During the heat of the PS2-GameCube-Xbox console war, games were aplenty. That includes horrible licensed games, and while they’ve developed a stigma in the industry of being cheap cash-ins, THQ somehow found a way to make a SpongeBob SquarePants game more than decent, and it ended up with a cult following, particularly with the speedrunning community.
All that was enough for this 17-year-old 2003 Nickelodeon property to end up getting a 2020 remaster, and as someone that’s never played the game before, I see the appeal.
What Is It?
Deep within the sea, in an attempt to finally steal the secret recipe to the Krabby Patty (the signature burger of the restaurant our spongey hero works at), the always sinister Plankton unleashed robots to takeover SpongeBob’s hometown of Bikini Bottom. Now it’s up to SpongeBob and his friends to rid the ocean of them by collecting…. golden spatulas.
Yep, that’s what this collect-a-thon platformer is all about. It’s a Nicktoon after all. It doesn’t have to make sense as long as you’re laughing or, in my case, rolling your eyes.
Why Should I Care?
If this game caught your interest, you’re either one of these two things. You either were or still are a SpongeBob fan, or you have some sense of nostalgia for the game after all the memories it left you after it came out in 2003.
I’m none of those things, but if you are, then you’d probably be pleased to know that I found this game to be an absolute delight to play–at least during the times you get to play.
Battle for Bikini Bottom is actually a good collect-a-thon platformer much in the vein of games like Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. This made its original release all the more impressive, because other than Super Mario Sunshine, the collect-a-thon platformer was a dying genre that arguably never found its feet again until the release of Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii.
The game starts off at SpongeBob’s house to give you a hang of the controls. In addition to a double jump, he has a slap and a ground pound that’s both used as an attack and a tool to solve the game’s many platforming-related puzzles. Every area is littered with colorful “shiny objects” to collect that can open up new paths to places you otherwise can’t get to, while the Golden Spatulas serve the same purpose, though they’re much harder to get as they’re the main prize you’ll seeking throughout the game, and there are 100 of them to find. Another thing you’ll find yourself collecting are the smelly socks of Patrick, SpongeBob’s seastar best friend.
Speaking of his friends, you’ll find bus stops at the game’s various locales that are used to switch control from SpongeBob to the aforementioned Patrick, or Sandy–a Texan squirrel with karate chop action.
Patrick is slower than SpongeBob, but he makes up for it with his brute strength. He’s the only character in the game that can make use of “throw fruit” (watermelon), that are used to both attack enemies and flip switches for various puzzles. He also can use this ice cube item that temporarily freezes goo, a substance resembling water that our heroes can’t swim in, even though they’re already underwater in the first place.
As stated, Sandy has nimble karate abilities. She can chop people, do a jumping kick, and she also has a lasso that can bring down suspended enemies or objects. Her lasso also doubles as a swinging mechanism in addition to a propeller to make her glide as she attempts long jumps. I’d go as far as calling her the best character to use in the game because the platforming in the levels that feature the use of her abilities are all well done.
The levels in the game are pretty standard fare. You have a mountain level, a bunch of rooftops downtown, and there’s even a superhero lair just to name a few. As you’d expect from a platformer of this type, each of them have fairly straightforward objectives to get your hands on the Golden Spatulas. Whether they’re just making it to the end of a timed platforming sequence or fighting a boss, each of them have their share of enjoyment and varying difficulty.
The problem with the game is that while this seemingly is a solid remaster of the original, it also took some of its quality of life problems with it in the form of excruciatingly bad load times. If there’s anything I hated that generation for, it was the fact every platform you can play a game on had some really rough load times, and this game was a reminder of how bad those times were.
This is something I’d typically get over, but the game takes every opportunity to put you into a loading scenario.
When you boot the game up, there’s a load screen.
Every time you enter to a new level, there’s a load screen.
Every time you come to a new section in a level, there’s a load screen.
Every time you die, there’s a load screen.
More often than not, these delays take over eight seconds to load. Load screens exist in every game, but it seems like half the time you’re playing is spent watching bubbles float, because that’s the load screen. On a PS4 Pro? Xbox One X? PC? It’s pretty inexcusable, and if you plan on playing this game on Switch… I’m pressing F to pay my respects for you right now.
This isn’t even the worst part about the excessive load screens. One of the best things about well designed platformers is the fact that they’ll reward your desire for exploration. If you end up crossing a border or a place you can’t go into, instead of making you walk into an invisible wall, a hand comes out of nowhere to bring your character back into the proper field of play. The problem with that? It results in another load screen. Can you imagine playing Mario Kart, falling off the track, and waiting for another screen to load after Lakitu dropped you back on the right course? No, because that’s sloppy design, and it’s a real shame because everything else Battle for Bikini Bottom does is good. Arguably great.
The game does have a multiplayer horde mode for anybody wondering if there was anything else to this remaster, but it’s nothing special. After trying it once on the couch with my brother, there was literally no desire to go back to it to try another round.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As far as the job the devs did remastering Battle for Bikini Bottom, it looks great. Everything from the levels to the character designs all look clean, so nobody will be complaining about the way it looks unless there are purists that wish there was still some of the standard definition jaggy flair. The platforming is fun, the level design is as clever as it was back then, and it feels good to play.
For SpongeBob purists, it’s worth noting that the entire voice cast from the cartoon offers their talents in the game, but I can’t tell you about the job they’ve done because I’ve never seen an episode of SpongeBob. I know he has his annoying laugh, and it’s just as annoying in the game, so there’s that. Fans should also probably know that Clancy Brown doesn’t voice Mr. Krabs in this game. Judging from YouTube videos I’ve seen of him, he doesn’t sound like Brown at all.
All that said, at an MSRP of $29.99, it’s a budget title. So if you’re looking for a solid game to scratch that 3D platformer itch, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated could be it–as long as you consider yourself a patient person that can get over excruciatingly bad load times, otherwise I’d consider waiting for it to drop further in price.