Review – SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
Fans of SpongeBob SquarePants have been living the good life for decades. The hit cartoon has remain a wildly popular success since its debut in 1999, while somehow managing to retain a consistent level in quality over the years. The childlike, yellow juggernaut has also spawned three films and numerous video games. The most recent, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, was a remastered version of the 3D platformer from 2003. While it provided some much needed quality of life improvements from its initial release, it was still hampered by the unreliable camera, wonky controls, and occasionally questionable vocal performances from the original game. Now we have been graced with SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, which even at first glance appears to be every Goofy Goober’s dream. Let’s dive in and see how it stacks up.
Unlike so many of SpongeBob’s adventures, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake does not revolve around trying to thwart Plankton from obtaining the Krabby Patty secret formula. Instead, our nautical heroes find themselves in the possession of magical Mermaid’s Tears, which grant the user the ability to make their wishes come true. At least in small doses, which of course SpongeBob and Patrick don’t realize until after using the entire bottle to fulfill the desires of the residents of Bikini Bottom. Now, with the very fabric of the universe starting to come undone, it’s up to SpongeBob and Patrick to rescue their friends from the seven new Wishworlds, and restore balance to all of existence.
The premise is simple enough, and it lends itself well to providing a whole host of hilariously outrageous settings. After using the Mermaid’s Tears, seven portals open up, each leading to a different Wishworld. These Wishworlds are based off the wishes SpongeBob made for each of his friends. Although, due to the fabric of the cosmos beginning to unravel, the Wishworlds have taken on a twisted version of their intended design. Not only that, but in the chaos, Patrick has been turned into a balloon! At least he was already airheaded to begin with.
An interesting feature in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is the use of costumes. SpongeBob is tasked with finding cosmic jelly throughout each land, and when he has collected enough, he can then turn them in for a special costume that will unlock one of the seven portals to the Wishworlds. For example, one of the earliest costumes he receives is the caveman costume that transforms him into SpongeGar. Upon donning the SpongeGar costume, he gains access to the Prehistoric Kelp Forest.
Each Wishworld requires its own specific costume to initially unlock, but there are actually more than thirty costumes you can find throughout the game. The rest of the costumes not required for unlocking new portals can be obtained by completing sidequests for various residents of Bikini Bottom. They might not all have cosmic portal opening abilities, but they’re still a lot of fun to collect and wear around while playing.
One of the aspects I love most about SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is just how completely different each Wishworld looks and feels. Overall, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a 3D platformer and collectathon, much like SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. However, one of the ways that this game stands apart from other 3D platformers, is by introducing new gameplay mechanics and minigames that are unique to each section. Most of the minigames are fairly easy, but they’re so diverse that I found myself not caring too much about the lack of challenge, and rather sat back and enjoyed the spectacle of each one. Aside from riding seahorses in a few races, there is almost no overlap when it comes to the types of minigames found within each level.
There are also special gimmicks found in each Wishworld that aren’t present in any of the other lands. For example, in the Medieval Sulfur Fields, SpongeBob has to navigate through a giant hedge maze in order to reach the castle on the other side. There are no other mazes in any of the other levels. Then in Karate Downtown Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob has a whole section where he’s filming a scene for a movie. While doing this, he has to stay within the frame as the camera slowly pans to the right, like a 2D side-scroller, all while avoiding obstacles and fighting enemies. Just like with the hedge maze, this is the only time this style of gameplay is ever present throughout the game. It’s these highly varied one-offs of different gameplay styles and ideas that keep SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake feeling fresh throughout the entire game.
On top of the game constantly introducing new mechanics and types of challenges, the controls themselves have been vastly improved since SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. As fun as Battle for Bikini Bottom was, it suffered from fickle controls, tons of bugs and glitches, and a camera that you often had to fight with. Remarkably, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake has none of these issues. The controls are responsive, and the camera system is one of the best I’ve experienced in a 3D platformer. Surprisingly, I also had no issues with any bugs, and even the framerate remained stable throughout my playthrough.
The controls aren’t the only thing that have been improved, either. The graphics have also been updated, making SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake the best looking SpongeBob game we’ve ever had. The character models are well detailed, the animations are smooth, and the textures are more robust. Even the lighting is more dynamic, leaving a realistic shine on smooth, glossy surfaces (well, realistic for a game about a talking sponge).
I really have to commend the art department, because the art design for each Wishworld is fantastic. Each land is so vastly different from one another, while being clearly inspired from specific episodes of the show. Even if not you’re a fan of the show, it’s still impressive to see the huge diversity of the level designs and themes. But if you are a fan of the show, there’s no shortage of moments for you to nerd out over.
The sound design is yet another area that excels in every way. All of the zany sound effects you know and love from the cartoon are present, and the soundtrack is exactly what you’d expect to hear from the show. The biggest success for SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is that all of the original voice actors are back reprising their iconic roles. No more imposter Mr. Krabbs this time around!
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is an all around fantastic game. I was genuinely impressed by the sheer amount of variety in the level designs, gameplay mechanics, and minigames. Purple Lamp took everything that made Battle for Bikini Bottom so much fun, and improved upon it in every capacity. My only minor gripe is that the game felt fairly short, with it only taking me about six hours to beat the main game. Although, there’s still plenty of content to enjoy beyond the main game, such as completing sidequests to unlock all the costumes, as well as finding all the hidden collectables, such as golden spatulas and doubloons. Honestly though, that’s the real testament to how fun SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is. Once I started playing, I couldn’t put it down. Here’s hoping for some DLC- that would be the best day ever!
Even more polished than its predecessor, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake truly looks like a playable 3D cartoon, with little to no framerate issues whatsoever.
A 3D platformer that has a remarkably good camera system, as well as new mechanics introduced in every section to keep things interesting.
It has all the glorious sound design you’d expect from a SpongeBob game, from its memorable soundtrack to its zany sound effects. The entire voice cast from the cartoon is present this time around too, reprising their iconic characters from the show.
Every single level is themed around specific episodes from the show, and each have their own unique theme and feel. Very little is repeated from level to level. My only minor gripe is that the game felt fairly short, but perhaps that’s because I couldn’t stop playing it.
Final Verdict: 9.0
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake was provided by the publisher.