Initial release date: January 31, 2023
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Developers: Purple Lamp, Purple Lamp Game Development GmbH
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Genres: Platform game, Fighting game, Action-adventure game
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Series: SpongeBob SquarePants
"Review Copy Provided By THQ Nordic"
"Are ya ready kids?… 'AYE AYE CAPTAIN!'. I can't hear you!" - This iconic war cry from a popular show about a yellow, porous, and absorbent sponge living in a pineapple under the sea is still fondly remembered by many from their childhood. Bob, the beloved character from the show, has become a superstar with various TV shows, movies, and games bearing his name. The latest game, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, promises to offer classic platforming thrills and take Bob and his friends on an epic adventure. Despite some frame rate issues and platforming that isn't as smooth as other games in the same genre, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a hilarious game that is perfect for kids and one of the best licensed kids' games available right now. It's a great gift that your kids won't be embarrassed to receive.
At the start of The Cosmic Shake, the game only provides basic controls like jumping and attacking. Consequently, the initial levels lack creativity and feel tedious despite including some standard SpongeBob elements. This makes for a rather lackluster opening to Purple Lamp's first original attempt in the series. However, the later levels are where the real fun begins. Once you acquire new moves like reef blowing, bubble missiles, karate chopping, and hook swinging, the gameplay becomes more enjoyable. The boss battles are more varied and the stages become more expansive, with stunning views that stretch for miles.
Even the most skeptical players who claim "SpongeBob was better in my day" would have to acknowledge that this is a significant improvement over Battle for Bikini Bottom. However, the game's inconsistency is its Achilles' heel. Although it displays flashes of creativity, the experience can feel uninspired and derivative at times, with some sections seemingly lifted directly from other games without any meaningful changes.
The Prehistoric stage in The Cosmic Shake strikes the perfect balance between old and new elements. It's more than just a nostalgic callback, as it features fresh humor and witty caveman language that permeates the cutscenes and level design. The modern animation work adds another layer of expressiveness and shows that SpongeBob games can be more than just a cheap licensed product that relies on the audience's fond memories of the past.
However, the game suffers from inconsistency, particularly with the seahorse driving segments that come across as uninspired copies of similar modes in earlier SpongeBob titles. The tongue-riding parts, on the other hand, breathe new life into an old mechanic and demonstrate the game's potential for innovation. The best parts of The Cosmic Shake are the new ideas, particularly in the levels that blend different concepts, like the high-altitude platforming and mazes of the medieval dream world. The original characters are also a highlight, fitting perfectly into the SpongeBob universe.
Although Purple Lamp has room to improve, they've demonstrated their ability to deliver a great SpongeBob game. However, the game still relies heavily on fan service and could benefit from more depth and exploration. For example, why not allow players to explore SpongeBob's house, invade Squidward's art studio, or enter any other building? While The Cosmic Shake has the heart of the show, it lacks its soul.
The Cosmic Shake struggles to grasp the humor it references from the show, as it fails to deliver the weird and quirky elements that fans love. The fact that many fans of the show are excited about the game shows that they enjoy bizarre content, such as the episode where SpongeBob thinks he killed the health inspector or where he tortures Mr. Krabs thinking he's a robot. Battle for Bikini Bottom even had a whole level based on an episode where SpongeBob invades everyone's dreams. Fans want to see these weird and zany ideas brought to life in the game.
Despite the game's shortcomings, I hope that Purple Lamp gets another chance to develop a SpongeBob game. The final level is a prime example of their potential, with its off-the-wall premise and unique mechanics. While it may not surpass Battle for Bikini Bottom, there's a lot of promise here. Nickelodeon needs to acknowledge this potential and aim higher for the next SpongeBob game. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake may not be groundbreaking or revolutionary for 3D platformers, but it still manages to provide an enjoyable and accessible SpongeBob platformer for players of all ages. THQ Nordic and Purple Lamp have done a commendable job of delivering a licensed 3D platformer that stays true to the show's presentation and voice acting, while still offering enjoyable gameplay.