The curse of licensed video games is a long-running one that continues to this day, with companies continuing to cash in on new movies and popular TV shows by making terrible games. However, there are some diamonds in the rough. Very few licensed games were made that ended up being good, but they are out there, and one such game was SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom.
Released in 2003 as the first part of an unofficial trilogy by Heavy Iron Studios and the now-defunct publisher, THQ, Battle for Bikini Bottom sees the denizens of Bikini Bottom overrun by evil robots developed by Plankton. It’s up to the player to control SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to kick some robot gears throughout the city.
The game was a brilliant 3D platformer, with full voice acting, smooth animations, easy-to-learn combat mechanics, special skills and backtracking for collectibles, plus a million and one SpongeBob references. All of these combined to make Battle for Bikini Bottom one of the greatest games for any kid who enjoyed the show.
With the relative failure of Plankton’s Robotic Revenge and SpongeBob HeroPants (both handled by Behaviour Interactive and Activision, who acquired the license after THQ’s bankruptcy), and with the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, fan interest in a new-gen Battle for Bikini Bottom remake has been renewed. Here’s how an amazing licensed game could be even better if we could Bring It Back in a remake.
While Battle for Bikini Bottom‘s graphics were considered high-quality for the PS2/Xbox era, they’re definitely starting to look their age. The lighting and shading are very inconsistent across levels, some of the character models are lower-resolution than they should be, and some detail is missing in certain textures on the ground and certain buildings. Fans would go head over heels to see a remake using an updated graphics engine with global illumination and HD character models direct from the TV show. Add some touching up to the world at large, and it would be like playing an interactive episode of SpongeBob on our consoles.
Modern Gameplay Upgrades
The major goal of the game is to earn Golden Spatulas, which unlock new areas in the game while acting as a progression meter. However, everything in the game – the in-game currency, all of the level-dependant collectibles, even Patrick’s 100 missing socks – is designed to reward more Golden Spatulas instead of side progression. The game after Battle for Bikini Bottom, based on the first movie, changed this by allowing players to use the in-game currency for upgrades, such as more health. This should stay, along with making a better use of collectibles.
The biggest issue with Battle for Bikini Bottom‘s gameplay outside of progression is the checkpoint system. Checkpoints are very few and far between, and long boss fights do not save partway through. The amount of time it takes to defeat the final boss could use somemore checkpoints to space it out. A remake would easily take care of this issue by peppering checkpoints far more often than the original game.
Full Open World
The game is open world in some minor ways; for the most part, it features a linear progression from point A to point B with some side objectives here and there. With the power offered by the PS4 and Xbox One, much of the game could be made into an open-world adventure rather than a linear one. Some building interiors may still require loading screens, and some parts of the game may need to be trimmed (though we wouldn’t complain, the original game was quite lengthy as it was), but the hub area in the original game was begging for a fully open world.
Keep Everything Else
The biggest issue with video game remakes is that a lot of content that doesn’t need to be remade ends up getting remade. Battle for Bikini Bottom has a huge amount of references to the show, plus the (almost) full cast of voice actors, an original story that isn’t available in any SpongeBob episode, and a killer soundtrack with hundreds of thousands of YouTube views. None of that needs to change, and a lot of it is why the original game was beloved so much in the first place.
The mechanics in the recent releases by Activision, for example, are not what fans are looking for. Plankton’s Robotic Revenge and SpongeBob HeroPants had strictly linear gameplay, not as many references or details from the show, and weren’t nearly as refined. 13 years after its release, we continue to hope that Activision will re-hire Heavy Iron Studios and remake
13 years after its release, we continue to hope that Activision will re-hire Heavy Iron Studios and remake Battle for Bikini Bottom to today’s standards. Until then, we’ll continue playing the original on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox and continue listening to that amazing final boss soundtrack.
For more on the SpongeBob series, check out Encyclopedia SpongeBobia!