With the original game’s cult following and blazing presence, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated seems like a no-brainer. It looks even more promising on paper, as this remaster includes all new multiplayer modes and content cuts from the first game, and fans have been asking for it. These requests were answered in the game’s announcement at E3 2019, but the game itself was less of an answer and more of a placation.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated features a complete graphical overhaul from the first game, and it’s what the game does best. The game is undeniably good; the first game is noticeably dull, dark, and may be off-putting to some as a result. This remaster brings the game to life in true SpongeBob fashion, with lightheartedness, an overall warm feel, and a tendency for the absurd. Side by side, there’s almost no comparison between the two because it’s so beautiful right now.
While players continue the game as SpongeBob, Patrick, or Sandy (the latter to a lesser degree), there are many details that stand out not only in the graphics but in the level of design as a whole. Locations like Goo Lagoon, Downtown Bikini Bottom, and the Kelp Forest retain their original aesthetics but are brought to life in ways the originals never could. That said, one location does take a bit of a hit: the Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard. In the 2003 version, this area was particularly creepy because of the graphics, and this overhaul is missing some of that nuance. Instead it becomes as brilliant as the rest of the game. Herein lie the bigger complications of SpongeBob SquarePants’ latest outing: instead of taking 2003 to 2020, the game takes 2020 to 2003.
At its core, most of the game feels untouched. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a simple collect-a-thon, where players are tasked with collecting the Golden Spatula, Patrick’s Socks, Shiny Objects, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy’s crystals, Ship Wheels, and more different from place to place. . And while each area is visually distinct, there is an easily discernible pattern in the way each of these collection items is displayed.
The various boss fights found in SpongeBob SquarePants feel uninspired and uninspired, with bosses large and small following a simple pattern of dodging and hitting. Battle for Bikini Bottom’s core gameplay loop of jump, hit, dodge, and collect remains the same, but that’s not the real criticism of it. Instead of truly revamping the game, making something from 2003 look like it belongs in 2020, Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated puts a new coat of paint on the original and calls it a remaster. By definition, it does this with graphics—it doesn’t change the core gameplay—but its attention doesn’t really go elsewhere.
For example, there is no new voice acting in Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. With the exception of previously cut content, everything is word for word and sound for sound. The voice issues of Mr. Krabs remains the same, which many expected, but the audio lines really feel like a step back from the original 2003 version. When collecting collectibles like Underwear in the original, there is a simple audio cue of a whistle ; now, there is one, maybe two, audio lines for each of the playable characters. Since players may need to get multiple underwear in some places (or even none at all), hearing the same exact line/joke from SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy about underwear over and over again is a jarring experience.
It doesn’t stop there either, as the audio seems incredibly lackluster. Several times throughout our playthrough, there were various audio issues including a few times where the entire game sounded like a scraping disc. The only solution is to leave the area behind, but since many of the levels include going back to the same place, that’s not as easy to do as it’s sometimes said. Combine this with non-playable but occurring glitches like an item being removed or clipped, and it takes away from the fun factor of Battle for Bikini Bottom.
Another area where the fun factor comes down to one of the game’s biggest selling points: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated’s multiplayer. The game promises gameplay variety with new playable characters, from Gary to Robo Plankton, but that’s a very, very loose definition of variety. The animations for each character are different, but there is no noticeable difference in playing one character over another.
This, again, is exacerbated by the multiplayer design. It’s a horde mode where players travel from island to island hitting waves to defeat the multiplayer boss, despite never actually fighting the multiplayer boss (and there is only one). And while there’s something occasionally interesting like an island made of ice cream and onions or the defeated remains of a boss from the Battle from Bikini Bottom’s main campaign, that’s it. The rest of the islands are generic islands or metal platforms, and that’s the whole mode. It doesn’t change from playthrough to playthrough and is an experience that, at best, adds nothing to Battle for Bikini Bottom. At worst, it’s an annoying experience that takes away from the game.
In other words, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is anything but “Rehydrated.” Nostalgic fans might want to check it out and maybe have a moment or two, but otherwise most will find it lacking compared to the giant 2003 version. Fans who want to experience the game again and can deal with nothing brilliant graphics may be preferred instead of playing the 2003 version. As wild as it sounds, 2003’s SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom may be the superior version.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated released on June 23 on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. An Xbox One code was provided to Today Technology for the purposes of this review.