure it out’ game design that’s increasing in popularity again these days, but modern games benefit from better designed signposting, elements that point toward what you should be doing even if they don’t insist you go do it right now.

Thankfully while some of the design elements feel a bit dated, the gameplay is still fun. As SpongeBob you can use an assortment of bubble powers and are the team’s best long-ranged weapon, but if that’s not particularly helpful for the situation you can switch to Patrick or Sandy and use their special abilities instead. The game does a good job of teaching you those abilities at the outset, and it also helps that you have only a few areas to explore at the start, unlocking more as you gather more Golden Spatulas. In a very ’17 year old game’ piece of design though, if there’s a spot you need to use Sandy, for example, you have to go back to the bus stop to change characters and then make your way back there again.

One thing that stood out to me is how little the game takes advantage of how well-written SpongeBob is. I mean there’s a reason it’s one of the most heavily meme’d and clipped shows out there – there’s a quote for literally everything under the sun, but the game uses just a few lines of dialogue for attacks or picking up collectibles and then repeats them AD NAUSEUM until you want to mute the game.

The game has a co-op mode, both same screen and online, to play what’s basically a Horde mode against a boss that was removed from the original game. I was able to play some same-screen with Andrea, who thought it was funny but not particularly fun, but wasn’t able to get into an online game with Brock – he’s busy getting ready for a move and the servers haven’t been available in pre-release.

This was my face, seeing these kelp beds for the first time. The graphical upgrade here over the 2003 original is sizable.

What I Loved:

  • Stellar graphics…and smooth framerates
  • Some great lines and good use of characters

What I Liked:

  • Trip down nostalgia lane for game design

What I Disliked:

  • So many sliding sections
  • Some game crashes/bugs
  • Nostalgia wore off quickly

What I Hated:

  • Repeating dialogue
  • Repeating dialogue
  • Repeating dialogue
  • Repeating dialogue

The Final Word: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a fantastic remaster, but it’s also a stellar example of how sometimes a remake would have been the better choice for a new audience. Fans of the original game and of the series should check it out, but it’s not for everyone.

Reviewed on Xbox One X using code provided by the publisher.