SpongeBob SquarePants is an iconic star. Over 20 years not many television shows can boast that they have 12 seasons, a number of cinematic films, comic books, theme park rides and video games under their belt. Now with over 40 video game appearances, SpongeBob SquarePants returns in a remade adventure. Originally released in 2003 on PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube and Xbox, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom has somewhat of a cult following, especially with speed runners. While it received mixed reviews and has a respective Metacritic average of 71 across the 3 consoles, THQ Nordic and Purple Lamp Studios have rehydrated Battle for Bikini Bottom for SpongeBob SquarePants and platformer fans alike.
Firstly I must admit that I have never been a SpongeBob SquarePants fan, and it is not until recently having my eldest son enjoy it that I have actually watched a fair few episodes right through. Although I have played a few hours of the original game on Xbox, I never imagined I would be reviewing and enjoying this title 17 years on. While SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated’s mechanics use the old formula of jump, collect and bash, it is the variety and general SpongeBob silliness that keeps things fresh. It looks colourful and vibrant, most of the original voice cast is there, the music is catchy and it is a solid by the numbers licensed platformer. It is also a title that I got to spend some quality father son time with Xbox’s Co-pilot and the brief co-operative mode.
The game revolves around the theme of robots invading Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob’s hometown. The campaign begins with Plankton wanting to steal the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, as he always does. As a self-proclaimed evil genius, Plankton has built a new machine to manufacture an army of robots to do his bidding. In typical SpongeBob fashion, it all goes wrong and the robots begin to take over Bikini Bottom and wreak havoc. Ironically, SpongeBob and Patrick believe they have made a wish to make robots come true. This leads our three heroes (the third being the squirrel Sandy) on an adventure to save Bikini Bottom.
Gameplay revolves around collecting items while defeating robots and avoiding hazards to further progress the plot. Collecting items is necessary as it unlocks further levels and more of the Bikini Bottom hub world. The most valuable collectable is the ‘Golden Spatulas’, as they are used to access new areas. They can be found hidden throughout the game and also be earned by completing tasks set by numerous characters from the series. Patrick’s Socks’ are another collectable item spread throughout the game and some are very well hidden and challenging to obtain. Finding and returning 10 of these rewards the player with a Golden Spatula. The main collectible in the game are the ‘Shiny Objects’. There are 5 different colours, with red being everywhere and the least valuable, to purple being very rare and the most valuable. Like any by the book platformer, the more valuable the ‘Shiny Object’, the harder it is to obtain. ‘Shiny Objects’ are also the game’s currency and can be used to open up new areas within levels for rewards such as ‘Golden Spatulas’ or ‘Socks’. They can also be used to buy ‘Golden Spatulas’ from Mr Krabs in the hub world.
Already mentioned is that the player can take control of three characters. Each of these characters have different abilities that address different aspects of the game as you progress through missions. Each distinct ability is requiredthroughout different areas of levels and further serve a purpose in reaching or completing goals. SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy all have these distinct abilities and attacks. Being the star of the game, SpongeBob is used for the majority of levels. He blows bubbles to form different attacks such as the vertical attack where he creates a bubble Viking helmet for head butting and the bowling ball projectile that needs an entertaining windup. He also has a traditional bash and ground-pound attack. SpongeBob can also interact with the bungie jump that clips onto his undies. Patrick also brings a stomach bash and ground pound attack but additionally has the ability to throw melons and ice cubes. Melons are thrown to destroy robots and interact with buttons or pressure plates. Throwing ice cubes into the games ‘water’ called ‘Goo’, freezes it for a short time which makes it traversable. Sandy is the third and most unique character as she is able to destroy enemies and objects with her lasso, glide over large gaps and swing from hooks to get to out of reach areas.
Changing characters does keep the game fresh but it comes with a couple of hiccups. The only way to change is via the ‘Bus Stops’ and as some of the levels can be quite large, it can require a bit of back tracking to swap the player’s character and this can happen a number of times in certain sections and levels. It is baffling why they kept this in and not allowed a simple button change. The second issue is for inverted players. Each time a character is swapped, the player needs to go into the games menu and toggle the inverted option. This gets old very quick and hopefully a patch fix is coming soon to address this issue.
Levels vary in design and locations, with each level having its own distinctive look. Throughout the campaign SpongeBob and his crew hit up locations such as Downtown Bikini Bottom, Goo Lagoon, Sand Mountain, Kelp Forest, Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard and more. Some of these levels are open sandbox affairs, with a number of objectives given by various non-playable characters, each objective ending with the reward of a Golden Spatula. Objectives vary from simple tasks like hitting switches and pressure plates through to those of a more complex nature and can be difficult for younger fans. While other levels are more linear and will go on long stretches with side paths or unlockable clam areas in search of those Golden Spatulas.
The biggest factor in any platformer is the responsiveness of controls and the good news is jumping, double jumping, gliding and attacks feel spot on. The biggest gripe is that some of the hardest collectibles in the game provide spot on precision platforming and like other platformers, the player may need to rely on the character’s shadow as a guide, and frankly SpongeBob is quite small and does not cast a meaningful shadow, making for some tedious trial and error gameplay. This type of gameplay can also raise its ugly head when multiple enemies attack the player on smaller platforms.
There are a vast variety of robotic enemies. From typical rushing grunts, to ones that shoot tartar sauce on their fishy foes, flying bomb droppers, cowboys that release exploding K9 like minions and ones that sleep and require SpongeBob to sneak up on them before attacking. Boss enemies are a treat, with each encounter being distinctive from the others and once again, forcing the player into doing something different. The fish commentator during boss fights is a hilarious addition and it is a treat to see him pop up at each encounter.
The music has been completely reworked and the tunes vary from level to level, all doing the job for most of the games relaxed atmosphere. The voice-overs from most of the shows characters are there, with the biggest omission being Clancy Brown’s Mr Krabs. This is quite unusual, as Clancy Brown has lent his voice for many games before in the SpongeBob universe and other big games including the Crash Bandicoot series and Detroit: Become Human. Although younger fans, including my son, will struggle to notice the difference in character voices.
The new cooperative horde mode is hit and miss. While it is mindless action and will get no time from veteran gamers, it will hold down an hour or so for younger fans. My 5 year old did struggle a little with some of the island levels that change every so many waves and I feel he is slightly too young for it. This mode and the main campaign can be paused at any time. And as for the co-pilot session with my boy, it varied depending on the section of the game. The game starts off easy but there are a few parts that the difficulty ramps up including a number of platform sections that had me biting my tongue and puzzles that are too complex for children his age. In saying that, we had a blast, laughing at SpongeBob and even more so at Patrick’s stupidity in its 15 or so hour campaign.
There is plenty of fun to be had here for SpongeBob and platforming fans alike. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a by the numbers platformer, that has the player collecting objects, pounding on enemies and mixing up play styles. It also offers a game where the player does not require a lot of brainpower and can just relax. The game does have its issues, with some ideas stuck in 2003, difficulty spikes and some frustrating jumping puzzles. The cooperatively mode will be a let down for those looking for anything more than bash the enemies. However games are about fun, letting yourself go and enjoying the moment. I did all of this and best of all, I got to do it with my boy.
+ Keeps the original formula
+ Tight controls
+ Bright visuals and new enhanced music
+ Multiple things to do in each level
– Some ideas from the past need updating
– Frustrating sections
– Cooperative mode is waste of time for most gamers
Pottsy for One More Game
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated was reviewed on an Xbox One X. It is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
The publisher provided review code for this game. Our thoughts on SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is our and ours alone.