Who would have thought that one of the most striking and visually beautiful games this year would be a PS2 remake?
I mean, the game also happens to have one of the longest titles in recent memory and leaves you pretty exhausted after saying it. Suffice it to say, though, Rehydrated is a work of art.
The original game looked pretty good anyway. Heavy Iron Studios nailed the tone of the shows masterfully, as well as the facial expressions and sleek environments.
You could quite comfortably play the 2003 version of Bikini Bottom today and still be impressed, even with the character closeups looking pixelated and text fonts appearing blocky.
Rehydrated is eye-meltingly gorgeous and dazzling, though. Reflections in the water, greater draw distance so you can see buildings populated in the distance, higher resolution, more expressiveness in character animation, and that’s just the start.
It’s one of those games where it may not seem like it needs a total remake, but when you’re actually playing it you feel totally blown away by the scale and scope of the project and just how much of an evolution this is over the original.
But it’s also a very interesting scenario in that, Bikini Bottom still feels like a platformer slightly ahead of its time, yet ever so slightly dated now in 2020, both due to the layout and expectation put on the player.
You spend most of your time collecting golden spatulas to progress to different areas, while picking up multicoloured shiny pinwheels that the robots are leaving behind. These can be used to open up areas and even traded for items.
You can even find socks for Patrick, because of course you can. And pick up underpants in order to stay healthy, believe it or not.
Bikini Bottom definitely feels like a throwback to the Mario 64 style of platformer where you get spatulas for different conditions, like beating bosses, performing random acts, and, of course, finding them as hidden secrets.
It’s a game that encourages you to go exploring, go off the beaten path, and fight as much as you can, as you’ll often be heavily rewarded for your efforts. And that’s the beauty of Rehydrated, you always feel like you’re being showered with love and there’s always somewhere to go and something to do.
The great thing about it as well is that this feels both accessible to kids and adults. Those watching are going to be spellbound by it, and those playing will more often than not have a smile on their face. This game is seriously infectious.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say Rehydrated is the closest anyone has come to recreating a Spongebob cartoon for a console, with these high production values, great laughs, and genuinely fun gameplay. For SS fans, it’s borderline perfect.
That said, the game’s pacing does go off the boil a bit, with enemies sometimes becoming overwhelming, some platforms being a bit of a tight squeeze. I also found myself going around in circles a lot, and as a result, the game does become a little frustrating and aimless.
Fortunately, there’s lots of ways to mix things up with bus stops letting you seamlessly switch between characters like Spongebob, Sandy, and Patrick, each with different abilities. There’s also plenty of cardboard boxes around to save you when you die, while also letting you teleport around the map in a checkpoint style.
You can even morph characters into different shapes and sizes to perform unique acts, like turning Spongebob into a bowling ball.
The character abilities do help keep the action fresh, with Patrick being able to throw items at range to defeat enemies and turn on switches, while Sandy can glide over gaps. At some point, every character will become essential to your progression, and you will almost certainly need to call upon all of them to 100% the game and get the goodies.
Rehydrated isn’t just an aesthetical upgrade, though, as there’s some nice cut content from the original game here, such as hidden glitches carried over from the original game – they’ve actually taken the time to spruce up elements of the game that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, it’s wild -and they’re all fully retextured. The biggest addition is the multiplayer horde mode, of course, where two players fight lots of robots in wave-based fashion. There’s also some additional in-game narrative secrets and adjustments to cut-scenes, so there’s some nice reasons for players of the original to revisit.
The game just feels so refreshing to play. Rehydrated is so bright and sparkly with Spongebob’s yellow almost blinding compared to how washed out it seemed in the original, while Patrick is so well shaded and structured,
Is this the finest platformer this generation? Absolutely not, it can be equal measures frustrating and simplistic, while really seeming to lack a sense of direction at the same time. Yet it never fails to entertain and is rarely a game you can – or want – to take your eyes away from.
Spongebob Squarepants Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is expertly redesigned, thoroughly enjoyable, stylish platformer that fans of the show are going to go wild over. I mean, it wins you over in the first minute with that iconic title score. There’s no way you’re not singing along to that.
With Crash Bandicoot 4 on the horizon, and the rumours of a 3D Mario rennaissance refusing to go away for the second half of 2020, Spongebob is the perfect pick-me-up to lift your spirits and remind you just how fulfilling, wholesome, and most of all, entertaining the platform genre can truly be.
Spongebob Squarepants Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is now available on PC, PS4, XO, and Switch
Tested on PS4
Code provided by THQ