The new, throwback SpongeBob SquarePants game, The Cosmic Shake, might be a bit too tough for my kid and a bit too kid-oriented for me, but when we play together it's a lot of fun!
- Title: SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
- Release Date: January 31, 2023
- Price: $
- Suggested Audience Age:
- Availability: Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, Steam
- Recommended for fans of:
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I have never been and will never be the biggest SpongeBob SquarePants fan in the world. I think I was just past the demographic when the show launched. It might have been the first cartoon I ever saw that made me feel old.
The show always seemed so frantic and impulsive that I found it hard to keep up, and that’s coming from a guy with pretty intense ADHD. Add on to that it being over memed for decades, and SpongeBob is a weird, massive media enterprise I just don’t get.
Having said all of that, I’m also a massive fan of 3D collectathon games. I may not like SpongeBob much, but even I have to appreciate Battle for Bikini Bottom as a pretty solid game. With that in mind, and with my three-year-old son truly starting to understand games, I was excited to check out SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, a spiritual successor from the team that remastered Bikini Bottom.
Opening is a drag
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake builds its story on the backs of Spider-Man and Michelle Yeoh by sending the titular sponge rocketing through a variety of multiverses. Each level is a different themed area that SpongeBob and Patrick, who finds themselves transformed into a balloon, dip into to punch and jump their way through to find one of their friends and snap them back to reality.
Unfortunately, the game has you wander around an extremely benign version of Bikini Bottom to get your bearing before things become bizarre. I absolutely understand the need for a tutorial area, especially in a game that targets a younger audience, but the start of this game really threw me off. The area isn’t exciting, but it’s also hard to follow what you are supposed to be doing.
SpongeBob is getting ready to go to Glove World, but when Patrick isn’t ready to go a quest objective pops up to go talk to Sandy, but without any verbal indication that you should do so. As long as you can read the objective that’s not a huge deal, but my three-year-old wanted to stand and wait for Patrick since the game hadn’t communicated to him that he should do anything else.
Once you get into the themed levels of The Cosmic Shake, those objective markers become essential. The levels in this game are fairly linear, but they are also long. Like, very long. So long that, while playing this with a three-year-old, we never finished a level in one sitting. When you’re getting up and coming back to a level that looks relatively open but is actually built like a long corridor, it can be easy to get turned around or (without reading the next objective) forget what task you need to complete to move on.
Sometimes SpongeBob or Patrick will help you out with a voice line nudging you in the right direction. They might remind you that you’re looking for cactuses to juice, pirate captives to free, or paparazzi to pose for. Mostly, though, they’ll just talk about nonsense. SpongeBob is a character that abhors silence, so he chimes in all the time with inane jabber. I’m so sick of hearing about this sponge talk about Krusty Krab Pizza, y’all.
The Cosmic Shake sits in a similar category as Kao the Kangaroo or Ty The Tasmanian Tiger as a 3D platformer collectathon with lots of combat. Everywhere you go you’ll find sentient jelly monsters who are itching to pick a fight with you for absolutely no reason. SpongeBob has a pretty basic spin attack to take out baddies and unlocks more abilities as he goes. Once you get into a rhythm, it actually feels pretty good to spin at one enemy, then blow a bubble to freeze another before flying across the screen with a karate kick at a third. This isn’t Arkham, but when the game forced me into a fight it was usually pretty fun.
On the platforming side of things, this game lives in a weird space of “pretty easy for an experienced player but near impossible for a novice”. Your basic mobility set is a jump, double jump, and glide pattern that works really well for getting around. The game throws a lot of platforming at the player, including jumping over endless pits or toxic liquids and climbing up stacks of objects to get over barriers. Clambering up objects was pretty intuitive for my kiddo, but trying to precisely make his way across pitfalls proved really tough.
Thankfully, this game is extremely kind to the player when they do fall in combat or into the abyss. The game gives the player four chunks of heath (represented by underpants, naturally) and past that has a pretty generous check-pointing system. The two extra nods to catering to younger players that I really like both come from the Patrick balloon. First, when you are low on health, he will often just wander across the screen to drop off a fresh pair of undies. Second, since he’s a balloon, he actually catches SpongeBob whenever he falls, so I don’t have to explain to my child what happens to a sponge that falls hundreds of feet into a canyon.
I’m having a pretty good time each time I sit down to play SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake. With my kiddo, there is enough in the game that he can engage with to have a good time, and when he gets stuck I can usually blow through whatever challenge he’s stuck on without feeling like I’m trapped in a totally mindless experience.
However, the opening really turned me off and the level design and objectives system both feel uneven to me in a way that makes it hard to fully recommend. You have to meet the game halfway by really paying attention to what it is asking you to do or you’ll end up running back and forth in the same environment without making any progress.
Or, as my wife put it, “This game has no point or purpose and I hate it.”
That is sort of how I feel about the SpongeBob cartoon, but my kiddo and I both like the game more than that.