Say what you love about SpongeBob SquarePants, but there's a reason it's still one of Nickelodeon's most popular shows. The cartoon starring a yellow sea sponge and his starfish best friend is delightfully silly, and the early seasons are full of ingenious episodes with seriously funny writing. At the height of its popularity in the early 2000s, a game based on the show was released for the PlayStation 2, and it's still enjoyed to this day. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated brings the 17-year-old action platformer back to life on PlayStation 4, but is it a sweet patty or a bucket of buddy?
The first thing that strikes you about the remake is the visual upgrade. In a deliberate decision to single out the more saturated look of more recent seasons, Rehydrated is more colorful than a coral reef. It makes the original look washed out by comparison, and while it's perhaps a bit overdone, the graphics are suitably cartoonish. It's not perfect - some characters look a little off and the quality can be somewhat inconsistent - but it's a pretty dramatic overhaul of the PS2 title.
In terms of sound, things aren't quite as loud. All of the music and voice work from 2003 is back, which means it might sound very different, but it sounds basically the same. Yes, that means Mr. Krabs is still not voiced by Clancy Brown. Strangely, the audio mix sometimes has issues; we noticed a good chunk of the dialogue sounds blown out, and there are also rare instances where the audio doesn't play. None of these are deal breakers, but the sound does sound a bit sloppy.
Yet there is more to redo than images and sounds. Rehydrated is a pretty close match to the original gameplay-wise, though die-hard fans might notice small differences in how things feel. Most notable is probably Sandy's swinging lasso move, which has a very different physics. Generally speaking, though, we'd say the gaming experience is smoother, thanks in large part to a vastly improved camera. Fans will quickly be able to resume collecting shiny objects, bashing bad guys, and surfing the slopes.
If you're unfamiliar with the original game, it stars SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy as playable characters in a nonlinear 3D platformer, battling to rid Bikini Bottom of Plankton's disobedient robot army. As you progress through various environments, your main task is to collect golden spatulas and dispatch the metallic horde.
Back in 2003, collectathon games like this were pretty common. In 2020, 3D platformers are rare. It's fair to say that the structure and instant action of Rehydrated is extremely basic by modern standards. Each character has unique abilities, but the combat is one-note and the goals aren't exactly different. Bosses are very tame affairs, and hover cutscenes showing you levels are a constant reminder of the game's PS2 heritage. That being said, it's enjoyable – refreshing even – to play something so simple. There's no penalty for dying, there are plenty of collectibles to find, and it features a fun underwater world to explore. Yes, it looks dated in many ways, but it offers the kind of light-hearted fun that's rarely seen these days. Whether or not you've played Battle for Bikini Bottom before, those looking for a straightforward 3D platformer will be well served here.
It's not without flaws, of course. While Rehydrated runs at 60 frames per second, there are some rough edges. Loading screens appear more than you might think, texture pop-in is noticeable after loading an area, and we even had a particularly nasty bug where an early golden spatula became inaccessible. We are aware that the latter will be fixed in a future update, but until then, make sure to get the golden spatula from Squidward before leaving his house.
But what about what's new, then? Part of the package is an entirely original multiplayer aspect; an online or offline cooperative horde mode with all-new playable characters and previously cut content. Two players take on increasingly difficult waves of Robo-Squidward robot enemies. It's extremely basic, and each character only has two moves (even the ones that should have more, like SpongeBob), but it even gives veteran players something new to check out, and it's a nice way to reuse things that were once left on the cutting room floor. It's definitely incidental to the main game.
SpongeBob Rehydrated is a dynamic remake of a popular PS2 platform game. It's a little rough around the edges, but it's a solid effort that brings back a type of game that's all too rare on modern machines. The sheer fun of rounding up, bashing enemies, and exploring a beloved place is there, and fans young and old alike will enjoy this underwater excursion.
- Colorful cartoon visuals
- Simple yet fun gameplay
- Probably the best spongebob game
- Slightly dated design
- A little on the buggy side
- Multiplayer doesn't add much
Review of the copy provided by THQ Nordic