Back in 2020, after years of fans begging, THQ Nordic released a high-quality, beloved remake of the 2003 platformer Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. Now three years later, developer Purple Lamp Studios is back with a brand new Spongebob game: The Cosmic Shake. And while it shares a lot with Battle for Bikini Bottom — including gorgeous art and authentic-to-the-show writing — Cosmic Shake also feels like a step backward from that 2020 remake I loved so much.
Spongebob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake, like so many previous Spongebob games (including Battle for Bikini Bottom), starts off with the titular character and his best friend Patrick causing some chaos under the sea. This time, the duo gets their hands on some powerfully magical soap. After showing off their cool suds to everyone in town, they accidentally rip apart the fabric of space and time itself, conveniently leading to about eight different areas to explore, each with its own dimensionally distinct theming. Spongebob and Patrick have to explore each world, do some platforming, solve some puzzles, punch some monsters, find their friends, and hopefully save the day.
I’m impressed by the look of Cosmic Shake from the moment I boot it up. Like the remake, Purple Lamp Studios’ art, level design, character models, and textures are fantastic. It often looks like I’m watching a fancy animated Spongebob movie, not playing a video game. Some levels, like a Halloween-themed nighttime world, look so good I just stop and spin the camera around, marveling at the lighting or art. Great stuff!
Sadly, as you explore these various worlds — some themed around pirates, others themed around medieval knights — you’ll discover that it’s just Spongebob doing all the saving the day work. This is a big step back from Battle for Bikini Bottom, which let you play as other characters like Patrick and Sandy, each with their own unique abilities, movement, and combat. This time around it’s just Spongebob and a large (and I mean large) closet of costumes. But the costumes, which look nice and will definitely make longtime fans of the show chuckle — don’t add any special effects or change up how levels play out.
Another area where Cosmic Shake feels inferior to the previous remake is the boss battles. They are still a part of this new undersea adventure, sure, but they all feel smaller and less epic than in Battle for Bikini Bottom, and some of the fights feel extremely boring and easy. I understand that this game isn’t designed to be a punishing platformer, but some boss fights were easier than random combat encounters, which is a shame, as Battle for Bikini Bottom’s big boss fights were exciting, tricky, and memorable in comparison.
Cosmic Shake isn’t a complete backward slide from that last game. Thanks to having 20+ years of Spongebob episodes to work with, Cosmic Shake is bursting with references, silly jokes, and characters. Voiced by their original actors, Spongebob and Patrick in particular get some genuinely funny lines that have me cracking up.
More so than any other Spongebob game, this one feels like you’re playing through an episode of the show, with similar gags and cutaways mimicking the iconic series. One of my favourite bits is how Cosmic Shake uses super-detailed and gross-looking close-ups of characters via glorious hand-drawn portraits.
Assuming you don’t collect or do everything in every world, Cosmic Shake is about 10 hours long, which is similar to 2020’s remake. And while it crams a lot of good jokes and pretty levels into that runtime, it leaves a lot out, too, with the lack of multiple playable characters the most disappointing excision. I also found Cosmic Shake to be a bit less stable than Battle, though its technical issues never made it unplayable. Still, even if it isn’t quite the sequel I wanted to 2020’s amazing remake, I’m still very happy to get another colourful, fun, and light-hearted Spongebob action platformer in 2023.
Spongebob Squarepants: The Cosmic shake is out on January 31, 2022 for Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and PC.
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