Republished on Wednesday 30th March 2022: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of April 2022's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Say what you like 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 daft, and the first few seasons are full of ingenious episodes with genuinely funny writing. At the height of its popularity in the early noughties, a game based on the show was released for PlayStation 2, and it's still beloved to this day. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated revives the 17-year-old action platformer on PlayStation 4, but is it a pretty patty or a bucket of chum?
The first thing that hits you about the remake is the visual upgrade. In a deliberate decision to ape the more saturated look of the more recent seasons, Rehydrated is more colourful than a coral reef. It makes the original look washed out by comparison, and while it's maybe a little overdone, the graphics are suitably cartoonish. It's not perfect — some characters look a little off, and quality can be somewhat inconsistent — but it's a pretty dramatic overhaul of the PS2 title.
In terms of sound, things aren't quite so strong. All the music and voice work from 2003 returns, meaning it might look very different but it sounds basically identical. Yes, that means Mr. Krabs still isn't voiced by Clancy Brown. Strangely, the audio mix has occasional issues; we noticed a fair amount of the dialogue sounds blown out, and there are also rare instances of audio not playing. Neither of these are deal breakers, but the sound seems a little sloppy.
Still, there's more to a remake than sights and sounds. Rehydrated is a pretty close match to the original in terms of gameplay, although die-hard fans may notice some small differences in how things feel. Most notable is probably Sandy's lasso swinging move, which has very different physics. Generally speaking, though, we'd say the gameplay experience is smoother, largely thanks to a vastly improved camera. Fans will quickly get right back to gathering shiny objects, bashing baddies, and surfing down slopes.
If you're unfamiliar with the original game, it stars SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy as playable characters in a non-linear 3D platformer, fighting to rid Bikini Bottom of Plankton's disobedient robot army. As you make your way through varied environments, your main task is to collect golden spatulas and dispatch the metallic horde.
Back in 2003, collectathon games like this were pretty commonplace. In 2020, 3D platformers are few and far between. It's fair to say that Rehydrated's structure and moment-to-moment action is extremely basic by modern standards. Each character has some unique abilities, but combat is one-note and objectives aren't exactly diverse. Bosses are very tame affairs, and fly-by cutscenes showing you the levels are a constant reminder of the game's PS2 heritage. That being said, it's nice — refreshing, even — to play something so simple. There's no penalty for dying, there are lots of collectibles to find, and it presents a fun underwater world to explore. Yes, it feels dated in a number of ways, but it offers the sort of lighthearted 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 its flaws, of course. While Rehydrated runs at a consistent 60 frames-per-second, there are some rough edges. Loading screens show up more than you'd think, texture pop-in is noticeable after an area loads in, and we even had a particularly nasty bug where an early golden spatula became unattainable. We're informed the latter will be fixed in a future update, but until then, make sure you get Squidward's golden spatula before you leave his house.
But what of the brand new stuff, then? Part of the package is a wholly original multiplayer aspect; an online or offline co-op horde mode featuring all-new playable characters and previously cut content. Two players take on Robo-Squidward's increasingly challenging waves of robot enemies. It's extremely basic, and each character only has two moves (even the ones that should have more, like SpongeBob), but it provides even veteran players something new to check out, and it's a nice way to repurpose things that were once left on the cutting room floor. It's definitely ancillary to the main game, though.
SpongeBob Rehydrated is a vibrant remake of a much loved PS2 platformer. 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 simple fun of collecting, bashing enemies, and exploring a beloved location is very much here, and fans young and old will get a kick out of this underwater excursion.
I loved the Spongebob game from the PS2, I'll definitely give this a try.
2003. The last time Spongebob was relevant.
I remember the game. I remember getting a laugh out of the series (at least the early episodes).
But a 2003 Spongebob game remade in 2020? Perhaps not the best financial decision THQ Noric has made.
About what I expected, a good remake but retains flaws of the original. Can't wait! Shame about the bugs though, hope there's a patch or two incoming.
Wow. PushSquare's being the most generous for once. Gamespot's review is merciless.
Can't say I'm too surprised though. This is after all a remake of what could charitably be called, 'pretty good for a licensed game'
@Party_Cannon Not necessarily, SpongeBob is huge because of the 00s cartoon nostalgia alongside Ed Edd and Eddy and Johnny Bravo. With Tiktok and meme culture, this is a great time to rerelease one of the best Nickelodeon games around.
I feel like this was a best case scenario for this title, so I’m happy to hear it! I never played the original but I’m actually very interested in this and will definitely be picking it up at some point. Thanks for the detailed review!
Let me know if you have any questions! I've played this game to death
Oh boy, this could really be a funny and colourful distraction once finished TLOU2. I hope I won't find a copy for cheap or I'll buy this for real
EDIT @thefirst We just had the same thought, but I'll wait for a price drop and patches to fix the few issues!
@nessisonett I would love too see a ed, edd and eddy game that show was so funny and Courage i would too a bluray boxset of that.😃
Its such a pity these games should be polished too perfection you have the groundwork already waiting for a discount too much too play.
I love the original game flaws and all so I can't wait to get my copy.
Better than metro exodus then....
I actually never played this back in the day. Always watched the show but pretty much stayed away from this game. I did have a Sponge Bob game on GBA at one time though.
I still watch Spongebob daily among other classic and newer cartoons, so im sure i will have a blast playing this. Just not right now. I have a backlog of games to get through.
You’re playing an early copy of the game, without the day one patch. Many of the bugs will likely be ironed out, and I recommend giving it another go to see if your bug issues have been fixed then. Otherwise, a very solid review
@Masonaut That may well be the case (and the publisher informed me that one particularly nasty issue is being sorted in a future update), but I can only review what I'm given. Thanks for reading
@Party_Cannon my kids are 5 and 8 and they love Spongebob. I didn’t introduce them to him, they found it on Netflix and watched the series and movies.
I think the franchise is still very popular and the fact the game is £25 is great value for families. We’re definitely getting it.
I'm excited to play this, though due to financial stress I'll be waiting for Black Friday sales probably.
Got this installed & ready to go, once I finish TLOU2. Will be quite jarring going from one extreme to another though haha looking forward to it!
@Quintumply i always thought he was just a normal sponge. I guess i didnt pay enough attention when watching it with my kids!
@ellsworth004 Haha they do refer to him as a sea sponge on occasion!
@Quintumply i actually googled it and u are right friend. Good call!
@Kienda I'm glad there is a resurgence for another series of kids to enjoy Spongebob. I watched it with my kids and the off-the-wall innocent stupidity was something that has been missing since Looney Tunes. I enjoyed it.
It's good he still is relevant with a new generation.
I'm thoroughly enjoying this, good old fashioned fun
Another game I bought cheap, sat on for ages, then appeared on PS+ 😁
Horrible 2 player game. My wife was like " you downloaded this?"
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