Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
February 1, 2023
Purple Lamp Studios
Are ya ready gamers!? Fresh out of his pineapple under the sea, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake has flopped like a fish onto our sunny shores, promising gripping gameplay alongside the nautical nonsense we all know and love. Alliteration is fun!
Acting as a sort of sequel to the ever-enduring Battle for Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake sees our favourite goofy goobers embarking on a quest across a variety of worlds to restore their beloved home and friends, all via some delightfully old-school platforming that’s sure to impress either your kids or perhaps even the kid in you.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a licensed 3D platformer, once dime-a-dozen a few console generations ago, but now refined to a higher sheen thanks to improved design, better technology, and a lot of references to episodes you probably grew up with. Pbbt! Let’s break down the not-so-secret formula a bit more as we go.
No school like the old-school
Everything about the game is classic SpongeBob from the outset; after being duped into using some magical bubble soap to break all of space and time (who hasn’t at this point), SpongeBob and Patrick have to team up with the definitely-not-up-to-something Madame Kassandra to restore everything to mostly good as new. It’s a cute excuse to create alternate worlds to explore, each with a neat theme to acclimate to as you progress.
Said exploration is simple enough of course, as we’re dealing with an all-ages game, but your options for traversal slowly open up as you go thanks to the unlocking of new moves, which can either aid you in reaching different areas or taking on the growing roster of jelly enemies. It isn’t the most robust system, but you could almost consider The Cosmic Shake as a sort of genre throwback in that regard.
Having been built in a similar style to it’s predecessor, the entire game has a sort of retro feel to the experience, akin to platformers you may have seen on the PlayStation 1 or 2. I was reminded of titles like Crash of the Titans or Donald Duck Quack Attack, as you’re venturing through a very large but ultimately linear environment, collecting an assortment of currency to unlock fun new costumes, and occasionally doing some trickier platforming to find a health extender or special coin. Games like this used to be all over the place, so now playing this has left me feeling nostalgic; looking to what worked back in the day and building upon it has made for a pretty solid title.
We are not kids, we are MEN
Now that’s not to say the game is held back by this dynamic; far from it. The scale of the worlds is honestly massive, and there’s heaps to do within each one, be it your standard jumping and bashing to even a few little minigames to keep things from wilting along the way. A great example is the aforementioned coins, which are often kept off the beaten path and require you to flex your skills in order to claim them. Said coins allow you to unlock a number of new costumes for SpongeBob, many of which are little callbacks to older episodes. Again, it isn’t the deepest system, but it’s undeniably charming.
Building from this, your arsenal of moves grows throughout the various worlds, and not only does this help you progress in the future, but this also opens up new routes in past stages, allowing you to revisit them and collect stuff you couldn’t the first time, à la the likes of Banjo Tooie. It’s a level of thought I wouldn’t have immediately expected from a licensed title, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see this sort of replay value throughout.
As for the moves themselves? Bold and brash! SpongeBob’s mechanics start off incredibly rudimentary, essentially just being able to jump, but with time you’ll be able to shoot bubbles, swing from ropes, and even do a Sonic-esque homing attack with surprising precision. The little fry-cook handles fantastically, and each technique you unlock changes things up just enough to feel fresh without seeming forced or out-of-place. If I had to fault anything here, it would be that jumping along blue tiki platforms can be somewhat difficult due to SpongeBob’s rather light shadow, but it’s something you can get used to thankfully.
Did you say chocolate!?
So yes, the game itself is solid enough, but the real draw is of course the little guys on the box. Literally from the moment you launch the game, you are being hit with that distinct SpongeBob SquarePants humour, and for the most part, it lands really well. Patrick is basically your Navi in this game, constantly hovering by your side and giving assistance when you need it (such as retrieving health when you’re low), and in gameplay it allows the two friends to provide their usual innocent and humorous commentary on the goings-on around them.
This extends to everyone around you in each world, as they all have a heap of dialogue that’s well-written and funny enough to at least get a small chuckle out of you, if not a smirk or eye-roll when you spot handsome Squidward on a poster for the third time.
The Cosmic Shake could honestly be an extended episode of the show given its tone, appealing easily to its young audience whilst having a boat-ton of references that older fans will appreciate as they play or watch their little ones enjoy. I mean seriously, SpongeBob glides with a box of Krusty Krab Pizza… yes, I started singing it, and at one point so did he!
The sound design is equally on-point, and you’ll notice it from the second you take those first steps and hear SpongeBob’s steps make that familiar squeak. Every world has a unique tune to it that really helps sell the theme, with my personal favourite being the fourth world’s, a haunting track that brought to mind The Nightmare Before Christmas in both the ambience and the level’s aesthetics.
Truthfully, the whole game presentation-wise is on par with a pretty patty; lovely music, lovely environments, all topped with that yellow squarey charm. On the surface, it’s an easy sell. But then, this game doesn’t take place on the surface does it.
We do not WORSHIP him!
So I’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way: it’s a kid’s game. I’ve sincerely had a lot of fun with it, but after a while, tedium does start to set in as the worlds begin to feel just a tad too big for what you’re actually getting out of them. Yes, the new moves break up the monotony somewhat, but ultimately I came to the conclusion that I’m just not the audience this title is going for.
“Lovely music, lovely environments, all topped with that yellow squarey charm.”
I don’t say “kid’s game” as a dirty term, but the reality is their expectations are going to be different from an adult, and while they may find The Cosmic Shake to be an absolute blast, I couldn’t say the same for long periods.
If I can give you a good example of where that sort of child/adult disconnect may arise, it would be some of SpongeBob’s randomised dialogue. He has a tendency to repeat certain lines incessantly upon collecting currency, to the point where every time my partner or I heard “a little dab’ll do ya!” we both cringed in annoyance. This could also overwrite once-off dialogue pertaining to the current event, so there are a bunch of lines I never got to hear due to grabbing jelly at the wrong time.
Another issue is that any instances of auto-saving or loading new areas caused the game to momentarily hang, which happened quite a lot in Bikini Bottom, the hub of the game. My PC definitely wasn’t the problem, so I really hope this is fixed upon launch. What really shocked me though, and this is something that can’t be blamed on early-release hiccups, is a horrifically thought-out minigame I encountered in the second world which is an enormous health hazard for the photo-sensitive.
In this minigame you’re tasked with distracting the paparazzi for a while by showing off a few silly poses, references aplenty. To do this you mash a buttons and the faster you mash, the quicker you clear the minigame. Trouble is, each time you hit the button, they take a photo and the screen flashes white. Throughout this section I literally had to look down at my feet due to the sheer eye-strain of what I was seeing, and if you or the children you’re getting this for have epilepsy please hold off on purchasing the game until this is fixed, because it’s necessary to the story to progress too.
All in all, I like SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, because frankly there’s a lot to like about it going in. It’s a pretty game, it’s got the show’s wacky humour, and it has decent enough gameplay to satisfy those who aren’t expecting too much from their 3D platformers. It could still do with a decent amount of polish though, and unless you really, really love SpongeBob, the game likely won’t hold your attention long enough to see every world it has to offer. It isn’t a sparse experience; it’s just… thinning?
- Nice environments and sound design
- Simple but fun gameplay
- Classic SpongeBob goofiness
- A tad too simple for older gamers
- Bubsy-esque repetition of lines
- Risk of seizures in certain scenes
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a fun title that harkens back to older console generations whilst taking advantage of today’s technology. It makes for a visually appealing experience but one that may be a tad too shallow for anyone besides the younger side of the sponge’s fanbase. Amusing lines and colourful costumes can only do so much to shore up an ultimately “okay” game, one which does everything it sets out to do surprisingly well, but isn’t really doing enough to be as great as it could be. With all that being said, your kids may end up loving this game to bits, and if that’s who the game is for, then who’s to say they’re wrong?