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Game Info:

SpongeBob SquarePants Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated
Developed By: Purple Lamp Studios
Published By: THQ Nordic
Released: Jun 23, 2020
Available On: PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
Genre: Action-Adventure, Platformer
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+: Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief
Number of Players: single player; up to two players offline and online
Price: $29.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you, THQ Nordic, for sending us a review code!

SpongeBob SquarePants needs no introduction. I’m sure that anyone above the age of two knows who the yellow sea sponge is. However, Battle for Bikini Bottom does. Back around 2003 (and even earlier), licensed video games were rampant. Pretty much any cartoon, movie, book or whatever that even had middling success would get a video game adaptation. Most of them were pretty terrible, meant to take advantage of impressionable kids and gullible adults that didn’t know any better. Not every licensed game was bad. Some of them were good, a few being downright amazing. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, developed by, Heavy Iron Studios, originally released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube (as well as Windows, but we don’t talk about that one) managed to surprise many people by not sucking, especially when the earlier entries did.

17 years later, many more SpongeBob games were released in that time, but none of them managed to gain the cult status or quality that Battle for Bikini Bottom received. With the sixth generation of video games arguably reaching retro status, this means that all those games out there are becoming harder and harder to obtain, and why remakes and remasters are the hot commodity. Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is of the former and instead of being a complete reimagining like how Final Fantasy 7 Remake is, Purple Lamp Studios attempts to faithfully recreate the original as much as it possibly can. (For simplicity, I will refer to the original release as “Original” while the remake will be referred to as “Rehydrated.”)

So for the people who’ve never touched the Original, this and Rehydrated are 3D collectathon platformers. Plankton decides he wants to take over Bikini Bottom and creates a robot army. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to switch the lever from “don’t obey” to “obey” meaning his own robots kicked him out of the Chum Bucket and took over Bikini Bottom. Now it’s up to SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to fix this mess. You have a hub world which you use to access sub-worlds to collect Golden Spatulas. Golden Spatulas are used to unlock progress through the game. Other things that can be collected are shiny objects, which act as Rehydrated’s currency as well as a bargaining chip to obtain spatulas from Mr. Krabs, and Patrick’s socks scattered throughout the various worlds. In total, there are 100 Golden Spatulas to collect, but you only need 75 to complete the game. With clever collection of spatulas, you can actually complete the game while skipping an entire world of your choosing.

Each level is based upon a set piece that is featured in the show. The overworld (Bikini Bottom) is faithfully recreated from the show, but with some added extras to accommodate the fact that it is a video game. Even SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, and Sandy’s houses are what you would expect both inside and outside. Even pieces that were featured briefly in episodes like Kelp Forest and Rock Bottom have an entire world structured around them. The amount of effort that Heavy Iron Studios had to put in to take what were basically single screens and make them explorable shows that they were definitely better developers than most back then. Purple Lamp Studios adds their own flair to these set pieces and do a fantastic job themselves recreating them from the ground up. Just like the Original, there are many jokes scattered throughout that make reference to the first three seasons. Purple Lamp even adds a few memes from the later seasons in parts of the worlds too.

A rare thing at the time, the Original has most of the voice actors reprising their roles. It’s a very impressive act to do and made it stand out from its competition. The only characters who weren’t voiced by their original actors were Mr. Krabs and Mermaid Man. Rehydrated reuses the dialogue from the Original, and unfortunately, this means Mr. Krabs is still not voiced by Clancy Brown. Even though “Imitation Krabs” (Joe Whyte) does a decent job as Mr. Krabs (as well as Mermaid Man), he’s no Clancy Brown. Interestingly enough, THQ Nordic and Purple Lamp wanted Brown to reprise his role, but thanks to voice actor unions, if they wanted him, it would mean they would have to recast everyone else.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Faithful remake in a completely different engine; controls are smoother making platforming segments less frustrating; attack animations and bosses are greatly sped up; the great season 1 through 3 SpongeBob humor everyone loves
Weak Points: A little too faithful in some cases; the shiny object grind is worse than before; the last 1/3rd of the game is of lower quality than the rest of it; bosses for some reason can’t be re-fought even though they could in the original release; the multiplayer is nothing special
Moral Warnings: Instances of cartoon violence, with lots of robot destruction and the fish citizens often used for slapstick; crude humor such as a fish citizen peeing on themselves in terror, a game mechanic where SpongeBob has “the ultimate wedgie experience” and you can see his buttcrack, and many jokes based on SpongeBob's underwear/Patrick’s socks

But yeah, the voice acting is superb since it has nearly all of the original VAs. They know their characters since they had been voicing them for about 3 years at that point, and the script makes the whole experience sound like a long SpongeBob episode. Purple Lamp even managed to implement a couple of unused voice lines too. The humor and dialogue are on point. Each character says and does things that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode.

The music is also good as well, even if it is unchanged. Almost every world has its own unique music but a few levels share tracks. The Mermalair has music that sounds just like the Batman and Robin parody that Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are based on. Goo Lagoon is arguably my favorite track in the game, having these guitar riffs and drum beats that wouldn’t sound out of place in any beach film. The way the soundtrack captures each theme of each level is amazing and it almost sounds like it can come directly from an episode itself (with a few minor adjustments for some of them). It can get a teeny bit repetitive at times because the music, outside of some elements, plays throughout the entire level and that some pieces are reused for later levels or segments.

SpongeBob, of course, is the main character and the one you’ll be playing as mostly. Two other characters, being Patrick and Sandy are also playable, but they can only be played inside specific worlds. They all play and control very similar but each of them have special abilities such as Patrick being able to pick up objects, (ironically making him more suited for puzzle elements), and Sandy being able to use her lasso to glide which means her sections are more platform-focused. SpongeBob uses bubbles for his arsenal and gains new abilities as he progresses through the game. Each character has lively animations and a few of them are dynamic as well. Whenever robots attack, Spongebob and Patrick become fearful while running in terror. Sandy, in contrast, shows a bit more bravado. I remember from the Original that the controls had a bit of stiffness to them. Rehydrated makes the controls a bit more floaty and fluid. A few segments I remember being rather infamous in the original were now a breeze for me. I did use console controls for the majority of my time, but for a game that was developed for consoles in mind, the PC controls aren't too shabby at all. They're perfectly usable for anyone lacking a controller, but they can't be remapped. The PC version of Rehydrated also runs at a consistent 60+ FPS (just like the Original), and loading times are quick even on a hard disk drive. I would assume they're nearly non-existent on a solid state drive.

Something that wasn’t in the Original at all is multiplayer. Supposedly, it was a cut featured from the Original remade. Purple Lamp managed to utilize the unused Robo Squidward model for this multiplayer mode. Besides SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy, you also get to play as Gary, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and Robo Plankton. It is a horde mode where you fight waves of robot enemies in a top-down perspective. It has online multiplayer, although I wasn’t able to get into a match so I had to settle for couch multiplayer. It’s pretty simple and I guess it’s nice to have, but it’s not anything noteworthy. I do appreciate them implementing Robo Squidward in some capacity.

Many complaints that were in the original were fixed. Although the voice acting is great, there were instances of dialogue repeating itself a lot. Certain collectibles in worlds in the Original had SpongeBob say “Number 1 of the Bikini Bottom scavenger hunt—three years running. Thank you.” It’s a great line, but when he said it for every collectible he grabbed, you can see how it gets annoying very quickly. The quotes were greatly toned down for Rehydrated. Another complaint was that the three major bosses, although they can present a decent challenge, were very slow to actually complete. Purple Lamp greatly streamlined their attacks and their animations so that the fights don’t feel like a slog, and now they’re actually fun to fight.

SpongeBob SquarePants Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay 16/20
Graphics 8/10
Sound 8/10
Stability 5/5
Controls 4/5

Morality Score - 93%
Violence 8/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content 10/10
Occult/Supernatural 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 8.5/10

Some complaints, in a strange way, were made even worse. Shiny objects aren’t exactly the most engaging thing, and one thing that no one liked doing in the Original was paying Mr. Krabs shiny objects in exchange for Golden Spatulas. So in the Original, you needed around 40,000 shiny objects in total to obtain 8 spatulas from Mr. Krabs. Even if you busted every robot you saw and collected every strand shiny object in the levels, you would never have enough by the time you get to the final boss as you’re constantly spending shiny objects to obtain other spatulas or socks within the worlds. So what did Purple Lamp do for this? They increased the amount Mr. Krabs wants by more than double, meaning you need around 108,000 shiny objects to get his spatulas. I barely had enough to get two spatulas from him. I understand Mr. Krabs is cheap and greedy but this is ridiculous!

The latter half of the levels lack polish compared to the earlier parts in terms of how some parts of the late stages look, as well as the cutscenes and animations of the final 1/3rd of the game. I understand why this is. This whole COVID-19 situation has affected the whole world and Purple Lamp is not an exception. It’s pretty clear that the pandemic has affected Purple Lamp negatively, to the point where they had to release a day 1 patch for Rehydrated. Hopefully, THQ Nordic will allow Purple Lamp to release a patch that lets them fix these issues. It’s very interesting that we’re in a time that would allow fixes like this to happen as if this was released in the early 2000s like the Original was, these flaws would stick with the game forever.

Rehydrated does have some moral concerns out there. It is SpongeBob so it's not all too bad. There is the typical cartoon violence that would be featured. Almost all of the enemies faced are robots, but there are a handful of enemies that are characters in the show too. The fish citizens are subjected to lots of slapstick as whenever a new enemy is introduced, the robot demonstrates their abilities on the poor fish people. There is some crude humor present such as a fish peeing on themselves in fear during one robot introduction, and there is a mechanic where SpongeBob goes wedgie jumping for “the ultimate wedgie experience” to collect spatulas or socks. With SpongeBob’s underwear acting as the life system and Patrick’s socks being a collectible, there are a few jokes surrounded by them, typically mentioning how they smell or how awkward they are to wear.

Purple Lamp, even with many odds stacked against them, managed to nearly faithfully recreate Battle of Bikini Bottom with the resources they have. Even though in my opinion it is a bit too faithful as they could have fixed more issues that are still retained in Rehydrated, introduced problems absent in the Original (why can't I rematch bosses even though I could in the original?), and even made a few existing problems even worse, it was still nice to go back to experience something when I was a kid as an adult. There’s a good reason why this game manages to be so beloved nearly two decades later, and it’s not just because it has the SpongeBob IP attached to it (just don't go in expecting something of the quality of Super Mario 64 or Spyro the Dragon). Rehydrated is a very solid platformer at an acceptable price point (I remember the Original being $50) that is an easy recommendation for a current or former SpongeBob fan, kids of all shades and sizes, or for people who played the original and don’t have access to it anymore. It’s also nice that the PC platform finally has the good version of Battle for Bikini Bottom to play without resorting to convoluted or illegal methods.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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