Developer: Purple Lamp
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop download
Category: Platformer, Action, Adventure
No. of Players: up to 2 players
Release Date: June 23rd, 2020 (EU & NA)
Price: $29.99 USD
The early 2000s, an era where practically every popular pop-culture IP was getting a video game released to capitalize on the ever-growing gaming market. Developer Heavy Iron Studios had recently obtained the rights to develop a Spongebob Squarepants video game. So on October 30th, 2003, when they finally released the first videogame for the yellow sponge: “Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom”, which released on all major platforms of that time. It was received with amazing reception from both critics and the general audience, and throughout the years it became a cult classic and was known as the best Spongebob game of all time.
The late 2010’s, an era where everything was getting a remake or remaster, from Disney movies to gaming icons like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot. Developer Purple Lamp and publisher THQ Nordic enter the scene, announcing on June 5th, 2019 that Battle for Bikini Bottom was getting the remake treatment, now known as the Rehydrated version.
Over one year later, on June 23rd, Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated released on all major platforms, including PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam. The biggest questions fans have been asking themselves in anticipation for launch have been: How faithful is this remake? Does it feel like the game I once played as a child? Is it an improvement over the original? Did Patrick lose his socks once again? Well, enjoy reading this review to find out!
The story begins with the villainous Plankton concocting yet another fiendish plan, this time he plans on stealing the Krabby Patty secret formula with the help of an army of robots made by the Duplicatotron 3000. Unfortunately for him, he powered on the machine before flipping the switch labeled “Don’t Obey” to “Obey”. Plankton is quickly overruled by his own rebellious creations and thrown out of the Chum Bucket, all the while the mischievous mechanical devices are set free to wreak havoc and disorder throughout all Bikini Bottom.
We then go to Spongebob Squarepants’ pineapple home, where the yellow sponge is playing “robots and racehorses” with his best friend, Patrick. Spongebob talks about how fun it’d be to play with real robots, to which his friend suggest wishing it to the magic conch. The next morning, our titular protagonist wakes up to his house wreaked and robots running amok. Thinking that it’s his fault for the disaster that is unfolding, he sets out on an adventure all over Bikini Bottom to save the day.
The narrative felt like it could come straight out of an 11-minute TV episode. It’s a simple premise that doesn’t evolve too much throughout the campaign but gets the job done. What makes this intro scene great, and generally most scenes involving character conversations is the writing, which is witty and comical. The interactions with the many colorful array of characters sound natural to their series counterpart.
The main objective is to collect one-hundred golden spatulas scattered throughout all of Bikini Bottom. Eighty can be found in the main hub and levels, while twenty are obtained by returning Patrick’s socks and paying Mr. Krabs a whopping grand total of 108,000 shiny objects. Speaking of which, the three main collectibles are the previously mentioned “Shiny Objects”, which serve as the game’s currency to purchase locked areas. These come in five different colors, all of which have a different value to them.
Another set of collectibles are eighty hidden “Patrick Socks”, which were somehow lost by the starfish from one day to another. Personally, I’m more concerned as to why he owns so many socks, to begin with. And finally, the golden spatulas, which are needed to unlock new levels in the main hub. There are also some common items like the underwear which serve as the healing item, the golden underwear (three in total) which raises the max health point, and a few unique collectibles that pertain to certain levels.
There are three playable characters, each one with distinct attributes that change their playstyles. Spongebob is the main character and you’ll likely spend the most time playing as him. He can “Bubble Bash”, wall-jump, transform into a Sponge-Ball, and use two unlockable moves, the “Bubble Bowl” and the “Cruise Bubble”. Patrick has the ability to grab and throw objects like the Freezy Fruit, as well as enemies.
Sandy has a lasso that can tie up enemies and damage from a long-range, glide using her lasso as a helicopter, and swing along the Texas Trailer Hitches to travel long distances. Each character can double jump, as well as attack from the ground or in the air. Though you can play as Spongebob at any moment, playing as either Patrick or Sandy changes on a level-by-level basis. This allows each area to be designed around the mechanics of only two characters, therefore it’s overall a lot more balanced.
Bikini Bottom serves as the hub world, which is split into three main areas. In the hub, players can visit iconic series locations like Sandy’s Dome Treehouse, the Krusty Krab, and Shady Shoals, just to name a few. Here, you’ll also have access to the nine levels, as well as the three boss areas. Levels are blocked behind a golden spatula paywall, you’ll need to have collected a certain amount to access new areas.
Levels are based on locations from the show like Jellyfish Fields, the Mermalair, Rock Bottom, and Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard. Every level is visually distinct from one another and has an overall gimmick or objective. For example, Sand Mountain is split into three long and challenging slides, while Goo Lagoon is all about connecting tower lights to point at a pesky robot.
Platformers nowadays tend to push toward being easier and forgiving, but Rehydrateds’ platforming consists of precise jumps, momentum, and correct timing. It can be harsh on many occasions (especially in the late-game) and demands knowing full well how to control each character. I’m glad that, despite the visual enhances made, the developers kept the difficulty of the original title.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
The only other mode aside from the campaign is the brand new multiplayer, Horde Battle. It’s a two-player mode where you and a partner go up against Robot Squidward and an onslaught of enemies. You can play locally, host a match to other nearby consoles, or play online.
There’s a selection of seven characters to choose from. This includes Spongebob, Patrick, Sandy, Gary, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and Robo Plankton. They all play very similarly, with their movesets being a double jump, ground and aerial attack, and a ground-pound. Unfortunately, the trio loses its unique abilities to prevent having an unfair advantage to other characters. I would’ve liked if each one had unique attributes to them, instead of them playing fairly similar (not identical since ground attacks are different).
There are twenty-six islands to battle on, three waves of enemies on each island. Though the first few areas are enjoyable, the mode gets repetitive after a while. You collect shiny objects throughout your playthrough but none of them get transferred to the main game, so it’s a pointless reward. To sum it up, a lack of enemy variety, attack and mobility options, the dullest song from the story mode playing on repeat, and no reward for completion make this mode fall flat.
The soundtrack is fantastic, with many themes being ripped straight out of the show. There’s a great sense of nostalgia when hearing these songs, and they serve as great atmospheric music for each themed level. From the joyful music of Jellyfish Fields to the ghostly track playing in the Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard, the OST captures the very essence of the TV series and it’s outstanding.
Every piece of dialogue (aside from the tutorial signs) is voice acted, with almost every character being played by their show actor. Though for some reason, neither Clancy Brown nor Ernest Borgnine reprised their role as Mr. Krabs and Mermaid Man respectively.
Instead, both are played by Joe Whyte. Though the audio is ported directly from the original game, it’s an odd choice to not re-record the voices for these characters with the current actors. Joe Whyte does a well-enough job but doesn’t sound quite right as Mr. Krabs and Mermaid Man.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
The biggest upgrade from the original to Rehydrated is the visuals, and it’s absolutely insane how amazing the remake looks. It’s no exaggeration to say this game looks stunning, the graphical leap to modern consoles is no small feat. I applaud the dedication and effort developer Purple Lamp put into making this look the best it could possibly be.
At times, it’s like you could feel the love the developers put into making this remake. Characters are expressive, every level is vibrant and stands out, there is so much detail and references aplenty. Cutscenes are a huge highlight, the animation makes every scene feel like if it were a clip from an episode.
As for performance, considering the Nintendo Switch is underpowered compared to other consoles, there were going to be some compromises to get this game running as smoothly as possible. Frame rate maintains itself at a solid 60fps and I never experienced any hiccups. Though unfortunately, some textures took time to load in, draw distance is pretty poor and shadows are either low-res or don’t load in when on certain platforms (the latter being an issue at times).
Controls are great and responsive, and the developer nailed the movement of each character. Though more of a nitpick than anything, I would’ve liked the option to swap the “A” and “B” buttons, since it was hard to adapt to jumping with “A”.
It took me around ten to twelve hours to beat the campaign, and around sixteen to eighteen hours total to get all collectibles. My only issue with getting 100% completion is obtaining all of Mr. Krabs’ Golden Spatulas, which required grinding for an insanely high amount of shiny objects (108,000). Considering how hard it is to get these in the main game, I had to farm for hours to get the required amount. It’s a slow, monotonous, and quite frankly, annoying objective that only serves in stretching out the total length of the game.
This is without taking into consideration the Theater where you can view game and concept art, which takes another 40,000 shiny objects to unlock. For anyone looking to 100%, until an exploit is found to grind money fast, the best place to obtain these consistently is through the skeeball minigame in Goo Lagoon.
Enemies are introduced throughout the campaign, with cutscenes playing for each new enemy introduction. I liked the variety and design of all fourteen enemy types. Though as previously mentioned, they do get quite annoying in the multiplayer mode. Bosses are also a big highlight. The three main bosses are robot versions of the main characters, with mini-bosses being in a few of the levels (like King Jellyfish and Prawn).
There is a lot of fan service and references for those that grew up with the show. I experienced a burst of childhood nostalgia when visiting locations like the Mermalair or Sandy’s Tree House. The Museum area in Rock Bottom is personally one of my favorite locations in the game, and it looks so much better than what it did in the original game. Keep an eye out for the many painting spread throughout, they’re quite hilarious!
There are a few Quality-of-Life improvements to make the overall experience much more enjoyable to play. Patrick has an aerial attack now, you restart from the beginning when falling off a slide when doing a race, you can now see where you’re going in Kelp Forest slide, alongside a few other changes.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is one of the best platformers released this year. Purple Lamp manages to recapture the essence that made the original such a memorable experience while also updating the visuals for a modern audience. It’s an amazing experience that both returning players and newcomers will enjoy.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
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