Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated came out on June 23rd allowing gamers to relive their childhood gaming memories. For many people, myself included, this was their first 3D collect-a-thon game. Full disclosure up front, as a child I spent easily a few hundred hours on this game. I must have played it at least a hundred times and it holds many fond memories for me. So yeah, going into this remake I had a lot of bias for it.
Let’s start with a quick rundown of the game for those of you unfamiliar with what kind of game Battle for Bikini Bottom is. The game is a 3D collect-a-thon similar to the 3D Mario games and Banjo-Kazooie, closer to Banjo than Mario in structure. You go into stages accessible from the hubworld where you must collect Golden Spatulas (The equivalent to Banjo’s Jiggies and Mario’s Stars). Each level has several golden spatulas and although they can be gotten in any order, you will most likely collect most of them on your way through the level, as the levels are all very linear and you aren’t kicked out of them when you collect a spatula. The game also sports a second collectible, socks. If you collect ten socks, you are awarded with a golden spatula. There are eighty total socks in the game, allowing for trading up to eight spatulas. The total number of spatulas in the game is one hundred, however you only need seventy-five to beat the game.
This leads to a very satisfying gameplay loop of entering a new level, getting a taste of the SpongeBob world with some fun level design and objectives, and by the end of the stage having more than enough Spatulas to go to the next stage. It was very addicting to me as a kid and that holds true now, I still play the game for hours on end for the same reasons. I missed no spatulas on my first run through each stage (With the exception of one you can’t get your first run through a stage) and hardly missed any socks, because the structure of each stage leads you right to most of them.
There seems to be a bit of design philosophy difference between the early game levels and the mid to late game levels. While the early levels seem linear, they are deceptively non-linear. The levels are wide and you can make several detours on pathways to find socks, platforming is also minimal, with most jumps just being to get to a higher point in the level or across a harmless gap, the number of socks in the early game stages can go as high as fourteen. The mid and late game stages are significantly harder with many deadly platforming challenges, though nothing that the average child can’t handle of course, though nonetheless there’s a difficulty spike. The mid and late game levels also feel more linear, often you are moving down a more defined path and there are much less detours to get socks, and the number of detours to get socks drop as the number of them lessens. Neither of these two approaches is inferior to the other, but upon replaying this game as an adult it feels much less like a cohesive experience
Speaking of the experience of replaying the game as an adult, the shiny objects. So in the stages there are shiny objects that come out of destroyed boxes and defeated enemies that you can trade to Mr. Krabs for a Golden Spatula. The first one is three thousand, the next one six thousand, the next nine thousand, and so on and so on for up to eight Spatulas. As a child this never bothered me as I would spend so long in stages that by the end of the game I would have naturally collected enough shiny objects to get all the spatulas from Mr. Krabs. As an adult however, I needed to spend 2 entire hours grinding just to get the last four spatulas for him, a major pace breaker.
Okay, now that I’m done talking about stuff that applies to any version of the game, including the original. Now let’s start talking about Rehydrated.
To start off, the game looks beautiful, graphically it’s a huge upgrade from the original and there’s plenty of charm and small details throughout the entire experience, ranging from various new animations to something as simple as there being scallops flying around in stages.
Most fortunately for many people who grew up with the game is the new lighting system. See the original game only had good lighting for dark levels like Rock Bottom, Kelp Forest, and Dutchman’s Graveyard in the Xbox version, those who grew up with the PS2 and Gamecube version will tell you horror stories of how hard it was to play those stages in those versions of the game. Thankfully in Rehydrated the lighting is perfect in all stages, making those I just mentioned fun to play through. I never knew the level design in Kelp Forest was as good as it is before because I couldn’t see it!
I can see!
I think a point of contention in the future is how aesthetically different the Spongebob’s Dream stage is. In the original the skybox of the stage was very abstract and yellow, something I have trouble putting into words. Now it’s full of blue and pink skies and puffy clouds, something you would much more expect to see in a licensed game based on a children’s cartoon. I think in the future there will be debates among fans over this aesthetic change.
Comparison of the two versions of this stage
Unfortunately, the beautiful comes with an asterix. The game looks beautiful yes, when it’s displaying what it wants properly. I played on PS4, so the draw distance wasn’t that noticeable in most stages, but when walking around Bikini Bottom or going down slides the presence of Superman 64 style fog to hide the draw distance was a distraction. This issue is apparently even worse on the Switch version, where texture pop in and grass pop in is allegedly awful. Water also doesn’t display well, in stages like Goo Lagoon, Kelp Forest, and Dutchman’s Graveyard and whenever water obstacles try to move they look plain awful with layers of the water popping in and out of existence whenever it moves. Glass has a similar problem, with the layers of glass in the Krusty Krab disappearing randomly at times. Another issue is loading screens upon death. When you die in the original you would be grabbed by a hand and carried to the checkpoint in a fade out. now there’s a sudden, long loading screen
The game also has a myriad of glitches, nothing game breaking or straight up experience ruining, but a bunch of small ones that pile up. I don’t have a real way to tie this section together, so let’s just highlight some particular ones I noticed or happened to me. Audio would frequently either cut out or grow really quiet at random, Sandy’s lasso would sometimes just ignore my button input and not work, for one mission where you have to break 8 snowmen the snowmen straight up didn’t spawn and the game just gave me the award, when jumping into a teleportation box I just got stuck. At several points I would pause the game, select a different stage, and load into the stage as a character who shouldn’t even be in that stage.
Sandy is not supposed to be in this stage
Again, absolutely none of these in of themselves are game breaking or experience ruining, but they are a load of small problems that just add up as time goes on. Speaking of a load of small things, I have some nitpicks that I need to bring up as they bothered me.
The shiny objects move slower here as they float into you, this is a very small detail but it consistently bothered me. There are plenty of invisible walls added where there were none before, this bothered me because a lot of them are placed in locations where even a child would think to jump to, only to have their way blocked. The physics on slides is broken, you can easily jump backwards and slide up them.
The early game and mid game boss fights, Robot Sandy and Robot Patrick, each have new camera angles that are significantly more zoomed out than in the original game, making the bosses appear much smaller and take away the menace that they once had. The areas you fight them in have been also made much more colorful, Robot Sandy’s arena in particular feels like a shell of what it once was. These boss changes seem to have been made to make the game more accessible to a young audience, but when I was a kid I could handle these bosses just fine.
All these small issues lead me to believe that Rehydrated needed another month or two of development, not to say the game was rushed out the door, it’s clear a lot of love went into it, but it clearly needed another onceover to work out all of these small issues before launching the game
Hello handsome Squidward
This next point isn’t a positive or negative, but rather just an observation. Over the years Spongebob has had a consistent place in internet meme culture, dozens of memes have spawned from this show and it will likely continue to do so in the future. Rehydrated embraces this and has put in many references to Spongebob memes as background elements in stages, nearly every stage has one visible if you are looking out for them. This could be something great or something annoying about this remake depending on your perspective
Finally, let’s briefly look over the game’s multiplayer mode. 2 players (either local or online) select 2 characters to fight Robot Squidward. Or rather fight 50 waves of enemies as Robot Squidward shoots at you. You also jump over platforms to islands that represent levels cut from the original game. This multiplayer is fine, but there’s no depth here at all. I certainly wouldn’t advertise it as cut content from the original being restored. There’s not much to say here as it’s just a multiplayer enemy rush.
And that was Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, so what are my final thoughts on it? It’s been a joy to revisit a childhood classic with a new coat of paint, however the myriad of small issues the game has makes it very hard to consider calling this a definitive version of the game like the Crash and Spyro remasters this is clearly emulating the spirit of. Would I discourage anyone from buying it if they’re interested? No, there may be small problems but the experience is perfectly enjoyable ESPECIALLY if anyone is considering introducing their kid to this game. I don’t like giving number grades to games, so instead I rank them by letters and I would give Battle For Bikini Bottom Rehydrated a B, leaning on a B-. If you’re curious about it or a fan of the original, give it a chance if you want to, just don’t expect perfection.