Towards the end of my time with SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, my opinion of it had soured so drastically from how I felt when I began it. Being a 3D platformer from 2003, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that you’re hopping from level to level, completing challenges and solving puzzles in order to obtain some sort of shiny object, which in this case are golden spatulas. Collecting enough golden spatulas grants you access to more levels, where you’ll do more challenges and so on and so forth. It’s a 3D platformer through and through.
Seeing as the original game released a few years into the show being around, I was able to catch most of the references and jokes and not feel like an outsider to the source material. It was actually kind of nice to revisit this world I hadn’t thought about in nearly twenty years, only to see it realized in this 3D space that I could run around in and explore. I’ve never played the original release so I don’t know how the it looked when it came out, but SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated looks really crisp and colorful. It’s fully voiced as well which makes the whole thing feel like a really long, yet enjoyable episode of the show.
For how well this remaster has done in terms of presentation, I feel like some attention could’ve been paid to the actual gameplay itself. SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a decent platformer at best, and a frustrating test of patience at worse. The game is marred by a disastrous camera that will play along with you the most part, but will damn you at the worst possible times.
There is a point later in the game where you learn how to wall jump between two walls. After the first few times of just leaping at the wall and then rhythmically hitting the jump button until you crest the obstacle you’re climbing up, a new version of this challenge appears. This time, instead of going up, the walls you’re jumping between move forward and backward, offering you a way to get to a distant platform. This “simple” task turned into ten minutes of me leaping to my death because the camera felt the need to lock into what can only be described as a “cinematic” angle the moment I took my first jump. That’s what the camera does in SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, it’s fine most of the time until it decides you’ve been in too much control.
The camera’s ability to screw you over doesn’t just stop with platforming either, because I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve tried to attack something only to find that it’s just out of my reach. This of course leads to me getting counterattacked, stun locked, thrown off of a level, or all three at once. And if you do happen to fall off of a level, know that everything resets because of that. Were you halfway through a particularly tedious puzzle? Great news, now you’re back at square one. Got through all of those enemy encounters? Then you can totally do it again. While you retain all collectables along with the puzzles you’ve already solved, falling off of a level or dying often feels like the game is adding insult to injury by making your climb back to where you were even much more tedious.
While SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated has its share of highs and lows, I found that playing as any character other than SpongeBob isn’t very fun. There are certain points in levels that allow you to swap between either Sandy or Patrick depending on what the level calls for. Patrick can lift heavy things and throw them, while Sandy can glide through the air and swing from certain objects. Playing as either of them isn’t fun, especially when the game calls for precise platforming from Sandy. Her specific challenges usually rely on using a combination of gliding and swinging, both of which are hilariously unresponsive.
There’s a level later on where Sandy is put to the test and must cross a massive chasm of nothingness in order to get to a floating plot of land. There are swing points scattered about which require you getting close enough to them for an indicator to pop up letting you know that you’re locked on and able to initiate a swing. But that window is incredibly small when you’re worrying about plummeting to your death while trying to fumble with the unresponsive controls.
If there was a word to describe SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated as a product, I guess ‘inconsistent’ would be it. It has all the charm and joy that I remember from the show itself but isn’t particularly fun to play. That being said, I still finished it because it scratched that 3D platformer itch I had, but I have no intentions of going and sweeping up the collectibles I missed or anything. I bought and played through the game because I have fond memories of those early seasons of SpongeBob, and that was enough to push me through. But if you have no connection to the source material, then this is just a decent platformer at best.