The SpongeBob SquarePants franchise has found a way to keep itself relevant since the cartoon debuted in 1999. In the video game space, it’s managed to stay alive in the licensed IP platformer genre. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a good enough showcase of why that is.
The 3D platformer is developed by Purple Lamp, the same Austrian studio that developed SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated. The remaster was the studio’s first foray into the franchise, proving they were genuine fans of the source material.
The Cosmic Shake takes that love for the cartoon to the next level as it capitalizes on nostalgia and meme culture. There are tons of nods to classic episodes that made this writer feel things he hasn’t felt in years.
It’s a love letter to the series but also a competent platformer. Just don’t expect to be wowed by its level design which ultimately feels generic and repetitive.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Rift Apart
The Cosmic Shake successfully creates the cartoon’s atmosphere right from the start. The original cast lends their voices to the game, and some of the show’s current writers also contribute. That writing is one of the highlights of The Cosmic Shake, as the sense of humor the cartoon is known for is very prominent throughout.
The story plays out like an episode of the show: SpongeBob and Patrick cause an accident and have to fix it. When they receive magic bubbles from a mermaid named Madame Kassandra, they accidentally create tears in space and time when they blow too many bubbles in the shapes of their friends. SpongeBob’s friends are sent to different dimensions in all the mess, and he must travel to each one to retrieve them.
Madame Kassandra conveniently shows up after the two best friends have realized what they’ve done and tells them that she can help fix their accident. All she needs is magical jelly from the different worlds to repair the dimensional tears.
You’ll platform across different obstacles throughout each level to retrieve your scattered friends and collect jelly. Many of the worlds are based on locations from the show, like Rock Bottom and Glove World.
Similar to Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, SpongeBob’s friends appear as different versions in these worlds. Each will have its own separate plot that ends with SpongeBob and Patrick sending them back to Bikini Bottom.
Platforming Gameplay Is Made for Newbies and Veterans
The platforming doesn’t quite have the feel of a masterclass platformer like Super Mario Odyssey or Ratchet and Clank. Instead, it controls and feels more like A Hat in Time.
The difficulty is tailored to a general gaming audience. The golden path across levels is usually easy to traverse through double-jumping and a Zelda-like glider in the form of a pizza box. Levels are presented in vibrant colors. Additionally, character models and animations look surprisingly clean and polished.
Beyond platforming, there’s a fair amount of combat in The Cosmic Shake. For example, SpongeBob’s health appears as his box-shaped underwear and can be increased.
A light attack with his net and a ground pound are SpongeBob’s main moves against the game’s cast of jelly enemies. The enemies come in different shapes and sizes but fall into the usual categories of grunts, projectile-based, and tanks. The introduction of a dodge mechanic leaves room for strategy in combat but not enough to call The Cosmic Shake a Souls game.
One of the best parts of The Cosmic Shake’s gameplay is Patrick. The starfish is turned into a balloon after their inter-dimensional accident and serves as a hint companion across the seven levels. He’ll typically float to areas of the screen where you should be going next or may note a point of interest where there’s a collectible. If your health is low, he may even bring you a pair of underwear to replenish it.
Collectibles Add a Completionist Layer to the Cosmic Shake
Like other 3D platformers of its kind, The Cosmic Shake has a bevy of collectibles in each level, like purple jelly and gold doubloons, the game’s currencies used to purchase cosmetic outfits. These are one source of callbacks to the show with outfits like the Kuddly Krab uniform, SpongeBob’s Mermaid-Man costume, and The Quickster.
Purple jelly appears in abundance across every level, frequently in breakable tiki statues. I found myself with more purple jelly than I knew what to do with for most of the game.
Gold doubloons are used to unlock costume tiers and often require veering off the golden path or completing a challenge to retrieve them. Many doubloons require the use of abilities that SpongeBob acquires throughout his adventure. Some doubloons will be inaccessible during a level’s first playthrough, encouraging you to replay levels after acquiring more abilities.
Other collectibles include items that SpongeBob’s friends need as part of side quests. This adds a completionist aspect to the game for platforming veterans looking for more of a challenge.
The Cosmic Shake Is a Love Letter to SpongeBob SquarePants
Having Patrick on your entire adventure makes the game feel authentic to the show’s atmosphere. Each level’s subplot feels like an episode from the cartoon. In addition, many of SpongeBob’s conversations with other characters are funnier with Patrick’s presence.
In general, The Cosmic Shake is faithful to the cartoon. There are obvious examples, like memorable locations, but there are smaller touches as well. One such example is SpongeBob’s shoes squeaking when he moves. The up-close character drawings popularized in the show also make an appearance here and there.
Beyond nods to the cartoon, you’ll find plenty of references to SpongeBob meme culture, like his Chicken Dance and “Imagination” gesturing. It would be easy for these references to be overused, but The Cosmic Shake keeps them fresh.
Repetitive Levels and Gameplay Are Disappointing
Each world in The Cosmic Shake feels similar to each other, as if they’re the same world but with a different skin. Each generally has the same platforming obstacles, and in most cases, you’ll need to collect multiples of an item for an NPC to progress further in the level. This could be collecting chocolate from Rock Bottom residents or finding The Flying Dutchman’s socks. The repetitive gameplay makes most levels feel cookie-cutter and forgettable.
But The Cosmic Shake doesn’t need to advance the 3D platformer genre. It’s a game starring a children’s cartoon character and should be accessible to that audience. However, there could have been more creativity in level design, especially with the goofy source material. For example, there’s one level where a stealth mechanic is introduced, but it’s only used for one short segment and never used again in the game.
Fortunately, the repetitive gameplay doesn’t take away from the charm of The Cosmic Shake. Both new and old fans of SpongeBob will enjoy this love letter to the long-running cartoon. You can tell that the developers at Purple Lamp are fans of the IP. The nods to classic episodes and references to SpongeBob memes are very welcome. In addition, having writers from the show bolsters the game’s humor and makes it feel like an authentic SpongeBob experience.
A review code was provided for this game.