Unlike many readers and contributors on this website, I am much newer to the Xbox community. I joined around the middle of the current generation. However, this far from means that I am new to Xbox as a platform, as one of my earliest recollections of gaming was playing SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom with my cousin on her original Xbox. Now, flash forward some 15 years later, a brand new remastering of the game has been released in Rehydrated form, and needless to say I jumped on the opportunity to check it out. So, does it hold up to 15 years of built-up nostalgia, or is this one better left in the old days?
Beginning with the gameplay, and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is fundamentally the original Battle for Bikini Bottom through and through, for better and, in some instances, for worse. For those not in the know, this game is a collectathon in the same vein as many older Rare titles such as Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. There are a number of different environments, lifted directly from the show, such as Jellyfish Fields, Rock Bottom and Kelp Forest, each stuffed with 8 Golden Spatulas to find (this game’s equivalent of Mario’s Stars or Banjo’s Jiggies). The level design, with the exception of Kelp Forest, is top notch and a joy to play through, and each one is stuffed with references to the show that fans are sure to love.
Moving on to mechanics and, as mentioned before, Rehydrated is virtually unchanged from the original. This means all of the abilities, the physics, the controls are pretty darn close to where they were before. More Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, less Final Fantasy VII Remake so to speak. This, for the most part, is a good thing, as playing as Patrick, SpongeBob and Sandy is just as fun as ever. From Patrick’s heavy-bruiser style to SpongeBob’s bubbles to Sandy’s lasso, all three feel different and fill important niches on their given levels.
However, this also means that some of the original, um, eccentricities are just as present as ever. Knockback is unfortunately still a thing and can make certain platforming areas far more different then they should be. Hit detection is not always perfect either, exacerbating this problem. SpongeBob’s bubble bowl move is still incredibly finicky as well and can be hard to land hits with. I admire this reverence for the original, but some quality-of-life changes would not be unwelcome.
Continuing with presentation, Battle for Bikini Bottom: Rehydrated looks great. While it isn’t on the level of Red Dead Redemption 2 or anything, the game itself looks incredibly clean and cartoony. The style is faithful to the original game, but features much more colour and crisper visuals. Make no mistake, this is not just a standard upscaling of Battle for Bikini Bottom, this is a from-the-ground-up re-rendering and it shows.
However, the audio, music and dialogue from the original game has remained almost entirely untouched. For the most part, this is absolutely great, as many of the jokes are evocative of classic SpongeBob, and a few had me holding back fits of laughter. The recordings were also done by the original cast… with the exception of Mr. Krabs and Mermaid Man. Yes, unfortunately, Clancy Brown in particular was not brought in to re-record the “Imitation Krabs”, and his voice sticks out like a sore thumb. An unfortunate case, but far from a dealbreaker.
Moving on to performance, this is easily where Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is at its weakest. Bugs, for the most part, are thankfully minimal. However, framerate drops are not uncommon. Worse yet, every time I died or went out of bounds, it could sometimes take upwards of 40 seconds to load in again – an incredibly long wait in comparison to the original. It is worth noting that I played this game A. prior to its release and B. on the Xbox One S, so mileage may vary from person to person, especially in the event of any future patches.
Finally, I’d like to touch upon the value of SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated on Xbox One. The game is currently priced at £24.99, a relatively fair price given the quality of the remaster and the length of the game. If you’re looking for numbers, it personally took me around 7 hours to complete. If you or your kids are a fan of SpongeBob, you enjoyed the original game and/or you are a fan of collectathons, I see absolutely no harm in checking it out at that price point.
All in all, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a blast from the past, and mostly in a good way. The dialogue is entertaining, the visuals splendid, the music catchy and the gameplay rock solid. However, some not insignificant technical issues and a fear of deviating from the source material hold it back from reaching its full potential. Nevertheless, I had an incredibly fun time with this game and recommend it, especially at the affordable price point.