Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated Dredges Up a Deeply Flawed Cult ClassicGames Reviews SpongeBob Squarepants
When I was a kid, there were few things I loved more than Spongebob Squarepants. Not only did I watch the show religiously, but I also had Spongebob playsets, Spongebob books, and, of course, Spongebob videogames.
There were seriously so many of these games, of varying degrees of quality, and I played a good deal of them: The Spongebob Squarepants Movie game, Spongebob Squarepants Typing, Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island (a Nickelodeon crossover game), Spongebob Squarepants: Creature from the Krusty Krab, and more.
But the holy grail of Spongebob videogames, which myself and other kids fawned over due to its excellence, was none other than Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom.
To say this game was popular would be an understatement. At the same time games such as Resident Evil 4 and Half-Life 2 were coming out, my friends and I cast them all aside in order to uncover every sock, golden spatula and “golden underwear” found in the game, which of course was the peak of comedy for our juvenile brains.
That’s why, when THQ Nordic announced it was remastering the game for modern platforms, many of my now college-aged friends started losing their minds. One friend of mine said with complete sincerity that it wasn’t Breath of the Wild nor Super Mario Odyssey that tempted her to buy a Switch: It was Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated.
As I booted the game up, old childhood memories came rushing back to me. I’d played and replayed the game so much that each line, performed almost entirely by the show’s original cast, rang in my ear as a refrain I’d heard countless times before.
By all accounts, Purple Lamp Studios has done a great job updating the 2003 title for modern platforms. Character animations are much more fluid and environments that once were brown and dull are now teeming with color and life. The “rehydration” now makes the original look ugly in comparison, but with my rose-tinted glasses, it appeared exactly as I remembered it. The game looks and sounds great, bringing one of my favorite games from my early childhood back to life.
And I wish it had stayed a memory.
Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom was never all that great. We were all just dumb kids that bought the game because it had our favorite sponge on the cover and ended up surprised that the game tried to be fun at all. It has wildly inconsistent difficulty, unpredictable controls and uninspired level design. There are times when it all comes together and offers an experience perhaps half as good as the best platformers of its era, but most of the time, the game whiplashes between being a mindless breeze or a miserable, confusing mess.
Bikini Bottom’s story isn’t deep, but for better or worse, it captures most of the show’s nautical nonsense. Spongebob is endlessly enthusiastic, Patrick is clueless, Mr. Krabs is obsessed with money and Squidward is hopelessly depressed. Most of the jokes understandably cater toward younger audiences, and while I never witnessed a fart joke, there were plenty surrounding butts and underwear. There are a few zingers in there that will likely fly over kids’ heads, but the writing and acting tend to make me smile in reminiscence rather than laugh.
Much like any other collectathon, you’ll spend the majority of your time working toward collecting those golden spatulas, with 75 of the total 100 needed to beat the game. There are 10 main areas, all inspired by locations from the show, many of which have their own regional collectables to be exchanged for golden spatulas.
At first, it’s hard not to run into these things. You’ll be rewarded with spatulas for getting to the end of an area or for checking out a side path. But as you near the end of the game, the remaining objectives become increasingly less appealing. The later areas attempt to increase challenge by stuffing levels full of treacherous platforms and robots, but these challenges rarely felt balanced.
For example, one of the later worlds, “Spongebob’s Dream,” has an opening challenge where you jump up a series of escalating blocks. I’ll fully admit that I’m not the best at platformers, but at the very least, this challenge should have been the easiest thing in the level, with everything after it expanding on it in new and different ways. Instead, I spent upwards of half an hour trying and failing this one block segment, and after finally clearing it, nothing else in the level came close to that level of challenge.
It seems as if the developers tried to make a balanced platforming game, but due to slippery controls and wonky environments, simple maneuvers become maddening trials, while many of the game’s bosses barely pose a challenge. Rather than take the time to rework these elements and fulfill the vision the developers originally had, Purple Lamp seems to have updated the visuals and called it a day. The game looks so much better, but plays just the same.
If you’re completely, absolutely sure that you’d enjoy Battle for Bikini Bottom as much today as you did as a kid if not for the outdated platform and visuals, Rehydrated serves the same experience in a cleaner package. However, if you, like me, have fond memories of the game as a kid, muddied by the passage of time, be warned that this remaster might take your rose-tinted glasses and break them in two.
Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated was developed by Purple Lamp Studios and published by THQ Nordic. Our review is based on the PlayStation 4 version. It’s also available for Switch, PC and Xbox One.
Joseph Stanichar is a Paste intern.