Growing up as a 90’s kid, SpongeBob SquarePants was one of those franchises that became a staple piece of entertainment. Even now in my early 30’s, the SpongeBob series holds a special place in my heart, mostly because of nostalgia, but also because I can still appreciate how a lot of its writing and plot is designed for viewers of all ages. Now for the first time in quite a while, we get to experience a brand new video game that takes SpongeBob and Patrick on a grand adventure through multiple ‘Wishworlds’ as they attempt to restore Bikini Bottom with SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.
The Cosmic Shake is a 3D platformer in which we play as the titular SpongeBob. If you’ve played the remake of Battle For Bikini Bottom from a few years ago, you’ll have a fairly solid understanding of the core design of the gameplay portion of the title. After a mishap with some Mermaid Tears, Parts of Bikini Bottom end up damaged and some of its inhabitants end up scattered across various ‘Wishworlds’ which act as alternate dimensions that SpongeBob and Patrick need to adventure through to restore Bikini Bottom back to the way it was and retrieve their lost friends. This core premise lets you experience numerous unique areas and biomes that are distinctly different from the Bikini Bottom we typically find SpongeBob having his adventures in.
Bikini Bottom does act as the main hub world of the game, and you’ll begin there and return between completing each of the 7 Wishworlds to further the plot and also use the abilities learned within the alternate realities to access new areas and complete objectives within Bikini Bottom too. The levels are designed around some of SpongeBob’s core interests and also call back to some scenes featured in episodes such as being on a karate film set, being in the Wild West and even a fun Halloween adventure featuring SpongeBob and his friends. There’s a number to get through so I won’t spoil all of them, but they are each quite unique and have layers of replayability sewn in to encourage you to return multiple times if you choose to.
Each of the 7 Wishworlds take roughly an hour or so to play through if you’re solely focussed on the main path of the game. They’re visually distinct and offer up their own unique gameplay mechanics to enhance SpongeBob’s arsenal too. I found that this kept the game quite visually engaging, and while some of the worlds were far more fun than others, none really overstayed their welcome and were fast enough to play through to be able to get back to the hub world and visit another new world, or jump back into a previous one to clear off more of the side objectives.
The game also does a good job at progressively introducing new challenges and skills too. As you make your way further through the worlds, new enemy types will be thrown at you, each of which have their own way of striking SpongeBob, which you’ll need to learn to defend against as well as particular strategies that are required to take them down effectively. This keeps the gameplay and combat sides of things pretty interesting too, as after being introduced to these enemies within the Wishworlds, they typically start appearing within Bikini Bottom when you return to the hub so it starts to become an area where you’ll need to be on your guard and ready to face off if need be. The introduction of these enemy types does slow down the further you get through the game which was a tad unfortunate, as the starting half of the game is pretty great at keeping things fresh with new enemy types and abilities to acquire.
The skills side of things works quite similar. Just like with the introduction of new enemies, SpongeBob also gets progressively more special abilities added to his arsenal that are typically effective both in combat against enemies, but also with unlocking new areas or solving platforming puzzles. The flying karate kick for example is capable of attacking enemies from a distance or knocking some probe for a follow up attack, but is also really handy at crossing large gaps that contain balloons that can extend your travel and combo and also for breaking down destroyable doors that can provide access to new areas filled with collectibles and accessing new puzzles. This provides a touch of MetroidVania-like design where you can come back to areas you’ve previously been to within Bikini Bottom but now access different portions of them or access new areas now that you have the particular skills needed to do so.
It’s a good thing the game is paced out with these progressive upgrades and abilities to keep things fresher as the actual missions and core structure of some of the individual wishworlds do get quite repetitive. The very first world, the Wild West for example has an interesting overall plot hook and some cool parts where SpongeBob is able to ride on a sea horse that breaks up the individual objectives, but the main objective of the world which is to locate, extract and store cactus juice becomes less impactful the 10th time I need to do it. Thankfully each of the worlds do have multiple layers of replayability encouraged by having different types of collectibles scattered within them, hidden items/objects that need to be found or retrieved and side missions that sit completely separate to the main story which provide some incentive to go back and spend more time in each. Especially if you’re a completionist.
One great thing about Cosmic Shake is that it feels very much like SpongeBob. It’s visually bright and exciting, the writing is humorous and witty and it contains music and sound effects straight from the show that helps it feel very faithful to the tv series. It also captures the laugh out loud banter of SpongeBob and his Buddy Patrick well too. The effects of the mermaid tears have turned Patrick into a floating balloon that travels side by side with SpongeBob through the Wishworlds and provides continual conversation and jokes between the two as you play. Cosmic Shake’s humour is also very self aware, often referencing by the many of the memes the series has spawned throughout the years.
The developers of Cosmic Shake also seem to be quite aware of the games key audience and have taken effort to ensure it can also be enjoyed by a younger demographic too. The game features an on screen objective marker that acts like a compass to guide the player through the main missions and points of interest, and the game is fully voiced, with the cast from the tv series reprising their roles here too. This was something I really appreciated as it allows a younger audience that may not be of reading age to still fully enjoy and play through the game while comprehending the story and objectives of the missions. My son who is 4 had no issues playing through the game purely because everything is fully voiced. Costs surely could have been saved by simply having the story be told in text dialogue boxes only but I’m so glad they took the extra step and got all the original voice actors on board too.
Throughout my time with the game I did encounter a number a number of bugs and technical hiccups that did slightly hinder my overall experience. Twice I did encounter a progression bug where a key interactive element failed to load in which prevented me being able to complete a section. Once was an npc, the other was a specific switch, resulting in me requiring to restart from a previous save file to play it through again. I also encountered a number of framerate drops during some stages, primarily in or just after combat which was surprising as I did play the game for review on a PS5, playing the native PS4 version of the game.
Note: there has been a D1 patch pushed out today for the title. If this does improve or resolve these bugs, this section shall be updated accordingly after testing.
Overall, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a fun 3D platformer that will appeal primarily to a younger audience or those that are fans of the SpongeBob franchise. It doesn’t do anything too groundbreaking when it comes to the platforming genre but does provide some visually diverse environments to explore and plenty of references to the series that lead to a great deal of laugh out loud moments. It’s great that it’s fully voiced and that the original voice actors are reprising their roles. It feels like a real celebration of the SpongeBob franchise as a whole and I’m still very much onboard to play the next video game the series spawns.
A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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