Are you ready, kids? Sixteen years after its original release, Purple Lamp Studios is returning Spongebob Squarepants to home consoles where he truly belongs. A large cog in THQ Nordic’s revival hour, Battle for Bikini Bottom is a remake of wonderful substance as the developer has taken painstaking care to recraft (or rehydrate, if you like) the game from the ground up.
There’s a definite quality to Purple Lamp’s efforts to not only play on your nostalgia but trick you into thinking the game was always this polished. It’s natural and effortless. The developer, based in Vienna, operates on the very same street – two doors down, I was told – as THQ. This proximity makes the feedback loop only a lunch meeting away which perhaps plays a large part in how faithful the recreation is.
Not having played Battle for Bikini Bottom since I was in high school, my hands-on with Rehydrated was a joyous fifteen minutes. I got a taste of the Jellyfield Fields level, which most will recall is the game’s first stage Spongebob visits after the tutorial takes place in his Pineapple abode. Like a rush, I felt like a part of my youth had been returned to me, once irrecoverable. The flash new cutscenes had me grinning from ear to ear and I was pleased to see the two Purple Lamp developers guiding me through enjoying it just as much.
Cherishing the short time I had, I scaled Spork Mountain in search of jellyfish jelly to cure Squidward’s ailments. On this journey I swatted plenty of fodder, broke just as many crates and enjoyed some of the subtle quality of life changes made by the developer to bring Battle for Bikini Bottom into 2020. An elegant remedy for the original’s awkward camera has been put in place which has an over the shoulder angle that remains fixed behind Spongebob. You can move it as you like using the right thumbstick, but it’ll always settle back in place at the sponge’s rear. The game appears to be full of small fixes for problems we paid no mind to when we were young.
It all culminated with the King Jellyfish boss battle, the game’s first. As such, it isn’t exactly the stress test some might expect but it’s enough to kids a run for their money and that’s the important thing. It’s a short song and dance but the bookend cutscenes of the battle are solid gold, but then I find the mere idea of a jellyfish singing in the shower under the sea fanciful.
Much like parents passing down Disney films to their children, I expect a generation of gamer-parents are going to sit their kids in front of Rehydrated. It best encapsulates the Spongebob experience. The humour, dialogue and the game’s small sandbox is one rightly appreciated in its time.
Battle for Bikini Bottom’s original development teams have had no hand in Rehydrated’s gestation with Purple Lamp having to rebuild everything. Not using original code like most might, but by carefully rewriting the game from scratch. The only thing returning from the 2003 release is the original audio track, which has been remastered as part of the effort. Even the once cut content, a level called Patrick’s Dream and a Robo-Squidward boss battle, now appearing in Rehydrated has been assembled based off old videos and concept art.
If Crash Bandicoot’s N. Sane Trilogy is the benchmark for remakes, Battle for Bikini Bottom is every part its equal, which is high praise and it’s praise the developers present were pleased to soak up.