SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated (Switch) Review
With the world in a bit of a chaotic state today, it is not uncommon to yearn for the simpler times from our youth. One of the videogame trends of the early 2000s that is almost non-existent today is the cavalcade of licenced games. 3D platformers based on your favourite intellectual property were once a dime a dozen, and a cult favourite from the era is back in SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. It may be a fun nostalgia trip for some, but those going in without rose-tinted glasses will find an experience that is very evidently a product of its time.
The wacky SpongeBob humour is here in full force, and the charm of this series is easily the strongest aspect of the game. The evil Plankton is up to another nefarious scheme, having let loose an army of robots upon the denizens of Bikini Bottom. Thinking that they accidentally wished them into existence, SpongeBob and his starfish friend Patrick set up about attempting to right the situation. This takes them on a tour of a variety of familiar locations nabbing hoards of collectables and smashing up some scrap metal along the way. The faith to the source material is excellent, and there are plenty of legitimately funny moments throughout the dozen or so hours it will take you to complete your quest.
Most of the show’s original voice cast is present, hitting many of the classic SpongeBob notes that made the original animated series so witty. The writing and delivery in the cutscenes are great, but one-liners during gameplay repeat and grate quickly. The soundtrack is also pleasantly familiar but is again prone to becoming irritating with short loops. Those minor gripes aside, many of the absurd elements that define its signature style and tone are present and may alone be worth the budget price of admission for fans of the show.
The 3D art style is also nice, if a little bland, but the Switch version is on the rough side. The framerate is mostly steady but prone to drops in some areas, particularly the main Bikini Bottom hub. Textures are simple, and the immense aliasing on objects can make for an unappealing view. From the basic environments to the low-quality enemy models, it is obvious that this is a rework of a game whose assets are now nearly two decades old.
Sadly, that antiquated feeling carries over into the core gameplay. Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a by-the-numbers 3D mascot platformer, filled with basic combat, simplistic challenges, and a bunch of stuff to collect. Each area tasks you with collecting a handful of Golden Spatulas, which are rewarded for anything from beating the level boss, finding a secret area, or completing a particular challenge. You will use these to unlock new locations to visit. Other collectable goodies include Patrick’s tough-to-find missing socks, shiny objects which act as coins to unlock gates, and most levels also have a second world-specific collectable to find.
I am typically happy to play a giant collect-a-thon on the provision that navigating the world is enjoyable, but unfortunately, the game falls short here too. Navigation is slow. SpongeBob and his pals move only mildly faster than the yellow sponge’s pet snail Gary. There is no run button, and stages can be rather large. Some levels also have some verticality to them, and it is not uncommon for a cheap shot from an enemy to knock you down several levels and force you to make a slow climb back up to where you were. It all makes the act of moving around the environment feel tedious which discourages exploration. The lack of genuine challenge in both combat and platforming means the minute to minute gameplay lacks excitement.
There is at least some variety in the tasks you are presented with. You will spend most of your time running around in square pants, but on occasion, you will switch to controlling Patrick or Sandy. Each character has a unique set of abilities. SpongeBob can bowl with bubbles, turn into a ball and bungee jump from his undies (the latter of which controls horrendously thanks to the strange camera in these sequences). Patrick’s main gimmick is his ability to pick up and throw objects, whereas Sandy has a lasso with which she can grab enemies, swing from hooks and hover between platforms. These abilities add for some fun context-sensitive situations and puzzles to help mix up the standard platforming. It is mildly frustrating though that switching between characters can only be done at bus stops which are only where you want them to be about half of the time. The option to switch character on the fly would have been nice.
The boss fights may well be the highlight of the game, with creative setups that utilise your special abilities, zany enemy concepts and some entertaining scenarios and humorous presentation helping to take the best bits of the core game and inject a healthy dose of SpongeBob hilarity. An element of the game that does not fare so well is the newly added multiplayer horde-like mode. You will fight off waves of enemies with some friends, but this is about as generic as these types of modes can be and is not really worth your time.
Compared to other platforming remasters available on the Switch such as the Spyro and Crash trilogies, SpongeBob simply has not received the same amount of love. The core game here being touched up was never to the same quality as those titles to begin with, but this remake is a missed opportunity to liven up the game and add some exciting new features. There is a lack of general polish too. Load times between areas can be lengthy, it looks decidedly average, and small bugs such as the camera inversion toggle resetting every time you change character quickly get annoying.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated may be a welcome nostalgia trip for big fans of the show or the original game but offers little else to those coming in fresh. It is a simplistic and serviceable yet generic platformer that feels slow and archaic by today’s standards. It has some bright spots thanks to some creative boss battles, authentic presentation and just enough character variety to add some spice, but on a system bursting at the seams with incredible entries in this genre, it simply cannot compete with brighter spots in the Switch’s library.
+ Classic SpongeBob humour and charm
+ Amusing boss fights
+ Multiple characters add variety
- As generic as platformers get
- Movement is slow and uninteresting
- Rough visuals and minor bugs