I’M READY, I’M READY!
During the early noughties, licensed games were largely hit or miss. For each home run, you had several more strikeouts. So, when Spongebob entered the fray in 2003, I was a bit skeptical. It seems that I wasn’t the only one. It received a mixed to average reception amongst critics. And yet, if you inquired about it, there’s a single commonality. Battle for Bikini Bottom is a fun romp. It’s actually one that many hold in high regard. That much is shown by the very impressive user score on MetaCritic. I‘ll be straight up, I initially skipped out. Then THQ Nordic announced the remake and I’d vowed to rectify that. The enthusiasm around Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated was something I couldn’t ignore. I was curious. When I was offered the chance to review, I took it, but not without hesitance. This is the childhood of several. I’d face the collective ire of thousands if I misspoke. So, with a large sandcastle of pressure mounted, here are my thoughts on this anomaly of a game.
BE MY PATRICK STAR, BABY!
One of the biggest selling points to this glow-up is multiplayer. A mode that wasn’t available originally and was sorely missed. Not only is online an option now, but the days of eating Doritos with a friend while putting each other through the wringer is back. Local Multiplayer is alive and well.
Sadly, I was unable to test the multiplayer component. Local multiplayer is a little difficult in current times and online is being patched into the PlayStation 4 version around the release date. Regardless, what I can do is describe the character selection. Apart from the three playable characters of Spongebob, Sandy, and Patrick, four more will join. Gary, Squidward, Mr. Krabbs, and Plankton. You’ll be taking part in a sort of horde mode where you’ll be combatting troves of enemies and bosses. You may even encounter some cut content from the Playstation 2 era, but who knows.
BACK AT IT AGAIN WITH THE SECRET FORMULA!
The mischief begins inside the Chum Bucket as per usual. Plankton is manufacturing robots to take over the city, or is it a village? Suburb it is! All of this is done with hopes of obtaining the delicious Krabby Patty formula. It all goes horribly awry though as the lever is mistakenly pulled down to “Not Obey”. This prompts the machine aptly dubbed the Duplicatotron 3000 to essentially create rebellious, mechanical teenagers. Bikini Bottom is thrown into chaos as a result. It’s now up to Spongebob and his friends to rescue the day.
The writing here should be commended. It’s a narrative that was exclusively penned for Battle for Bikini Bottom. Coming into this, I thought they’d recycle plot points. Instead, the extra mile was taken. As a rabid fan of the show growing up, I appreciated that. It went above and beyond any expectations I had. Instead of feeling awkward, it felt familiar. From the interactions between Sandy Cheeks and Spongebob, to Patrick Star and his humorous takes. Like his claim that he doesn’t speak Italian when correcting him. It’s not a Golden Scratcher, Patrick – it’s Spatula. Bless you. While the premise isn’t earth-shattering, it’s faithfulness is why I’d consider it excellent. Licensed titles have a reputation for being blatant cash-grabs. They phone it in. This was clearly a project infused with passion. Simply put, this feels like an interactive episode with video game mechanics.
The voice cast is the same we’ve grown to love, with the exceptions of both Clancy Brown and Ernest Borgnine. Instead, Joe Whyte lends his voice to Mr. Krabbs and Mermaidman. While the former seemed identical, the latter was a bit jarring. There are a few instances when it does sound like the genuine article, but more often than not, it’ll be evident it’s not. I never found it outwardly horrible, but I did miss that iconic laugh. As for the others; they all nailed the voices. Speaking of, a weird hitch I noticed is the verbalization never follows with its text counterpart. In other words, as a character talks, they’ll continue without you advancing the dialogue manually. A bit of a bother if say a bathroom break is needed, but nothing game-breaking.
For veterans that experienced Battle for Bikini Bottom in 2003, you’ll find the voice over to be familiar. However, THQ Nordic were kind enough to toss in some never-before-seen lines from the English actors. I enjoyed all of them, with a few even garnering a chuckle from me. I say it was the right decision.
WE’RE GOING JELLYFISHING!!
Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is described as an action/platformer. You’ll begin in the hub world of Bikini Bottom. Each new area will only be unlocked with a certain number of Golden Spatulas. Yup, a Collect-a-thon was given new life for 2020 and it holds up really well.
In each level, you’ll collect various color variations of shinies – the currency of the game. That isn’t all though. There will also be eight spatulas hidden in most. Your main objective is to find them all. Searching for these could be tedious. Traveling back and forth is a bit time-consuming. However, there’s an ingenious fast travel system implemented. If for example, say you discover a spatula that needs a specific ability that’s unlocked later in-game. One you obtain it, by simply pressing the discolored spatula in that respective level, you’ll immediately be thrusted to its general vicinity. This was also extremely helpful for those times you give up in frustration, only to return later for another try.
As I’ve already made note of, you’ll play as one of three characters, each with their own style;
- Spongebob uses his bubble wand to beat down those dastardly robots. He also has other maneuvers he can execute. For instance, he has an attack that’ll propel him upwards. Or a butt slam that’s used to press down buttons. What makes him unique in comparison to the others is his ability to contort himself into a sphere, or special abilities that he learns as the story progresses.
- Patrick Star can only be described as the powerhouse of the three. Though, in combat, his weapon of choice is his stomach. My big gut is finally justified. During my session, I would come by see-saws. On one end, a star was etched. While the other had a target. With his Echinoderm muscles, Patrick can lunge over a watermelon which will toss him to unreachable areas. You’ll also find cubes of ice scattered about. Toss them into the lakes to freeze. You never know what you’ll find by skating through.
- Sandy Cheeks on the other hand uses her, well…her hands. For those familiar with the show, this Texan Squirrel uses Karate to chop down her metallic foes. Like Spongebob and Patrick, she has a double jump, but unlike them, she can also glide using her lasso. Something she‘ll also use to defeat enemies from afar or grab onto protruding objects she can do her best Spider-man impression.
If upon seeing the trailer, you’re worried about the challenge level, I share your sentiment. With a property aimed more towards younger players such as this, I was worried it would be too easy. While it’s true that individually, enemies are push-overs. Accumulatively, they can be very difficult to deal with. On this topic, one aspect I felt needlessly added frustration was upon receiving damage. Whomever you control will be flung back a fair distance. With narrow platforms almost being the norm, this causes many needless deaths.
Side-quests in Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated are handled thusly. Each one is tied to a particular character. For example, during exploration, you may come across Mrs. Puff. If you were to approach her using the inappropriate choice, she’ll notify you that she needs to speak to Spongebob. Return as the absorbent one and she’ll ask a favor. In order to shuffle between the threesome, you’ll have to access bus stops that are spread about.
The tasks themselves will vary. Sometimes you’ll be bungee jumping by your underwear to retrieve a Golden Spatula or have to locate missing individuals. Which by the way, minor gripe but it would’ve helped immensely if once found, they had a unique animation to indicate this. I found myself often chasing those I had already activated. Memory of a goldfish.
BUT PLANKTON, YOUR DESIGNS!
I absolutely loved the environments on display here. They’re lush and by comparison, much brighter. You’re able to see the intricacies of every kelp, seashell, or sandcastle. The colors pop and slap you in the face with a flat hand of vibrancy. However, some rather odd design choices hold this section from being a flawless victory.
There was a specific level that while beautiful to look at, I found it confusing to navigate. Perhaps it was the way the neon lights were brightly shining. Maybe it was how there are differing levels to it. At the end of the day, I was lost and helplessly circling the area in hopes of finding the correct route. Another unintuitive choice was in another level. You will come across a room with a marble-like puzzle. As you walk in, you’ll notice a passage that seems to indicate continued exploration. As I walked through, I found myself teleported to a previous area. My initial reaction was this is a glitch. I felt like my progression was being blocked, and I notified my editor-in-chief. It was later discovered to be a fast travel method. Quite a baffling choice as there’s a much better one already available. Keep this in mind when you encounter this point. This isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.
AND THE WATERY VERDICT IS…
Spongebob: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated stands the test of time. Furthermore, I believe it’ll be the Spyro for the new generation. I had a lot of fun. My teenage self was daft for shunning such a swell experience. The music is lovely and cheerful, matching perfectly with the aesthetic it accompanies. It never felt like the music was grating, and that‘s a win. While I did miss having the original voice actor for Mr. Krabbs, the part was still serviceable. The presentation is beautiful, but it’s worth pointing out that there is texture pop-in. It was never a bother, and it only lasts a second. During cut scenes, you’ll notice the background slowly filling in all of its details. With the updated graphical polish and new multiplayer mode, it’s really a no brainer when I say this;
SPONGEBOB: BATTLE FOR BIKINI BOTTOM – REHYDRATED IS RECOMMENDED
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Many thanks to THQ Nordic for a PS4 review code for this title.
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Painfully single, but still somehow a master of dad jokes. If asked, he’ll answer it’s for his inner child. Fabio enjoys JRPG’s and has embraced his anime love.