It is easy to agree that SpongeBob Squarepants, although aimed at children, is popular with all ages. Adults today have fond memories of growing up with SpongeBob and his blind optimism for adventure. Meme’s still splatter on social media of fan favourite episode moments that depict the perfect reaction to most situations and although the show stopped airing in 2022, there is no stopping SpongeBob from showing up on your console store after that.
SpongeBob’s titular game ‘SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom’ released initially in 2003 and was given a sprucing up remake in 2020, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom: Rehydrated’. The reception for the remake was pretty positive and it had already sparked rumours of a potential sequel. Fast forward to 2023, and here we are with SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.
Although other games for SpongeBob have been released previously, Cosmic Shake acts as a spiritual sequel to Battle for Bikini Bottom. For those who have never experienced a SpongeBob game, typically these are 3D platformer adventure games. If you are a PS plus subscriber, this was on monthly games a while back in April of 2022, so if you are an avid ‘save to library’ kinda player you may find it in your backlog.
From the offset, if you’ve played Bikini Bottom, whether you enjoyed it or not, you can certainly tell this acts as a sequel. The feel and look is similar to that of Bikini Bottoms Rehydrated visuals. It very much replicates the TV show in look, and the voice actors have all reprised their roles giving it the extra SpongeBob essence to completely re-immerse you into the universe.
Super Soaker Story
episode story, SpongeBob and Patrick are off to their favourite fairground ‘Glove Island.’ On their way, they see a mysterious lady who introduces herself as Madam Kassandra and a cart full of trinkets. SpongeBob grabs seemingly innocent ‘Bubble Soap’. The Bubble Soap acts as a genie lamp, and Spongebob through his excitement uses it straight away to ask for a variety of different wonderful and wacky things. Unbeknownst to them though, the Bubble Soap is only to be used by its owner. The effects of someone else using the soap are drastic and this shakes the whole of Bikini Bottom into turmoil. This pulls many beloved characters into the voids that have been created and covering Bikini Bottom in a toxic jelly.
Madam Kassandra explains in a sly tone that all she needs is SpongeBob and Patrick to collect as much Jelly as they can, and she will be able to return their friends. This is the first sign in the writing that the true essence of SpongeBob is captured and his innocent optimism will soon fail him once again. The audience is very aware that her, Kassandra, is the problem. SpongeBob and Patrick are thrilled they have found a new friend to help them fix their mistake and bring their friends back to Bikini Bottom using the bubble wand gifted by Kassandra.
With enough Jelly collected, Kassandra can open portals to new worlds to explore and bring back friends. Including Bikini Bottom as your homeland, SpongeBob and Patrick will need to travel and explore eight other worlds. With each world unlocks a very fetching costume for SpongeBob to don. If you do end up pre-ordering Cosmic Shake you will have gain access to seven different costumes you can strut your stuff in. These costumes are purely cosmetic, the script suggests the ones Kassandra makes for you match the world you are about to enter. It does, but other than that it is purely cosmetic. This could have been added to in some way as there are so many costumes to collect, it feels strange there are just lots of different ways to look when it is scripted as one of the pivotal points of progress. It would have been good to see these costumes work in a certain way in conjunction with an ability of some sort but as a standalone it is fun to collect and buy them from the costume shop. There are certainly some interesting choices you can let SpongeBob wear.
Rainbows and Ranches
One major change from its predecessor is the decision to only be able to play SpongeBob in this series. In Battle for Bikini Bottom, players could assume the roles of SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy. They all held different abilities and you would need them to access and unlock certain areas of the game. In this game, although Patrick stays by your side, you will only play as SpongeBob. It’s an interesting decision as this could be seen as a bit of a step back, but as an alternative SpongeBob has been given many different special abilities throughout the game that can be unlocked. These range from different attack types, to body smashing buttons to open new and exciting areas.
Each world offers a new narrative from the characters that are trapped within them to delve into. From cowboy ranches, to Squidward’s debut as a director on a film set, to swashbuckling pirates. Each world feels like a whole separate episode of SpongeBob. The worlds felt a lot more creative and interesting as you carried on further along each one and each will have a number of different tasks to complete within them, with similar platforming mechanics to its predecessor. There was never anything that crossed over or felt repetitive, the stories of each world were so very different that the tasks or missions you had in the world varied from riding seahorses to trick or treating on doors, to playing smaller mini games to achieve more collectibles. There was always something new to do.
Like most platformers with self contained worlds, the end will always greet you with a boss fight. These are as about as challenging as you would expect in a SpongeBob game and keep the game suitable for a wide age range. Enemies will also plague the surrounding worlds you visit offering jelly to collect once defeated either by thwacking them or shooting your bubble wand and popping them. In the first world, this will be pretty simple, offering only one enemy type. Each progressive world will add a different type of enemy and all previous enemy types already encountered, adding variety. It’s a gradual and comfortable difficulty curve for anyone new to platformer or adventure games. Those with experience may find SpongeBob just offers a lot of fun to be had with not much challenge. This suits the style well.
I think sequels are always very interesting. There has to be a careful balance between keeping the essence of the old game and what was very loved about it, but not making it feel like it’s a DLC that people waited years for. It needs to have a pull somewhere that makes it feel different enough. I think Cosmic Shake certainly does have that ‘same but different’ feel. Underpants still depict your lives, the visuals are similar, collectibles are involved; it has that essence. However I do think it falls down into ‘Sequel Syndrome’ a bit, (I actually just made up that term but let me explain). This is where the game almost somewhat assumes you’ve played the game before it. It therefore explains quite little about the mechanics or things you’ll encounter. I found Battle for Bikini Bottom did this really well. I have even played many hours of the original and even after finishing the game, there are still things I don’t know the purpose for.
For example tasks in Battle for Bikini Bottom when completed, gifted you with a golden spatula. The spatulas acted as a progress metre for that world, and the menu gave you an idea of how many to collect and how many were left still to collect through either main missions in that world, or that could be discovered by side missions. The worlds work in a similar fashion as Battle for Bikini Bottom, in fact I would argue that they feel much more streamlined than before. They still have that linear main mission path line but it feels much cleaner, and less back and forth than Battle for Bikini Bottom. There was so much back and forth with the bus stops into changing characters it felt like a bit of a tangle at times. In Cosmic Shake, the progress bar is made up of clams. You don’t collect the clams, they just give you an idea of how far you are from the main mission campaign of that particular world. So imagine my surprise when I wandered along a golden spatula. Why on earth am I collecting these? How many do I have? Is there one in every world? Is this just a call back or is this for a reason? I literally have no idea. There is no record I can find that I have even collected them. It is so strange.
Many players will also remember the type of boxes you can hit to gather collectibles, in this case the jelly. Some will have special abilities, i.e thunder boxes will explode on proximity, and can explode cement blocks, it’s the only way you can destroy cement blocks that may be hidden in a corner. So jumping is explained in an infographic but details on how to collect the main currency of the game isn’t.
Although in some areas the game suffers from that sequel syndrome of assumption, it was great fun to play, and in my opinion arguably more coherent than Bikini Bottom in playstyle. The ending was satisfying and there is still much to do and clean up post campaign. Post finishing any world, you’re given some sort of task that ropes you back into it from a character to collect. By the end of the game you’ll have access to all the powers allowing access to the places you hadn’t before. Offering a respectable replayability post story. There were a couple of small bugs I encountered, such as one of the early boss battles where I lost all sound and would not allow me to hit them without a few restarts. Additionally, if SpongeBob jumped too closely to the edge of platforms the camera would have an absolute paddy, which didn’t compliment the platform mechanics, especially if they attempted to be a bit more intricate in landing. However, Overall I really enjoyed my time with SpongeBob and would be pretty satisfied to go back and complete all the areas to a 100% without feeling like it’s a chore.
A solid sequel to compliment a wonderful franchise, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake offers a much more coherent adventure platformer than its predecessor. With each world feeling like it’s own TV episode, and a fun story throughout, there is a lot of fun to be had within this entry.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is out 31st January 2023 for PlayStation 4 (reviewed on PS5), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Developer: Purple Lamp Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.