SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Purple Lamp Studios
Release Date: June 23, 2020

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PS4 Review - 'SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated'

by Andreas Salmen on June 22, 2020 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Play as SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy and show the evil Plankton that crime pays even less than Mr. Krabs.

Buy SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom (BfBB from this point forward) is a game that many people — myself included — were aware of but never played. Originally released for the GameCube, PS2 and Xbox in 2003, it wasn't as greatly received as all the fan hype might imply, but it was fondly remembered by many. Its success in the realm of speed-running gave it a new lease on life in recent years. With that in mind, it was not surprising to hear that the game would receive a full remake courtesy of THQ Nordic with "Rehydrated" added to its name, and the fan reception was enthusiastic. We've played the PS4 version of the remake to see how it stacks up over 17 years and almost three console generations later.

In a nutshell, BfBB Rehydrated is a faithful re-creation of the original title with an updated new look, and it also adds some new content. BfBB Rehydrated is a collect-a-thon, not unlike Banjo-Kazooie, where collecting special objects grants you increased access to stages in a larger hub world. Of course, the hub world is Bikini Bottom, which has been overrun by robots unleashed by ne'er-do-well, Plankton. It's up to SpongeBob and his friends to end the threat and return peace to the underwater city.

If you're a fan, then this is right up your alley. It's a goofy and colorful reimagining of the original story, and it'll feel familiar if you played the original — partly because the voice acting and cut scenes have not changed, so the voices and dialogue are the same as they were back in 2003. The quality isn't the best, but it also isn't horrible.

We start out in Bikini Bottom, where we can access the stages. Whereas Mario collects stars or moons and Banjoo collects puzzle pieces, SpongeBob collects golden spatulas, so he can open the door to the next stage. There are nine major areas, and spatulas can be found in the hub world or sub-areas, and they can also be acquired from characters in exchange for other objects and collectibles. The total number of spatulas is 100, but it'll take 10-12 hours to acquire the 75 that are needed to enter the final stage and boss fight. Some spatulas are lying around as a reward for reaching certain areas. Others are tied to optional side-quests, which usually range from activating a few switches to getting collectibles, and some are even rewarded for smaller boss fights and minor puzzle segments.

With the basics out of the way, you'll naturally want to jump in and get those golden kitchen utensils to unlock some doors. The first surprise was that the controls felt pretty good in Rehydrated. While the game may look a bit floaty, I was impressed by how much and how quickly the characters reacted to input, making general platforming a breeze. There were rarely instances when I felt the controls were getting away from me, which is a strong foundation to build upon for any platformer. This is persistent across all playable characters in the main game: Patrick, Sandy and SpongeBob. While we cannot freely rotate between those characters, stages are usually designed with SpongeBob and one of the other characters in mind. That means there are bus stops in those stages to swap between the two applicable characters for a given stage.

It's one of many places that shows the underlying game is not necessarily new. Level design can feel a tad outdated, as it is very restrictive in how to solve puzzles and approach challenges. The stages may be semi-open at times, but progression is usually limited to a critical path, and characters have limited ways to interact with their surroundings. Each character has a purpose. While SpongeBob can attack with his spatula, he is the only character that can dash upward to damage enemies, and he has two bubble moves that create either a controllable bubble missile or a bubble bowling ball. That means certain switches and enemies are easier to take out or may even require that skill set in order to progress.

Patrick the star is the grunt of the gang, so he can carry and throw heavy objects to activate switches, while Sandy the Texan squirrel has a lasso to swing across larger gaps or to take out enemies from a distance. You will certainly spend most of your time with SpongeBob, but all of the characters play well and make sense in terms of design, although it would've been great to see additions or the ability to freely switch between characters as the gameplay requires. Thankfully, the stages are still fun and range from relatively easy to moderately challenging. The time trials in some stages can take a few tries to master and complete.

There are obvious standouts, such as select puzzle segments and the simple but imaginative boss fights. For example, you guide a heavy metal ball down a track by clearing its path and activating machinery that enables it to move along. These segments usually require a few tries to get right, and some use all the skills your character has available. There are evil robots in several forms as well as tiki statues (Crash Bandicoot, anyone?) that need to be destroyed. The variety of hazards can make things interesting, especially when you're trying to beat the clock while rushing through a group of different enemy types. When it works, it's an enjoyable experience of easy platforming that packs a few punches in select areas. It's never overbearingly difficult or super easy.

Overall, I'd say these challenging segments are an exception rather than the rule, but when they appear, they are so much sweeter to enjoy — especially if you're into the style and general presentation. It's close to the source material, and you'll usually find a number of familiar characters and funny stories within the game. I'd go as far as to say that if you just want a casual and cute platformer, this is a solid title, even if you aren't the biggest fan of SpongeBob SquarePants. If you are, there's a high chance that you'll dig every second of this, which is probably all you needed to know.

It's not all old content with a new lick of paint. Some of the content that didn't make it into the original game has been remastered for Rehydrated, and most of it ended up in the new multiplayer mode, which can be played both on- and offline. It expands the roster of playable characters and is essentially a horde mode where you and friends work together to survive waves of enemies. It's a decent addition for those who were looking for extra content. I found this mode fun enough to dip my toes into, but it was rarely engaging enough to hold my attention for more than a match at a time. It's doesn't play out in interesting ways that would've made it more appealing to play multiple times. The multiplayer mode feels slightly tacked-on but, at the same time, it was sufficient to remake the original game, so the additional effort is appreciated and rounds out the offering.

BfBB Rehydrated on the PS4 runs and looks decent. Characters and environments are sharp and detailed, but they don't consistently hit the mark. Environments are not fully interactive, and quite a few of them can look bland. It may be part of the general style, but the decade-old platformer does shine through in many situations due to some low-poly objects and textures that don't mix well with the parts that do look colorful, pretty and sharp. For whatever reason, bubble effects are always very low-resolution textures that didn't seem to match the quality of the rest of the title.

It's a decent upgrade, but it doesn't hide its origins exceptionally well. Depending on what you were hoping for, that may either be good or bad news. Even though it's not looking like the latest and greatest, it also doesn't run consistently well. It aims for 60 fps and seems to hit those more often than not, only to plunge into general stuttering for no apparent reason. It's not consistent but there are usually a few spaces in each area that can trigger some stuttering, which can hopefully be fixed in future updates.

Aside from the frame rate, we encountered other little annoyances along the way. We sometimes got stuck in the scenery, forcing us to restart a given section, and we encountered a lever in a stage that wouldn't work until I restarted the section. These are few and far between, but they do happen. Then there are characters clipping through the camera in cut scenes, and there's noticeable texture pop-in when an area loads in. Add to that the limited voice acting, which isn't the greatest and repeats itself quite often, and it's a mixed bag that is serviceable but has room for improvement. These little inconsistencies make the game feel more outdated than it rightfully should be. On the flip side, it is important to keep in mind that Rehydrated retails for $30, making it one of the most reasonably priced remakes I have seen in a while, especially when you consider that this is a full remake with some added content and new visuals.

SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is a fun collect-a-thon platformer. It has tons of collectibles, and it successfully manages to update an old fan favorite in a franchise that has been idle for a while. It's not a perfect comeback by any means, but it's solid with tight controls and fun stages that will entertain fans of SpongeBob and anyone looking for a good platformer. Given its fair release price and the content on offer, it's definitely worth a look, although it could've turned out more polished than it did.

Score: 7.0/10

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