SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated captures the classic feeling of the television show’s madcap energy and makes for a remaster / remake I didn’t know I wanted initially, but was glad to have had an excuse to play again. That being said, there are still some rough edges here and there that I would have liked to have seen polished up in this release as well.
Back in the early 2000’s, I played the original version of this game on the Nintendo GameCube, and it was a hit with my older two kids, who were both big fans of the show. My oldest was about seven at the time, but it stuck with her well enough that last year when she decided to buy her own GameCube to put in her room and reliver her childhood favorites, this was one of the titles she reacquired.
The premise is the usual over-the-top shenanigans that the television show has always been known for. In this case, Plankton has created a rogue robot army that sees SpongeBob and his friends venturing around many of the show’s more notable locations in an effort to stop them. This is one of the areas where SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated excels. The visuals are spot-on, the environments often feel ripped straight from the show and the voice acting was fantastic then and sounds great still today. Granted, some more variety in the characters’ sayings would have been nice.
SpongeBob and company have a tendency to say the same catchphrases over and over again as they wander about. You have the ability to switch characters, which is essential for some of the puzzles, though admittedly there were times I swapped simply so I would hear them say something a bit different. It’s fantastic that so many of the show’s voice actors contributed to this game’s audio originally, but I found myself wishing that some new lines of dialogue had been recorded for this remake. Visually at least, the upgrade is pretty notable when compared to the original. Everything looks fantastic, from the character models to the subtle background animations.
Where I think SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated falls a bit short is in the actual gameplay. On the surface (or under the water as it were), everything seems fine. Movement is easy enough, and while jumping has a somewhat floaty quality to it at times, it gets the job done. Exploration starts entertaining enough, but it does not take long for the game to start to show its age a bit. The way zones are broken up makes exploring (there are plenty of collectibles to find) them somewhat tedious as you search through areas with a lack of direction. Movement lacks precision, which is okay when moving about randomly but this can rear its head in annoying fashion during some of the puzzle-like elements that require more exact movements. Lacking indicators, fast travel, the ability to switch characters on the fly – just little things that seem strange by today’s standards hold the actual gameplay back some. Game design has gotten a bit more forgiving and respectful of the player’s time over the last decade and a half, so it was slightly disappointing not to see these quality of life improvements make their way into the core game.
By and large, this is more of a remaster than a remake, as the game has not changed all that dramatically. You will generally play through the game now pretty much the same way you did nearly two decades ago. However, speaking of age, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a reflection of that time in other ways as well. Many of the jokes are just as funny now as they were then – but the game reflects a very specific period of time in a series that ran a good length of time after this release. If feels like something of a missed opportunity to inject at least some of the more modernized content into the game. That being said, what was there was pretty funny and it still holds up well today.
It will be interesting to see if this title is well enough received, maybe we will get ourselves a sequel with more modern polished gameplay and newer sources of content.
There is one additional mode added to SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, but it might as well not be there. It is not that it makes the game in any way worse, I just wonder if the dev time couldn’t have been better used on other aspects like the aforementioned modernization of quality of life. There is sort of a horde / wave battle mode that you can play in multiplayer, but it is so shallow (pun intended) with no real interesting progression items, that I played it a couple of times and kind of felt like I had already seen and done everything it had to offer.