This is the game that got me into gaming. It certainly helps that I was a huge fan of the television program, but I don't think I could have gotten a better introduction to 3D interactive worlds than this. When I got my very first console, the Nintendo Gamecube, I didn't have many first-party games. I may not have grown up with Super Mario Sunshine [スーパーマリオサンシャイン]
or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker [ゼルダの伝説 風のタクト]
, but Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom
and other quality licensed games of the era were more than sufficient for 7 year old me. Games like Cars
, Taz: Wanted
and this game's sequel, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
were all standout licensed games that I might have never heard of if my parents got me Super Smash Bros. Melee [大乱闘スマッシュブラザーズDX]
BFBB is a fantastic licensed game and a great game overall. The presentation is very charming should be familiar to fans of the first three seasons of the show - the soul of the original series shines through in every line of dialogue, the crazy level concepts, and the wacky music. Most of the show's cast is here (Save for Eugene Krabs and Mermaid-Man, quite unfortunate but they're serviceable) and they deliver great performances. Spongebob, Patrick and Sandy all have hilarious voice lines that are etched into my brain (HAM-MER, I GET IT!), and they often make references to the show's continuity - real good fanservice.
The locations are inspired from the show, with some of the most iconic locations being present - Jellyfish Fields, Spongebob's neighborhood, the Krusty Krab, Sandy's Tree Dome, even the one-off Rock Bottom is here and it's one of the best levels. The level designers did a great job at capturing the show's atmosphere while crafting fun 3D environments chock-full of collectibles, robots and side-objectives. They managed to squeeze easy to miss references in every corner of the world, my favourite of these being the vending machine in Rock Bottom that plays out the same iconic gag from the episode.
The music, just like the show, is iconic and varied. There's obviously a large Hawaiian music influence throughout (Jellyfish Fields, Bikini Bottom)
, but the soundtrack goes into Surf Rock (Goo Lagoon)
, Breakbeat/Acid House (Spongebob's Dream)
, Trip Hop (Industrial Park, Chum Bucket Lab)
, even Dark Ambient (Rock Bottom)
territory on a whim. The standout tracks for me: Jellyfish Fields, Rock Bottom, Mermalair
(Straight up just the 1966 Batman theme), Spongebob's Dream
The game's story is nothing special but it plays out like a classic episode in the fantastic cutscenes, Plankton creates an army of robots to steal the Krabby Patty Secret Formula but it goes haywire. You must collect 75 Golden Spatulas from various locations and defeat 3 giant robot Doppelgangers, among other boss fights to defeat him. The robotic influence over Bikini Bottom is clearly seen, the levels have been trashed by them and they're here to stay.
Speaking of the robots, this game's enemy variety is truly something else - with almost every level introducing a new type of robot in the mix. Their designs are iconic and they're most importantly fun to destroy and get destroyed by. The aforementioned HAM-MER - an aggressive wheeling bot wielding a giant slab of meat - is great fun and can be defeated in many ways by the whole cast, so is G-LOVE - a spinning wheel with hands that you can slam from the top or wrangle with Sandy's lasso, Monsoon floats up high wearing a parasol on his head and generates storm clouds, TAR-TAR fires Tartar sauce from a gun in three round bursts. They are really great foes and the game would greatly suffer without such an iconic cast of baddies (This game's sequel definitely suffered from this problem).
The three playable characters are unique and all have their strengths and weaknesses. They control great and have a variety of fun moves and properties that make them perfectly suited for certain situations. Spongebob is the jack of all trades and serves as the main character, with Patrick and Sandy being accessible via specifically placed Bus stops inside of levels. Unfortunately, not all characters are available everywhere, nor can you play as Patrick and Sandy in the hub world - would have been a great addition to the Remake... but Spongebob is still great fun to play regardless.
Spongebob's moveset comprises of a spinning attack, a ground pound, an overhead bash, and eventually a bowling attack and a cruise missile - all of which being Bubble wand techniques taught by the fan-favourite Bubble Buddy. Patrick can stun enemies with his ground slam and attack with his belly, and he can also make use of throwable fruit to press buttons or freeze water to access secrets. Sandy has a lasso which can be used to hover for a short while and latch onto distant objects and enemies. You can switch between Spongebob-Patrick or Spongebob-Sandy in most levels and it makes for some great gameplay variety, where the secondary characters fill in what Spongebob lacks in strength and jump distance.
Except you can beat the game with Spongebob only if you know what you're doing, thanks to discoveries made in this game's active Speedrunning scene. Cruise boosting is debatably an unintended exploit that is great fun to play around with, achieved by inputting frame-perfect inputs twice in a row for the Bubble Bowl and Cruise Bubble - resulting in a large boost to Spongebob's speed on ground and in the air. Obscure, arguably unintentional mechanics like Cruise Boosting and Wavedashing are a design decision I adore and more games should have game-breaking techniques that reward input skill like this (Maybe not in competitive games but hey that's another story).
In fine, Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom
is a really fun 3D platformer with lots of personality. The game bleeds the same blood as the original 3 Seasons of the show, the humor is of the same tone and the characters aren't completely flanderized and childish like in later seasons. The environments are diverse, the enemies are fun and there is a large variety of challenges and optional tasks to achieve for completionists. Many staples of 3D collect-a-thons are presents here, with the Golden Spatulas being Shines/Stars, Socks being Blue Coins and Shiny objects being Coins. If you liked Super Mario 64 [スーパーマリオ64]
, or Banjo-Kazooie
, this is a very easy sell - even if you don't like the show there's a lot to love here in how tight the whole experience is.
I'm obviously biased, this game is very special to me and I've loved it since I first laid eyes on it as a wee lad, and when I subsequently got it on my first console, the Nintendo Gamecube. 4.5/5 this game rules