While THQ Nordic themselves haven’t officially made an announcement about the matter, a Nintendo infographic might have inadvertently revealed that the previously-announced game, “SpongeBob Suarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom: Rehydrated”, is due for a May 2020 release for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and XBox One. The stunning decision to remake the masterful 2003 cult classic comes to the delight of fans, children and adults worldwide. It is fair to say that the “Rehydrated” remake has big shoes to fill.
How big are those shoes? Let’s do the usual, and have a look at how the original fared when it released 17 years ago:
1. From a graphic standpoint, the game was well ahead of its time and has aged incredibly gracefully
Open world games felt so much richer in 2003, and the richness of this one has not been lost to time, especially in its art style. Typically, graphics in a video game are not of the utmost importance, but there’s some kind of inexplicable charm behind seeing a renowned 2D cartoon transition to 3D so eloquently. Perhaps that charm has allowed for this game to age quite gracefully, as you could pick it up today (or it’s remade version a couple months from now) and enjoy it in much the same ways you could 17 years ago.
2. The game’s soundtrack was masterful
The game’s soundtrack for each level and conflict was incredibly well crafted, especially considering the low standards of licensed games at the time. Entering the Flying Dutchman’s Graveyard emanates a spooky, slow theme that eventually reaches a climax and becomes full-fledged terror inducing as the action ramps up. The Goo Lagoon theme is incredibly befitting of the location. And of course, the Mermalair theme is action packed, perfectly suiting a superhero hideout. Even after 17 years, the game’s soundtrack is fresh, catchy and is an excellent companion tot he gameplay.
3. The gameplay itself is dynamic, freeing and actually a bit challenging
Of course, while SpongeBob is the centerpiece of the game, people who also enjoyed his sidekick Patrick or undersea karate-squirrel Sandy would be pleased to know that they are playable in this game as well! SpongeBob can’t save Bikini Bottom from Plankton’s clutches by himself, and relies on them frequently throughout the game to give him a hand. While not playable, Mr Krabs also holds a crucial presence in the game, funding SpongeBob with important Golden Spatulas in exchange for shiny objects found throughout the game.
You will find yourself getting your money’s worth out of this game for certain if you’re a SpongeBob fan. It does a full tour of Bikini Bottom as a whole, presenting new dynamics, gimmicks and challenges to keep you busy and immersed. Think of it like Mario 64 but in the SpongeBob universe.
4. There is a large amount of fan service in this game
The Mermalair, Jellyfish Fields, Goo Lagoon, Downtown Bikini Bottom, Kelp Forest and Rock Bottom are just a selection of briefly featured areas in the TV show that got full fledged, detailed versions in the video game. This ultimately served to give the universe a lot more breadth which definitely appealed to the game’s fanbase. Additionally, the featuring of many beloved background characters, like Mermaid Man, Barnacle Boy, Mrs Puff, Larry the Lobster and more, helped a lot in that regard as well.
Being a 2003 game, it is reasonable to expect that this game had its share of flaws. Let’s have a look:
This game is incredibly niche
If you aren’t a SpongeBob fan, you will find this to be a rather average experience. A lot of the charm and allure of this game is that it is, in many ways, like playing through a long, interactive episode of the TV show. Heavy Iron Studios did an amazing job replicating the TV show into the video game, which is why it seamlessly drew in the TV show’s fanbase. However, if you aren’t a fan, you might not enjoy this game quite as much as it would seem.
And that’s pretty much it for cons!
Overall game grade: B+
Remaking this game will ultimately go down to be a great choice. Indeed, there is plenty to like about what we know about the game as it stands to be soon released. Unfortunately, from what we do know, there is also a small bit of concern about some of the game, and release’s, details. Let’s start off with the good:
1. There will be multiplayer functionality
The main highlight for new content stems within the game’s “Horde mode”- an online multiplayer function where you survive against hordes of progressively harder enemies. This addition was completely out of left field, but it will stand to give this game plenty of life even after the player beats the single player mode. What’s more- new playable characters in this mode! At the moment, Squidward, Mr Krabs and Plankton have been found as playable characters for this mode, giving more variety to the party. Additionally, this has created positive and interesting speculation- what will their abilities and powers be? What unique attributes will they have?
Additionally, the story mode itself will be multiplayer. How THQ Nordic opted to handle this is currently unknown, but we have enough information at hand to make an educated guess. Given that every map offers at least two playable character options (SpongeBob + Patrick or SpongeBob + Sandy, often with all three being playable) it stands to reason that one player could control SpongeBob, while the other would control Patrick/Sandy.
2. Returning voice actors!
Depending on how you look at it, this unfortunately isn’t the most positive attribute. However, in the original, every character in the game except Mr Krabs was voiced by the same voice actor who voiced them in the TV show. This added to the immersive feeling that the player was playing through an interactive episode of the TV show, giving it a lot of charm.
3. Unique collector’s items at launch!
Once again, this could be viewed as somewhat of a double edged sword. The game is currently available for pre-ordering, and there are three different packages you can pre-order the game in. The edition with the most overall content is the F.U.N. Edition (pictured above). If you pre-order the F.U.N. Edition, you get a pair of unique collector’s Krusty Krab socks, three figurines, a series of Tiki keychains, some wallpaper stickers and a series of six themed lithographs. Of course, if you’re on a budget or find none of the extra stuff to be particularly appealing, you can simply pre-order the base game, a modest $30 sum, and call it a day. If you’d prefer a middle-ground approach, there’s always the Shiny Edition: A significantly less expensive bundle, which retains one of the three figurines along with everything except for the keychains that the F.U.N. Edition offers.
4. Cut content from the original game joins the remake!
There was actually quite a bit of content that Heavy Iron Studies unfortunately had to cut from the original game before it released. THQ Nordic has announced that the vast majority of said content will be arriving in the remake. Most prominently, the Robo-Squidward boss fight (concept art shown above) which was cut from the original will be appearing in some capacity during the remake. It is currently unclear how this boss fight will fit along the game, but it is exciting to see that, even in a ‘remake’, we will enter uncharted territory with dearly missed content cut from the original edition.
Sadly, while there is a lot of promise within the Rehydrated version of this game, there are also a couple of red flags that are slightly interfering with the hype behind it. Let’s have a look:
1. There is a slight potential that the game might be rushed
Recently, THQ Nordic attended PAX, a national video game convention, and offered players the chance at a 12 minute demo version of the Rehydrated version of the game. Here, players played through a small portion of the Jellyfish Fields map and a bit of the introduction held within SpongeBob’s pineapple home. For the most part, this demo was decent, but there were a couple of issues that caught the fanbase’s collective eye. For one, a lot of the graphics and overall scenery clearly still need a lot of work. There are also some weird gameplay glitches within Jellyfish Fields that need to be addressed. Fortunately, neither issue is thought to take the average gaming company a particularly long time to resolve, so this could end up being all for naught down the road. However, with a probable release date in just two months, it is worth wondering if THQ Nordic will be given sufficient time to complete a satisfactory product, or if they might be rushed in to fixing all of these minor-moderate errors. This is especially the case considering that this game will have online functionality this time around, and to have bugs and errors on launch day would be utterly disastrous.
2. The Shiny and F.U.N. pre-order editions are ludicrously overpriced
The aforementioned F.U.N. Edition, available via pre-ordering it, includes three figurines, a pair of socks, some keychains, wall stickers and lithographs. This sounds good and all, until you consider the price tag for this bundle: A whopping $300! Worth mentioning is that the game itself costs 1/10th of that, a far more reasonable $30. The Shiny edition (shown above) holds roughly 2/3rds that of the F.U.N edition, yet costs half of it at $150, which is still pretty ridiculous.
3. The voice acting is just about completely recycled from the original
Despite the flashy new graphics, probable remixed soundtrack, and new overall approach to the game, it seems THQ Nordic doesn’t want to get involved in the political chicanery of the game. They have announced that “There will be little-no new voice lines in this game.” This, unfortunately, means that Clancy Brown (voice actor of Mr Krabs in the TV show) will likely continue to be bizarrely excluded from the game, as the only voice actor to not have recorded lines for their TV show character in the video game.
Despite some of the nagging concerns, this game figures to be a resounding success. Only time will tell if THQ Nordic is capable of delivering on the hype!