SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
This review was made possible thanks to the friends at THQ Nordic, who went above and beyond because they also provided us with a pre-order DLC costume code! There are many costumes for SpongeBob to wear in SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake and the costume DLC adds seven more. These include his Squidward impression from the "Opposite Day" episode, dehydrated SpongeBob from the episode where he visited Sandy, and the infamous "Band Geek" ensemble where he performed at the Bubble Bowl. Outside of the DLC, other costumes I have unlocked included the Kuddly Krab SpongeBob, Boy Scout SpongeBob, and even the one time he ripped his pants.
It may sound strange to begin this review discussing the number of available costumes SpongeBob can wear in his journey, but it's important to know how far Purple Lamp Studios went with their nostalgia. With the exception of the story-exclusive costumes, more on that later, almost all costumes refer to an episode in SpongeBob's life as seen in the Nickelodeon cartoon. Not only that, but the game even begins with several nods to the show including an adamant trip to Glove World, the Krusty Krab Pizza box used as a method to glide, the sea horse that he befriends that are used as on-rail sections, and Squidward painting a picture and getting annoyed by SpongeBob's presence.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake's first five minutes is a bonanza of references for the older crowd told in a "Did Ya Get That? Huh?" manner. It also doesn't shy away from its intended target audience, the children who are playing the game for the SpongeBob SquarePants branding. SpongeBob SquarePants has been around for so long, the audience that once saw the show as kids have grown up to have children of their own. For some, this may be their first SpongeBob gaming experience, so I will say that it's thoughtful of Purple Lamp Studios to include tutorials in the game to make all of SpongeBob's abilities easy to understand.
It's no stranger that I am critical of 'games meant for kids' as a common trope scene from them is that they 'water down' the content for their sake. Some games I've covered, like Star Trek Prodigy Supernova, manage to do this just fine yet do very little to keep a player's interest for the long term. In Cosmic Shake, the organic comedy from SpongeBob SquarePants is shown here with familiar gameplay based on previous adventures from the talking sponge. SpongeBob attacks with his spatula, has access to a double jump, can attack mid-range with his bubble blower, and discover hidden paths that reward him with bonus collectibles. These collectibles are then used to spend money on more costumes, which also cater to a fan's nostalgia.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake begins with SpongeBob and Patrick on their way to Glove World, yet a mysterious traffic accident foils their plans as well as the rest of the townsfolk at Bikini Bottom. Moments later, a mysterious mermaid appears and offers the duo a bubble blower that has the power to "make any wish" come true. In a typical SpongeBob manner, the bubble-blowing spectacle backfires due to neither SpongeBob or Patrick reading the fine print. Accidentally causing a time paradox, all of their friends are warped in different alternate universes, Patrick is now a talking balloon, and the mermaid conveniently reappears to give SpongeBob the tool to bring back his friends.
The totally trustworthy mermaid tells SpongeBob that he needs to wear specific outfits relative to the time period he will be entering. This brings up the costumes again, introducing a Cowboy outfit which sets the player to the Wild West. Upon entering, Mr. Krabs is causing havoc by trying to swindle the townsfolk so that he becomes a wanted man. Eventually, with the help of in-universe Sherrif Sandy, they take Mr. Krabs "to custody" and bring him back to the main world, tasked with saving another one of their friends. The Bikini Bottom in this regard acts like a hub world much like SpongeBob's house did in SpongeBob SquarePants Truth Or Square.
It's impressive that my mind went as far as to compare SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake to Kingdom Hearts, as there are several worlds that are separate from each other. Each world is self-contained, with only the inhabitants of SpongeBob's main world knowing who he is. After the main problem in each world is solved, they return back to the general hub world to move on to the next world. While it's a simple premise, the gameplay is what matters the most in action platform adventures such as these. Fortunately, if you've played a 3D SpongeBob SquarePants title, you've played Cosmic Shake. The game doesn't do too much to reinvent the wheel and at times it becomes routine after a while.
The player goes through checkpoints until an event happens, SpongeBob has to look for something to progress while attacking the jelly monsters. Sometimes there are variants of these monsters but the way to dispatch them remains the same, with a well-placed bubble shot following a spatula beat-down. Some areas are closed off which will only reveal themselves after the threat has been taken care of. Occasionally there's a boss fight with a specific mechanic needing to be used in order to achieve victory as well as some side quests that gives the players rewards.
While The Cosmic Shake is a safe game that fans of SpongeBob SquarePants and children can enjoy without too much difficulty, it's a bread-and-butter collectathon action platformer. There are many indie titles, some of which I have lauded over countless times that players can try out for a fraction of this game's price. Players looking for a little substance with style may not find what they are looking for here, especially if they aren't fans of SpongeBob SquarePants and its material. It's a fun title that banks on the nostalgia of its multi-generational fanbase and without that, there's nothing in the way that prevents this from being a "run of the mill" 3D platformer.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake feels like an interactive extended SpongeBob SquarePants episode, which is a fantastic thing on how close it is to the source material. Fans of the series will get plenty of mileage in terms of enjoyment, but non-fans of the series may have to wait for a sale in order to give its simple yet satisfactory platforming gameplay a try. Children and fans of the show from all ages will enjoy the quirky one-liners, the tongue-in-cheek jokes, and the atmosphere that gives off a SpongeBob SquarePants special in its prime.
Again, while The Cosmic Shake doesn't do much to "re-invent the wheel," it doesn't need to in order to provide a satisfying experience. Perhaps it missed the mark by a hair's breadth by not releasing during the holiday season as I could imagine the game being a hit during that time. Regardless, SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake is by no means a terrible title. It does what it sought to do and it was to be a new 3D SpongeBob platformer released in 2023. If "nautical nonsense be something you wish," this will scratch that itch but it won't make you flop like a fish.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake releases on January 31st, 2023 on PC, Sony PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.