SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom was a 3D collectathon platformer for consoles in 2003. I played it back then because I was too young to know that licensed games usually suck. Battle for Bikini Bottom was pretty damn good though, and it holds up surprisingly well.
Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a remake that comes to us from Purple Lamp Studios, who previously co-developed the PC port of Sea of Thieves. THQ Nordic published the game after obtaining the rights to re-release sixteen previously released licensed Nickelodeon games in 2018. Given the popularity of the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro remasters, it’s likely that THQ Nordic wanted to capitalize on their success.
Original Vs Rehydrated
I enjoyed my time with Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, but I can’t say that it’s better than the original. The most noticeable downgrade upon starting up is the load times. In the original game, loading took a few seconds at most. This meant that you could jump right back into the game upon each death. In Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, you will need to wait 20 seconds upon each death.
This is especially egregious when you move out of bounds, and the hand from the opening picks you up. In the original game, the out of bounds areas were marked with red lines, which made the boundaries more obvious. While Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated’s updated visuals are aesthetically pleasing, they also make the in-game boundaries less clear.
The load times are the biggest issue, but they are not the only problem with Rehydrated. The sound effects, for example, feel detached from gameplay, when the original game did not have this problem. In the game’s tutorial, there is a sign that explains how SpongeBob loses health when hit by a dangerous obstacle. The original humorously demonstrates this by dropping a safe on him mid cutscene. This sequence cleverly took advantage of the in-game voice clips that play when you take damage. Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated does not have the voice clip, which ruins the delivery of this gag.
Rehydrated also tends to skip the first line of some in-game conversations, which removes key context for otherwise amusing jokes and gags. There were also issues with button prompts and messages being cut off at the bottom of my TV screen. While I also had this problem with The Tenth Line and Riddled Corpses EX, those two were at least indie games. A major company like THQ Nordic should NOT be making these amateurish fuckups with the money and resources at their disposal.
Some other errors include…
- The slide music and the Mermalair themes are too quiet in-game, which lessens their impact overall.
- The slide levels are drenched in fog, which adds artificial difficulty to the levels.
- Adverts said the game would have the cut Robo-Squidward boss fight. It was only in the shallow multiplayer.
- Sandy’s lasso and the cruise bubble have worse controls.
- There is no concept art gallery.
- The Buggy AF Switch version, enough said.
When you combine all these faults, you end up with an overall worse product than the original. There are only two reasons I could recommend Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated over the original. The first is for the improved visuals and animation. The one positive I can’t deny is that the visuals are not only beautiful, but the animations match the character’s expressions. I always found SpongeBob’s smile out of place in the original, so it’s nice to have that fixed. The second reason is because a complete copy of the original costs more than Rehydrated.
If pricing was not a factor, I would say to stick to the original. Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is far from unenjoyable, but it’s a half-assed remaster. Some may defend Rehydrated by pointing out that the new graphics take up a lot more space, which means longer load times. I don’t consider this a valid excuse because gameplay is ALWAYS more important than graphics. Purple Lamp should have had the foresight to prevent the harsh load times, and I hope they do not repeat this mistake with future titles.
I was disappointed with the quality of this remake, but I still enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because most of the game is still the same. It took some getting used to, but the load times were far from the worst I’ve seen. The rest of this review will apply to both the original and Rehydrated.
The Base Game
Battle for Bikini Bottom was a 3D Collectathon at a time when 3D collecthons fell out of style. It was released a mere two weeks after Jak II. You know, Jak II, where the developers of Crash Bandicoot saw Grand Theft Auto III and thought they should base their colorful, cartooney platformer off of it. The 2nd Ratchet and Clank game was also released less than two weeks later.
This is noteworthy because Battle for Bikini Bottom was not particularly original. If Battle for Bikini Bottom was not a licensed game, it would likely be an obscure cult classic. I’ve seen some go as far as to say that Battle for Bikini Bottom is one of the best 3D platformers of all time. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is pretty good. It’s no Banjo-Kazooie, but I’d put it ahead of Super Mario 64.
The goal of Battle for Bikini Bottom is to collect one hundred Golden Spatulas spread across thirteen different worlds. Three of these worlds are for boss fights and one is the hub world, so it’s technically nine worlds. The hub world and each main world have eight golden spatulas to collect by completing various tasks, and four through boss fights. Eight spatulas require you to find Patrick’s lost socks, of which there are eighty in the game, and eight require you collect shiny objects.
Shiny Objects are comparable to Banjo-Kazooie’s music notes in that you need them unlock gates. Unlike Banjo-Kazooie’s music notes, shiny objects infinitely respawn and are much more plentiful. They are also collected by smashing tikis and destroying robots, the game’s primary mooks. Given the abundant supply of shiny objects, collecting them lacks the sense of accomplishment that drives most collectathons. You will also have enough to get all eight golden spatulas well before the end of the game, which makes the eight spatulas feel like filler. Patrick’s lost socks are more interesting in that they are hidden in tricky locations, and will encourage further interaction with the levels. There is also a sense of satisfaction whenever you find them, similarly to Super Mario Sunshine’s blue coins.
The worlds were not only fun to play through, but they also use unique and imaginative backdrops from the show. The first three worlds, Jellyfish Fields, Downtown Bikini Bottom, and Goo Lagoon, were obvious picks. All three of these locations are common set pieces in the show. For the rest of the game, the developers needed to base worlds off of locations only featured in single episodes. Levels like Rock Bottom and Kelp Forest didn’t exactly have ample material to base their design on either. The episode Kelp Forest is from mostly takes place in one room for fucks sake! The fact that they managed to make a level based off of the dream episode also deserves props.
The humor is also consistent with the quality of the only three seasons of SpongeBob that are important. Not only are there a lot of clever call backs to past episodes, but the original jokes are on point as well. If anything, spending over an hour on Sand Mountain made the eventual delivery of the punchline all the more rewarding. Yes I know, you have no idea what I mean without context, but spelling out the punchline would defeat the point. Not only does this make the base story more entertaining, but it incentivizes talking to NPCs with different characters. If you can ever convince me to backtrack just to see alternate dialogue, you’re doing a good job on writing.
The voice acting is also solid and true to the original show. Unfortunately they could not get Clancy Brown to reprise his role as Mr. Krabs. The music is memorable and fits the nature of the locations AND the show. Hell the music is so good that they recycled it for the Truth of Square game.
Gameplay wise, Battle for Bikini Bottom is fun most of the way through. There was just the right level of challenge, and just the right balance between combat and platforming. My favorite levels were Sand Mountain, SpongeBob’s Dream, and the Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard. Sand Mountain I enjoyed because it’s all slide levels, aka the best part of this game. SpongeBob’s Dream had a creative and engrossing setting, and also had a giant slide level. The Flying Dutchman Graveyard, however, sticks out because of the atmosphere and that badass music. Yes, I did just say “atmosphere and badass music” in reference to a SpongeBob game. I’d say I’m surprised, but I’ve said way crazier.
There are only two sections of Battle for Bikini Bottom that I remotely didn’t like. The first of these is the infamous ball puzzle. I actually don’t find this one AS bad as it’s hyped up, but I had just come off of 120 Shines in Mario Sunshine. I’ll take the ball puzzle over Pachinko any and EVERY day of the week. The second is the Kelp Caves, and I’d only take it over Pachinko on Tuesdays and Sundays. Who the hell thought that creating a tediously slow puzzle based level where you have to constantly back track and switch back and forth between characters, in a game based around platforming, was a good idea? It was probably Patrick.
Anyway that’s Battle for Bikini Bottom. The game isn’t particularly unique or original, but it is consistently fun (except for Kelp Caves). Fans of SpongeBob or of collectathon platformers will find plenty to love about this game, as long as they don’t choose the Switch version. As many issues as I have with Rehydrated, I am glad that’s it’s available to a wider audience. I will also be sure to cover the SpongeBob Movie game if it gets the remaster treatment, but there better be less load times.
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