SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake Review: Different, but Great

It’s been a long, long time since we got a proper Spongebob platformer. Two years ago, Purple Lamp Studios released a remake of the classic platformer Battle for Bikini Bottom. This remake was met with mixed reception as it was riddled with glitches and performance problems such as horrendously bad pop in. It didn’t help that the game they were remaking is considered the gold standard for licensed tie-in games.

To everyone’s surprise though, a year after this remake it was announced that Purple Lamp would be developing a new, original, Spongebob game using Battle for Bikini Bottom as the basis: Spongebob Squarepant The Cosmic Shake. While reception to the remake may have been mixed, many were excited by the idea of a new game in the Battle For Bikini Bottom style.

Well, today, the game finally released. I binged through the whole thing and want to share my experience with you. As the game is new, I will try my best to keep this review entirely spoiler free, well, as spoiler free as a review of a Spongebob game can be.

Before I start analyzing the gameplay and aesthetics of the game, though, let’s address the elephant in the room: Battle For Bikini Bottom. While this game may not share the title of that classic, every aspect of it evokes BFBB and wants you to be nostalgic for it. From the reused tikis to Spongebob’s moveset to even a song remix or two, everything about this game wants us to call it Battle For Bikini Bottom 2.

However, it just isn’t. Battle For Bikini Bottom was a Super Mario 64 styled collectathon that would have you constantly take detours during its linear levels to perform side tasks to obtain Gold Spatulas. Cosmic Shake meanwhile is more or a Super Mario Galaxy styled game where every level is completely linear and filled with memorable set pieces that can only be done in this style.

I don’t mean this as an insult to Battle For Bikini Bottom or Cosmic Shake. Both styles are great when done well. It’s just that you shouldn’t go into this game expecting it to be a second Battle For Bikini Bottom. Now, let’s see if it actually pulls off its own style well.

The first thirty or so minutes of the game are honestly a really bad start. In the beginning, the cutscene presentation is nearly identical to the worst Battle for Bikini Bottom had to offer. Static models, cutting from the fish head to characters in random locations, and stilted voice acting that somehow cuts itself off. I was very worried that this was what the game would be.

It didn’t help that the tutorials in this section were a complete pace breaker that made it hard to get into the game. Tutorials in this game completely pause the game for about ten seconds. It would have been much preferable to have the tutorial message pop up without pausing your game. It certainly would have taken away from the annoyance of seeing the exact same press square to attack tutorial three times during this section.

Despite this bad start, though, once the titular Cosmic Shake happens, the game begins to play its real hand. As if to show off the animation upgrade between this and Battle For Bikini Bottom, they immediately have Balloon Patrick perform several animations in the space of a singular text box.

This game’s visuals as a whole are absolutely perfect for a Spongebob game. The vibrant colors all over Bikini Bottom and the game’s various levels make everything stand out and the most noticeable visual errors from the Battle for Bikini Bottom Remake such as the constant pop in are a non issue now!

The music in this game is also absolutely fantastic. The composers brought their A-game here with every single stage, having a great main theme, as well as several other songs spread throughout the level. It’s a shame that the game’s cutscenes just use the show’s soundtrack as I would have liked to see what this team could do composing for those.

Okay, I’ve teased you all enough. Let’s finally talk about the gameplay. It uses Battle for Bikini Bottom as a reference, and as such, Spongebob has access to his basic spin attack as well as double jump and ground pound. In addition to these, though, he has been given several of Sandy’s abilities, such as her glide and the ability to swing along floating hooks in the sky. The game also features a number of new abilities for Spongebob, such as a homing attack that launches him at both enemies and marked objects and a ranged bubble attack.

These extra mobility and attack options make Spongebob so much more fun to play as in this game. It may take until the third stage to unlock everything the sponge can do, but once you do the game’s platforming and combat challenges begin to take advantage of all of them and become extremely fun to play through.

The stages in this game not being structured anything like Battle for Bikini Bottom’s allow for very fun platforming and combat sequences as you traverse through Rock Bottom’s bottomless pits by swinging around and homing attacking enemies or taking on several different enemies that can be taken out in a number of different ways. No matter what you take away from this review, just know that the platforming in this game and controlling Spongebob is absolutely stellar.

Let’s go into a bit more detail about the stages you’ll be controlling him in. A lot of them are supposed to be the same locations as various Battle for Bikini Bottom stages and I honestly cannot tell if that was an intentional attempt at nostalgia or if it’s just because these are still the most iconic areas in Spongebob. Despite the locations allegedly being the same though, they couldn’t appear more different.

Aside from the level design obviously being very different to accommodate the new stage design philosophy, every area’s aesthetics have been changed rapidly due to the Cosmic Shake. You aren’t just going through Jellyfish Fields, you’re going through a desert and cowboy village that happens to be called Jellyfish Fields. You aren’t just going through Rock Bottom. You’re going through a Halloween world with Rock Bottom landmarks. This trend applies to all stages and greatly helps Cosmic Shake stand out from not only its elder game but also all adjacent Spongebob games.

Just like Battle for Bikini Bottom, these stages are filled with fanservice and familiar characters. There’s a lot more characters and references in this game than the previous, because, I don’t know if you all realize this, but Nickelodeon has released a lot more Spongebob episodes over the past twenty years. Some of the references can come off as forced, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t smile upon seeing our favorite chocolate maniac.

While part of the premise of each game is that Spongebob wears a different outfit in each stage, this game actually features a plethora of optional outfits you can wear if you have any desire to replay those stages. Not including the 7 DLC costumes, there are a total of 35 costumes you can wear. This is an outstanding number; video games nowadays treat alternate outfits like a luxury. You’re lucky if a game lets you wear a single alternate outfit, if any at all. So seeing a game like this boast such a large number of costumes is fantastic, children are going to have fun for hours replaying stages in these.

Why would you replay stages, though? Well, aside from them being fun, there are several collectibles scattered throughout each stage. Most of these won’t appear your first time through the stage and thus encourage a replay. One specific type of collectible is gold doubloons, which are used to unlock tiers of costumes for you to wear. So the more you play the stages, the more you can customize Spongebob. This might not be very appealing for adults who have a lot of games to play, but for a child that may spend days or weeks of their life playing this game it’s a super valuable resource that I respect a lot.

Now that I’ve sung the game’s praises for a while, it’s time to get a bit negative and talk about some non-tutorial issues I have with the game. It’s clear that some aspects of this game were rushed and it could have used a bit more time to cook. Some of these issues negatively affected my experience with the game. As a 23 year old who is at least 13 years older than the target demographic, it’s very hard for me to think about which of these issues are the actual major flaws.

Sure, I was very annoyed that tikis in this game had their physics broken and now only sometimes obey gravity, but is a child going to notice that? Or even care if they do? Maybe not. What a child will notice, though, is that dying in Goo Lagoon or Glove World will cause the music to cut out completely and sometimes just never come back until a reset. A child will have their experience with a cutscene negatively affected by some glitched looping dialogue that cuts off other lines. The game’s visuals may be perfect, but these audio issues are consistent faw with the game that are bound to upset many kids.

Speaking of those kids, while I appreciate the sheer amount of references to Spongebob episodes that came out when I was a kid, I can’t help but note the lack of modern episode references. There are some good references, such as Spot being one of the collectibles you need to find in stages, but on the flip side, only a single stage in this game is based on a post-movie location.

Overall, Spongebob Squarepants, the Cosmic Shake is a really fun game. It’s nothing like Battle for Bikini Bottom design wise but the excellent platforming and stage design will carry this game not only as the current gold standard for licensed tie in games but also one of the sleeper hits of 2023. If you love platformers and want to relive some of your childhood Spongebob nostalgia, or if you just want to surprise your kid, please pick this game up and have some undersea fun.

1 thought on “SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake Review: Different, but Great”

  1. Still hoping we get a Loud House tactical RPG at some point (that could be SO GOOD), but I’ll definitely try this if my library gets it.

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