SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a charming and hilarious 3D platformer that’s a joy to play, with excellent level design, fun environments, and a story that captures the essence of the show. It’s a must-play for any SpongeBob fan, or anybody that just wants a new platformer to play.
Ohhhhhhhh… if you don’t say ‘who lives in a pineapple under the sea’ after that word, did you even have a childhood? SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the most popular Nickelodeon TV shows of all time, so it’s hardly a surprise that there’s more than one videogame adaptation for it. Considering that I happen to be a kid in the body of an adult, I can’t help but dive back into Bikini Bottom at every opportunity, and it just so happens that THQ Nordic is bringing us another game for the yellow sponge – SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.
The first time this game hit my radar I knew I had to give it a try, even if it’s ‘three months later’. However, while I enjoy SpongeBob SquarePants: The Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated on my PS4, one look at our SpongeBob SquarePants: The Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated review shows that it doesn’t exactly hold up well on the hybrid console, which admittedly put me in a bit of a bind.
You see, as evidenced by this review, I got my hands on the Switch version of The Cosmic Shake, and all I could do is hope and pray it wouldn’t turn me from the overenthusiastic SpongeBob into the bitter and cynical Squidward – I resemble that dude in other aspects of my adult life, I don’t need a videogame to bring me down like that too. Luckily for me, the team at Purple Lamp Studios is on form. Playing this game feels like I’m eating a Krabby Patty, not that abysmal garbage Plankton likes to serve.
Let me start with the story, which has all the charm and humour I want to see from a SpongeBob title. Naturally, it starts on a beautiful day. The gloveable sponge is all smiles as it’s time to celebrate gloves, though he does need to run an errand for his comically ditzy best friend, Patrick Star, first. However, when they finally head off to the glove festival, they meet a suspicious-looking gypsy mermaid (which, of course, equates to a fun-looking stranger in SpongeBob’s mind).
She gives the dynamic duo the means to blow some bubbles, and we all know how much they like to do that. But it quickly becomes evident that this is no ordinary bubble concoction, as it tears reality apart, sending Bikini Bottom into a frenzy! Oh, and Patrick becomes a balloon. I’m not entirely sure why, but given he hits on a beautiful mermaid later on in the game, I don’t need to question why he’s a balloon, only respect it.
So, now that Bikini bottom is torn apart by the fabrics of its reality, SpongeBob and Patrick need to visit different realms in search of their friends. That’s the gist of it, and I don’t want to divulge too much more on the narrative as I’d rather avoid going into spoiler territory. However, I’m remiss if I didn’t let you know how fun it is to visit different parts of Bikini Bottom in various alternate realities.
The very first area you visit is Jellyfish Fields, except, unlike the luscious plains you’re acquainted with, you find yourself in the Wild West – and yes, you have the costume to look the part. Here, you get to learn how to ride a seahorse (no, SpongeBob isn’t much better at this than he is at driving a boat). Here, you’re tasked with bringing home Mr Krabbs home, but given he fully embraces his inner Billy the Kid, you need to round him up after a high-speed train chase and other such hijinks.
In the show, nobody wants to be in Rock Bottom – just like in real life, aye? Well, The Cosmic Shake takes this location and gives it a rather fitting Halloween setting, matched perfectly by SpongeBob’s flower outfit. This is one of my favourite areas in the game purely for its slight deviation from the typical gameplay. While I’m not a huge fan of stealth generally, I do like sitting in the bushes like the delicate flower I am while ghosts carry on their merry way.
However, while I appreciate the aforementioned areas and Pirate Goo Lagoon (a place where you get to be a scallywag and aid the Flying Dutchman as he tries to get his shrimp back from a shrimp), it’s actually the Karate Downton Bikini Bottom reality that I enjoy the most. Here, I finally get to be the star that I am, as I go around kicking ass and laying the smackdown. Yes, SpongeBob SquarePants is now a huge movie star who knows the ancient art of karate.
It’s the best realm for its sheer stupidity and hilarity. Of course, an appearance from the infamous SpongeBob SquarePants karate outfit only adds to my joy here. It likely comes as no surprise that Squidward is the movie director with his exceedingly high expectations, but he’s not the reason you’re there. You need to save a certain friend, though they might not come willingly. Fortunately, you learn how to perform a flying kick here, so just kick your buddy through the multiverse if needs be.
Okay, I’ve established that from a narrative perspective, The Cosmic Shake makes for a fun time, but does the 3D platformer have the gameplay to back this up? In short, yes. But I know you want the long answer, so I’m happy to follow in the footsteps of the yellow, talking sponge and go on a rant about why it’s so good.
Firstly, the worlds themselves are a joy to explore and are decent in size, which encourages you to attempt various platforming puzzles in search of collectables and the like. This easily could be hell on earth if the platforming gameplay had the same amount of oomph as Squidward does behind the till at the Krusty Krab. However, it’s more like SpongeBob behind the grill, as I can’t keep the smile off my face as I hop, jump, and skip my way around new versions of areas I grew up with.
In terms of level design, besides the great environments, it feels as though Purple Lamp Studios take great care to ensure that all of the platforming segments are easy to follow, with a good jump that actually gets you where you need to go, though I can admit I tend to overshoot my jumps due to all my years of playing games with a jump that feels like I’m attached to a string that pulls me back.
Besides the good platforming, there’s also the fun combat – who knew smacking people with a spatula could be so much fun? Well, I say people, it’s more a case of dealing with a bunch of gooey beings that show up after you rip the fabrics of time by blowing bubbles (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say). There are different types of these enemies, as each realm introduces a new type that requires you to get creative with how you take them out. Honestly, the combat is so much fun, especially when you just fly around karate-kicking everyone. Bruce Lee, eat your heart out.
With great platform segments, fun fighting mechanics, excellent world design, and a hilarious story that’s true to the essence of SpongBob, you might wonder what the drawback to The Cosmic Shake is. Well, on Nintendo Switch, it’s some slight performance hiccups. Every now and then the framerate drops, and the game even gave up and crashed on me once. However, given its retail price of £34.99 / $39.99, I have to say that I still consider SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake to be worth it on Switch, especially as the freedom to dock it or take it on the go is so appealing.
Better still, besides the performance issues, the game looks fantastic. Graphically speaking, I’m impressed with how great SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake looks on my OLED. From that perspective, I honestly don’t think there’s a need to consider another platform. The Switch is a great choice. Plus, it essentially feels like a massive episode of SpongeBob that you can dive into any time, any place, and who doesn’t want that?
All in all, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a game that I can’t help but recommend to both fans of the show and those that appreciate a good 3D platformer. With its fun story, engaging gameplay, and delightful locations, you’re in for a grand old time.