Have you ever been doing something for hours on end only to eventually stop and ask what the point of it actually is? Its happened me to a few times, most notably when I was told I needed to sweep the driveway despite a howling wind scattering leaves left right and centre, or when I spent literal weeks trying to figure out exactly how exponents fit into algebra when I’d already made my mind up that I was most likely going to be a writer.
I ended up doing pretty miserably in that final exam but the point still stands: Sometimes you just experience something so mind-numbing that you completely disconnect with the experience. Maybe “mind-numbing” is too harsh a word, because the ability to throw a game on and zen out can be one of it’s biggest selling points.
No Man’s Sky and Minecraft have proven that a game that allows a player to “turn off” in a sense can be strangely cathartic. Yet I wouldn’t say that’s the case with Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated because while I did zone out while playing it, it’s not because I was altogether chill. Oh, and if you think I’ll be writing out Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated every time I want to talk about the game, you can kindly get in the sea.
Which isn’t to say it’s a bad game. In fact, it has to at least be built on a decent foundation to warrant a remake at all, right? Battle for Bikini Bottom has been hailed as a cult classic, which seems fair enough considering it was one of the better-licenced games back in the day. Yet just because something was good back in 2003 it doesn’t mean that the Krabby Patty formula necessarily holds up today. At its core, Battle for Bikini Bottom is a game inspired by the collect-a-thons of the time, games like Banjo Kazooie and Ty the Tasmanian Tiger. You’ll be running around small hub-like levels collecting different items that will eventually enable you open up more levels and then continue to collect even more items.
In the case of the yellow sponge, it’s Golden Spatulas and highly unimaginatively named “Shiny Objects”, something that annoyed me more than it probably should have. You’ll be able to switch between characters, jumping back and forth between Spongebob, Sandy Squirrel and Patrick Star to find everything in a level but there’s not necessarily any kind of player expression allowed in the character choice. Certain levels are just built for certain characters, largely because I think if Sandy and her glide ability were playable everywhere the game would be utterly broken. Not that the speedrun community needs another Spongebob game to play with.
The thing is, Battle for Bikini Bottom isn’t a bad game. It’s very playable, offering a decent chunk of content, colourful environments, dozens of in-jokes and nods to the Spongebob canon (I can’t believe I just wrote “Spongebob canon” seriously) while actually looking pretty spiffy at times. The one actual negative aspect I could offer mechanically is that the controls feel a lot looser than I remember them feeling in the original, although take that with a pinch of salt because its been many years since I played it.
Of course, loose controls aren’t exactly what you want to see in a game about platforming but Battle for Bikini Bottom is generous enough with its targets that it never becomes a frustration. The character models are decently animated and the addition of extra content cut from a game that’s seventeen years old is nothing short of interesting to say the least. Yet the rest of the game is just…there. There’s really nothing interesting or engaging in terms of gameplay or narrative, with every level introducing some new gimmick or puzzle that’s never exactly difficult to solve.
Which obviously leads to Battle for Bikini Bottom being more than a little boring, appreciated probably only by those folks that played the original as children or fans of the Spongebob cartoon. Something that’s aged less gracefully than you’d hope but also well enough to deliver some fire memes. On that I think we can all agree upon.
Yet from another angle, this is the sort of game that just isn’t made all that often these any more. I’m not talking about licensed games or collect-a-thons, I’m talking about a game that’s targeted very specifically at children. Uncomplicated, accessible, visually inviting and not taxing in the very least, Battle for Bikini Bottom is a game designed in an age where video games were still growing up, still zoning in on younger demographics to make their profits. There’s something I find intriguing about designing around these parameters, to make a game as accessible for young children as possible. If anything, Battle for Bikini Bottom is a great place to start a kid on video games; it’s like the antithesis of Mortal Kombat, totally unthreatening and easy to understand.
Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is fine. It’s a great remake of a game that was never all that spectacular to begin with, forcing me to imagine that it’s a game that just happened to fall into the properties that THQ Nordic acquired and figured something profitable could come from it. In a world where we have excellent remakes of classics like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, Battle for Bikini Bottom never quite reaches those peaks but should still be enjoyable for fans of the original, children or adults who for some reason are craving more Spongebob content.
Last Updated: June 22, 2020