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For Better or Worse, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake Lives up to Battle for Bikini Bottom

If nautical nostalgic nonsense be something you wish.



SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake Review

Developer: Purple Lamp | Publisher: THQ Nordic | Genre: Platformer, Action-Adventure
PlatformsNintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

Are you ready, SpongeBob fans? Well, hold your seahorses tight because “aye-aye” may not be the answer to that question, depending on your history with the video games from this franchise. Since 2003, SpongeBob fans have been waiting for a developer to recapture what made SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom a great licensed game. While Heavy Iron Studios objectively did not create a perfect experience by gaming standards, Battle for Bikini Bottom brought Nickelodeon’s deep blue sea to consoles with a bubble of energy and authenticity.

Licensed video games have always had a rough history of being cheap and quick cash grabs that swarmed the industry, but Battle for Bikini Bottom was able to transport SpongeBob viewers down to his hectic life for hours of entertainment. The game was a surprisingly solid-enough platformer with a wonderfully executed atmospheric direction that made players feel as if they were interacting with an actual episode of the television series. For years, Battle for Bikini Bottom has been the definitive SpongeBob video game experience, and the audience reception of 2020’s Rehydrated remaster has only continued to solidify that sentiment.

From the day it was announced, it was clear what SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake was going to be; another licensed SpongeBob game attempting to ride the boatmobile propellers of Battle for Bikini Bottom‘s success. For better or worse, developer Purple Lamp has recaptured much of the magic that made the Heavy Iron Studios title popular. The Cosmic Shake lives up to its inspiration as it provides SpongeBob fans of the 2003 cult classic with a similar experience, albeit one bearing quite a few odd design decisions and bugs. It’s no sweet victory, but it’s a good time for SpongeBob fans.

Absorbing Lessons and Mistakes Like a Sponge

THQ Nordic SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake review for Nintendo Switch
Image: THQ Nordic

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake throws a curveball to the SpongeBob video game formula. Rather than fighting Plankton’s forces of robots like most other SpongeBob games, The Cosmic Shake places SpongeBob and Patrick in front of their own mistakes as the two friends are forced to confront a dimensional problem they created. After overusing the bubbles of King Neptune, SpongeBob and Patrick accidentally send the Bikini Bottom’s inhabitants across the universe. With the help of a mysterious mermaid named Kassandra, who is familiar with King Neptune, SpongeBob and Patrick must traverse new dimensions to save their friends and home from a dangerous jelly substance.

Whereas Battle for Bikini Bottom took place entirely in the Bikini Bottom, The Cosmic Shake makes its predecessor’s key location into a small hub world. Each of the eight dimension players can travel to in The Cosmic Shake are based on different SpongeBob SquarePants episodes. From the colorful medieval setting of “Dunces and Dragons” to the dark bus stops of “Rock Bottom,” an even variety of locations have been used in The Cosmic Shake’s charming cherry-pickings. While not every world is a knockout in terms of level design, they all do quite an admirable job at recapturing the atmosphere of each episode they are based on.

What SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake does best is transport viewers into scenes inspired by the television series. Between some really charismatic cutscenes and a popping presentation, The Cosmic Shake feels exactly like what Battle for Bikini Bottom was for SpongeBob fans in 2003. Cosmic Shake’s iteration of the undersea city-state and its dimensional locations feel as if the creators of the current show’s run and the recent 3D movies were behind it. This is an extremely authentic modern adaptation of SpongeBob’s universe that is bursting with charisma–especially SpongeBob and Patrick who come off as energetic as they should.

As the game’s trailers showcased, Cosmic Shake is not afraid to lean in on SpongeBob’s past and present. The game uses characters and memes with pride. The only area of Cosmic Shake’s presentation that can be a bit of a letdown is the sound design, or more specifically, the game’s usage of SpongeBob’s iconic soundtrack. While every SpongeBob voice actor is thankfully here this time around, there are quite a few instances in Cosmic Shake where Purple Lamp crushes what should be a bit moment because of strange musical cuts.

But musical cuts are far from being Cosmic Shake’s largest issue. Where the game really has trouble is within its lackluster script and rather barebones platforming.

I’m Ready… For Better Action

Image: THQ Nordic

Keeping up with its authenticity to the source material, the writing of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake feels very in line with episodes of the current television series. While that sounds like a strong complement for any licensed game, that statement will fly over heads differently depending on what their stance of modern SpongeBob is. Humor will always be subjective, but if you grew up watching the first few seasons of SpongeBob, it will be night and day as to how much different the humor is written here versus Battle for Bikini Bottom. Personality-wise, the cast feels perfectly adapted, but their jokes are a whole lot of random nautical nonsense rather than well-executed punch lines.

Setting writing debates aside though, where SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake really should have considered not being entirely faithful to its inspiration was in the gameplay department. In the same sea as Battle for Bikini Bottom, this game is divided between action-platforming and being a collectathon. When you are not jumping from point A to B while taking down jelly-themed enemies, you are hunting down collectibles that will help you unlock classic SpongeBob costumes. Cosmic Shake plays exactly like 2020’s Battle for Bikini Bottom, except how players tackle objectives has been condensed, and not for the better. Whereas in Battle for Bikini Bottom, players could take control of Patrick and Sandy, The Cosmic Shake only gives players access to SpongeBob.

SpongeBob has been given Sandy’s grappling lasso and Patrick’s stronger ground pound to keep the gameplay elements of Battle for Bikini Bottom all intact. On the surface, condensing the moves of all three playable characters into one body sounds like a great idea to help simplify gameplay. In practice, the choice to try and create a more cohesive adventure that will keep players from jumping between multiple gameplay styles feels redundant in the face of repetition. The Cosmic Shake evidently has a pacing problem, even if it does a great job of bouncing players between different locations.

THQ Nordic SpongeBob SquarePants The Cosmic Shake review for Nintendo Switch
Image: THQ Nordic

The Cosmic Shake often finds itself in a tedious repetition due to its lack of platforming invention and ambition to do more with its foundation. Once players have completed the game’s first three worlds, they have practically seen everything Cosmic Shake has to offer. The game mistakenly does not attempt to refine Battle for Bikini Bottom’s gameplay formula by patching up its flaws and finding more ways to utilize its mechanics. When the platforming grows stale, the game just resorts to the same old gimmick to break things up: a boring three-lane runner section where SpongeBob hops on a unicycle, surfboard, or seahorse to catch up to something.

Cosmic Shake’s runner sequences are identical in scenario when placed against those found in Nickelodeon’s now-delisted The Legend of Korra game from 2014. Simply put, they are the worst part of The Cosmic Shake and are only present to keep the player’s attention in check when they have been jumping and kicking for too long. Unlike the difficult Naga sections Korra had to endure (and perhaps thankfully), as long as you mash the boost button of your seahorse and hit the jump button every once in a blue moon, you are unstoppable. It is almost impossible to fail at these segments as they provide the player with no real challenge or even collectibles to obtain.

At the very least, the runner sections are not plagued by glitches like much of the standard platforming areas. In my experience, the Nintendo Switch release of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake had quite a few bugs, including some that were game-breaking. In the pre-release build I was provided with, I encountered locked save files, a failing auto-save feature, disappearing objects, frame rate drops, and sudden black screens during my playthrough. While I was informed that these problems would be sent to publisher THQ Nordic to be looked into, I cannot say whether or not they have all been solved in the game’s final release.

Not a Sweet Victory, But Certainly a Fine One

Image: THQ Nordic

Like 2003’s Battle for Bikini BottomSpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a game that will be considered a good time for many fans of the Nickelodeon series. Sure, the platforming is not perfect, and the game does have numerous bugs (especially on the Nintendo Switch), but the atmosphere and characterizations of the SpongeBob SquarePants cast in The Cosmic Shake are admirably faithful to the aquatic cartoon fans know and love.

This is a licensed game suitably cut and shaped for modern SpongeBob SquarePants fans, and Battle for Bikini Bottom fans looking for the glory days of the franchise. The Cosmic Shake may not be a must-play game by today’s standards or something that will put SpongeBob SquarePants back on the map to critical fame, but it is at the very least an enjoyable adventure fans will find themselves submerged in for a few hours.

Creative writer, NXpress Host, and Games Editor. I have always held a high interest in the fields of professional writing and communications. You can find me with my head deep in the espionage genre or in a kayak upstream. I’ll always be first in line for the next Hideo Kojima or Masahiro Sakurai game.

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