Battle For Bikini Bottom is as loyal to its source material as it is simple and exciting.
Revived by a thriving speedrunning community and a wave of nostalgia, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom, a once forgotten cartoon tie-in game from the PS2/original Xbox generation, has found new life, prompting a HD remaster. With modern remakes being very hit or miss, many were concerned that Rehydrated would reek of “easy cash grab”, but it’s safe to say that those worries have been squashed.
It’s hard for the first thing you notice about a HD remake not to be the updated visuals, and in the case of Rehydrated, the graphics are beautifully vibrant, crisp and yet perfectly loyal to the original game as well as the SpongeBob cartoon itself. Jellyfish Fields is bristling with stunning fauna, the updated models for the enemies and Bikini Bottom characters are bursting with life and personality, and the new facial expressions and animations make for a hilarious and charming accompaniment to the true-to-form comedic dialogue ever-present in the SpongeBob franchise. Though occasional graphical errors do slightly detract from the polish of Rehydrated’s visuals, these are few and far between.
A new coat of paint can only carry a game so far however, and fortunately for Rehydrated, that coat of paint covers a solid and sturdy frame. The gameplay loop is simple yet immensely addictive. SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy all have different abilities and gameplay challenges, and the few boss fights are equal parts difficult and exciting. With such exciting areas to explore, tight platforming controls, and genuinely challenging puzzles to complete, grabbing the myriad of collectables in order to progress is as rewarding as it is simply fun.
Rehydrated features a completely re-recorded and excellent soundtrack, and while the music can get a bit repetitive the longer you spend in each level, each track is wonderfully crafted for the zone it represents, and some can be real earworms. In general, the sound design is great. While almost all of the original TV cast lend their voices to their respective characters, the voice of Mr Krabs is a particularly glaring omission, apparently left that way to emulate the original game as closely as possible. While I think that this is one of the instances where deviating from the original would have been a good idea, it is the attempt of this title to stay as close to the original as possible; bringing a much-loved game to a new, modern audience is the great success of Rehydrated. As someone who has no nostalgic ties with the original game, and is, at best, a passing fan of the speedrunning community, Rehydrated caught my attention on the merits of its great gameplay, its new and exciting multiplayer modes, and its stunning appearance.
Though the plot remains fairly simple and lacklustre, and some attempts to be true to the original game feel like the developers unnecessarily kneecapped their finished product, Battle For Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a symbol of how an impassioned community and active content creation can yield real results in the gaming industry. Where companies like EA or Activision are accused of returning to the well of old IPs to simply milk them for profit again a few years on, THQ and Purple Lamp have proven that a passionate team, and a thriving community can result in a quality remaster at a more than reasonable price that brings fans, new and old, an excellent gaming experience.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.