Reading the title alone could dehydrate someone.
There are a lot of SpongeBob video games—a lot. While the release cycle has slowed down to a halt, in the previous two decades there was no shortage of these damn things on any platform. Most of these games weren’t great, but among them was a decent 3D platformer called SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom released for sixth generation consoles way back in 2003. It was flawed for sure, but certainly a lot better than most other games bearing the barnacle IP namesake.
Over a decade later, they decided it was worth revisiting the game and bolstering it up to reach its full potential; the end result is SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. Where the 2003 original was a serviceable platformer at best, the 2020 rehydration effort pays off in Krabby Patties—as the game can now claim to be a legitimately good platformer. That’s even in the presence of modern classics like Yooka-Laylee, A Hat in Time, and Super Mario Odyssey.
The most apparent quality of the 2020 remake is of course the graphics. The amount of care and attention to detail that has gone into giving this game a major revitalisation is like a dried-up fish finally finding water in the desert. This game looks amazing, where the vibrant visuals and clean textures really bring Bikini Bottom to life in a 4K-enhanced 3D world. While the characters are understandably a tad dated in their animations, the models themselves look great. Just compare Partrick Star’s model between the 2003 and 2020 game to really appreciate how much work was put into this.
Exploring Bikini Bottom is a joy here, as Battle for Bikini Bottom really nails a semi-structured open world design quite well—where players can tackle the objectives and levels mostly at their own whim. Collectables are the heart of the experience here, with lots of shiny objects to pick up (and Patrick’s old socks too)—gold spatulas being required to access other parts of the game world. Speaking of, stepping into the jellyfish field for the first time in Rehydrated is such a magical and nostalgic moment; the new graphics engine certainly helps the environments feel more immersive and memorable. Nearly all the locations from the TV show have been fully recreated here—main spots and minor locales too.
The gameplay is quite simple and clean here, but these simple and familiar classic platformer elements come together for a cathartic and wholesome experience. Having multiple playable characters helps the gameplay variety and level design—Sandy’s bull-rope works as a brilliant 3D platformer mechanic—so the game doesn’t just stick to a stable collect-a-thon template the entire time. There’s epic boss battles too and, although they are quite simple, it is extremely satisfying to take down giant behemoths (most of them being evil mecha versions of characters), especially when the boss design is so intuitive. All of the gameplay segments are enjoyable mainly because Rehydrated substantially improves the control and gameplay mechanics over the original; it feels great to play using the Xbox One controller, and this makes the adventure as chill as a sea breeze.
The original 2003 game came out at a time when there were too many 3D platformers on the market; in 2020 SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated enters a gaming landscape starving for more 3D platformers, especially when Rare is too busy making pirate games on Xbox. Rehydrated fills the void nicely as not only a genuine remake that improves substantially over the original source material, but as one of the most enjoyable 3D platformers. One that is of the same calibre as the cast’s legendary Super Bowl performance.