SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a true gaming relic. The original game debuted on PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube in 2003, at a time when entertainment tie-ins and cutesy platformers were riding high.
Battle For Bikini Bottom was a popular game when it was released. SpongeBob was at the height of his fame and the game was a fantastic tie-in to SpongeBob’s colourful world. It was also very fun, and any clunk in the game was forgivable (and normal) for an era where games were only just finding their foothold in the mainstream.
Rehydrated brings everything charming about the original game to current gen consoles, but even a fresh lick of paint can’t hide the bugs hiding beneath the game’s surface.
Battle For Bikini Bottom is a simple game at its core. From a hub world, SpongeBob and friends can explore a range of unlockable levels and collect items like golden spatulas, lost socks and golden underwear.
Golden spatulas unlock levels in the hub world and are the main collectible you’ll need to find in the game. While some are fairly easy to spot, others require you to explore every nook and cranny of the world.
Players take on the role of either SpongeBob, Patrick or Sandy to traverse levels, with each having their own unique abilities: SpongeBob is agile and can roll up into a ball, Patrick is able to throw objects and Sandy has a helpful double jump and glide.
Each level in Bikini Bottom is laid out in such a way you’ll need several characters to complete it. Regardless of personal preference, you’ll need to make use of them all, particularly if you’re looking to nab every collectible in the game.
SpongeBob is a particularly fun character to play because he has very bouncy physics. Patrick is handy for keeping enemies at arm’s length. Sandy is the most useful of the bunch, but her longer jumps do have the potential to ruin the challenges of the game. She’s able to reach practically any platform if you use her long jump to reach taller, climbable objects.
The original’s graphics have been given a total facelift here, with vivid colours and textures. But beyond these visual tweaks, the bones of the original game are still very much present.
It means lamp posts, pipes and wires are all textured objects you can jump on. With careful timing and enough dumb luck, any landscape is easily traversable. This makes some levels far too easy to complete. (This is a game designed for children and nostalgic adults though, so it can’t be faulted too heavily for this.)
Where the game’s blocky, PS2-era game objects become a problem is when you’re playing as SpongeBob and Patrick, who both have far more grounded movement than Sandy. Hitboxes are more blocky than the remastering makes them appear, so enemies are harder to destroy. Exact timing is difficult to master and enemy weapons can reach further than you’d expect.
This same issue means platforming isn’t as precise as it should be. Trying to jump on smaller blocks and floating obstacles can be extremely difficult to the point where the risk isn’t worth the reward.
Battle for Bikini Bottom isn’t a particularly hard game — but its reliance on unpolished platforming makes it very unwieldy at times.
While each level is littered with lives (in the form of SpongeBob’s underwear), expect to die a lot of unfair deaths before the end.
Another major bugbear is the game presents itself as semi-open world but is actually very restricted in its play area. Out of bounds locations are marked by a dotted red line, but players are still able to jump into and access these locations. Sometimes the bounds can be very difficult to spot as well, making it easy to wander in places you don’t belong.
When this happens, a giant photo-realistic hand (known as Hans) sweeps the player off the stage and back to safety. The whole thing makes exploring a lot less fun.
Outside of the unrefined nature of gameplay, Bikini Bottom really does look gorgeous in Rehydrated. In fact, it’s the best thing about the game.
Every level is lovingly remastered here with brilliant new textures and colours. Opening level Jellyfish Fields is particularly beautiful. It’s filled with bright oranges and purples that absolutely pop in 4K.
Every texture and object here has a cutesy, refreshing art style. The game stays true to the blocky PS2 aesthetic of the original but includes a number of great improvements like better object physics, detailed textures and more tactile movement. It doesn’t quite redeem the overall clunk of gameplay, but it does give the game more personality and expressiveness.
Your enjoyment of Rehydrated will depend on whether you like SpongeBob and how patient you are. Don’t go into the game looking for a polished modern platformer. While it certainly looks the part, it’s bogged down by poorly refined controls and a dated early-2000s framework.
In a word, Rehydrated feels like a relic of gaming eras gone by.
This is a game for adults nostalgic for the days of colourful platformers, diehard SpongeBob fans or kids with boundless patience.
If you haven’t played the original, you’ll have trouble loving the remaster. While it can certainly be charming, it’s bogged down by the ghosts of gaming past.