One of the most beloved licensed games of all-time, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom is a wonderful hodgepodge of all things good about 3D platforming. It’s got multiple characters with different abilities, big boss battles, endless collectibles, entertaining mini-games, and all sorts of secrets to uncover. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated has all of that too, only brighter and prettier. It makes me so happy.
Heavy times call for lighthearted games. While I appreciate the appeal of games that tackle weighty issues and challenge players’ notions of morality, those aren’t the games I need right now. I need a platforming game where I control a shining beacon of blissful ignorance, set in a colourful world that’s about as far removed from real life as possible. SpongeBob and Bikini Bottom are what I need right now. I’ve been counting on Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, a remake of the 2003 original out tomorrow for the PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, to cheer me up since it was announced. It gets the job done.
Rehydrated is the original SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom with a gorgeous graphical upgrade and a remastered soundtrack. There’s a new multiplayer horde mode for up to two players. It also features content cut from the original game, like an evil robot Squidward and an extra phase in the giant robot SpongeBob boss battle.
This silly game never fails to put a smile on my face. It begins with Plankton, the show’s … we’ll call him archvillain … unleashing a horde of robots on the unsuspecting fish people of Bikini Bottom as part of his latest attempt to steal the secret formula for Krabby Patties. Unfortunately the villain accidentally sets his robot-making machine to “Don’t Obey,” leaving a big mess for SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to clean up.
The trio of heroes travel from location to location, completing tasks and collecting golden spatulas and shiny objects in order to unlock new areas. From the lush wilderness of Jellyfish Fields to the secret superhero headquarters hidden beneath Mermaid Man’s rest home, every location is lovingly reconstructed from the 2003 original with completely new visuals and a ton more detail. It’s as beautiful as the undersea cartoon world has ever been, and that includes the cartoon itself.
Most areas allow players to swap between one of two characters, depending on the skills needed to overcome the level’s obstacles. SpongeBob can turn into a ball, bowl with bubbles, launch guided bubble missiles, and wall jump. Patrick has the unique ability to pick up and throw objects and stunned enemies. My favourite character, Sandy the squirrel, can decimate foes with her lasso, as well as use it to hover and jump from special Texas-shaped skyhook devices. They are Bikini Bottom’s dream team, for better or worse.
Around every corner there’s a new challenge to overcome. There are precision platforming sequences that require a great deal of patience. Enormous robot bosses must be taken down in multi-stage battles. There are puzzles that require a combination of critical thinking, precise timing, and dextrous jumping. There’s an entire area dedicated to downhill skiing, which SpongeBob performs using his tongue because that’s who he is.
Everything about this game makes me smile. The cheerful music, the colourful landscapes, the bouncing, the underwear-as-health-indicator mechanic. Even the silly, sometimes repetitive quips, a hallmark of ‘90s era 3D platforming games, warm my heart. I’ve yet to play the game’s new competitive multiplayer mode, but I suspect it will have a similar effect.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is an excellent remake of the cult classic. It evokes the same giddy feelings as the original, while looking better than any game based on a Nickelodeon cartoon has any right to.