There are certain things you expect with a 3D platformer based on a children’s cartoon. Most of those expectations are usually poor. The expectation with these kinds of licensed games is rushed production, shotty controls, and serviceable but unremarkable platforming. One of the exceptions to this was Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. As the successor to that game, The Cosmic Shake has a lot to live up to, and I’m happy to say that it’s a bubbly success.
This new adventure kicks off as Spongebob and Patrick abuse magical mermaid bubbles which causes different universes to meld with Bikini Bottom and Patrick turns into a balloon. It’s up to Spongebob to go into each of the seven universes, defeat jelly monsters, and collect enough jelly for the mermaid Kassandra to be able to fix everything and restore Bikini Bottom. It’s a plot that captures the spirit of the show while giving you an excuse to play through different themed levels like a karate movie shoot in the city, a wild west town, and prehistoric times.
If you’ve played any 3D platformer ever then you’ve played The Cosmic Shake. Don’t come to this game expecting innovation or new ideas. You have a jump, a double jump, some basic attacks, and can swing on hooks. It’s all standard for the genre. There’s nothing new here but that’s okay because if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t need to be fixed. What matters most is that the mechanics are all well done and the levels have enough varied use of all the mechanics to offer a satisfying 3D platformer.
The most important aspect of any platformer is nailing the feeling that you’re in full control of your character. There needs to be weight behind your movements so you can judge movements and precisely execute them. Nothing is more rage-inducing than missing a jump or sliding off an edge not because of what you did but because the game didn’t offer precision. The most important aspect of a Spongebob game is feeling like you are a sponge.
Being a lightweight sponge and controlling a character with enough weight behind them that it doesn’t feel unruly to gage a jump should conflict with one another. Not here. Spongebob feels as he should, he’s light and floaty but has enough weight behind him that he’s easy to control. The platforming never feels off because Spongebob feels like he’s always going to land exactly where you direct him even in spite of how light he feels.
Across the seven levels, in addition to the platforming, you’ll also be combating jelly monsters and engaging in a few boss fights against familiar characters. Combat is simple and unspectacular but it’s fine and provides levels with a little more to do. New enemy types are introduced at an impressive rate to keep combat encounters from growing stale. Each enemy has a different move it’s weak to so you’ll always be using your whole arsenal of combat techniques like your spin attack, karate kick, and ground pound.
The real triumph of The Cosmic Shake is how well it captures Spongebob. Not just the character himself but the series in general. All the voice actors from the show return to reprise their roles and characters both big and small make an appearance and get some time to shine. Everyone from Squidward to Larry to even Fred a.k.a. the “My Leg” guy. All the jokes the land, all the banter is in character. Loading screens take the form of the famous “A Few Seconds Later” screens complete with the faux-french narrator. There are dialogue sequences that include super-detailed insert shots just the show. Spongebob’s shoes squeak appropriately. There are unlockable costumes that Spongebob has worn throughout the series.
Whether you’re a casual or diehard Spongebob fan, you’ll recognize the labor of love for the series that this is. That extends to the levels themselves. Each level’s theme is inspired by an episode of the show. The Wild West level comes from the episode ” Pest of the West”, there’s a trip to Glove World, a level taking place in a version of Rock Bottom, a Prehistoric level inspired by the episode “Ugh” where all the characters speak in caveman gibberish. everything really captures the feeling of being a kid and watching the cartoon after school.
It’s that which ultimately makes The Cosmic Shake a worthwhile experience. That feeling of being a kid again and enjoying the hijinks of Spongebob and Patricks and all the gags and side characters. To be able to just sit down and let something joyous and silly put a smile on your face. Nothing here is bad but nothing is exemplary either except that feeling. If you don’t like Spongebob or 3D platformers then this won’t change your mind. If you don’t like Spongebob but do like 3D platformers, this is a decent one but there are better options. If you enjoy both, this is going to make you very happy.
I could lament the few times when the game stuttered on me or how the collectibles are meaningless since all they do is unlock purely cosmetic costumes. I could compare this to better games in the genre. I won’t do that though because those better games don’t have what this game does. The spirit of Spongebob and the joy that comes with it. It would be easy to break down the deficiencies the game has or to rate it based on how well it was made but I don’t play games to see how well they were made. I play games because of how they make me feel when I play them.
There are moments where you can feel the lower budget, it runs well but still creaks, and it looks good but not that good. It feels in many ways like a throwback to platformers from the PS2 era in both intentional and unintentional ways. But if you are a fan, you won’t be thinking about any of that. You’ll be playing the game with a smile on your face as you’re transported back to a joyous time in your life when you had nothing else going on besides chilling with Spongebob and Patrick after school and then helping them battle for Bikini Bottom on the weekend.
Rating: Cruise Commendation
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