SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake review - Sweet, innocent platforming

SpongeBob wearing a glove as a hat alongside Patrick in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.

SpongeBob wearing a glove as a hat alongside Patrick in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea and has a long, complex video gaming lineage? SpongeBob SquarePants! One of the most recognisable cartoon characters of the century has hopped across console generations, often falling into the platforming genre. The years have seen open-world movie tie-in forays, military parodies, and plenty of mid-range licensed fodder to boot.

One game, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, seems to have reigned supreme in players' memories. First released in 2003, the game received a modern remake in 2020, but in the years since it's been fairly sparse for the nautical sponge. That all changes with the release of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, a dimension-hopping multiverse adventure that marks the character's first non-remake standalone console release for eight years.

As an ode to the franchise's history and these characters who have remained popular for more than two decades, The Cosmic Shake undeniably hits the mark. It isn't a revolutionary platformer by any means, and won't blow away players with more than a few years of gaming experience, but it's nonetheless pleasant to see a licensed SpongeBob game brimming with clear reverence for the source material.

SpongeBob morphed into a snail in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.
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Nautical nonsense

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake hops on the contemporary hot topic of the multiverse. We've seen it on the big screen, we've seen it in game franchises like Bayonetta and Resident Evil, and now the Krusty Krab's best fry cook is getting in on the action.

Rather than there being multiple SpongeBob and Patrick variants across the multiverse, The Cosmic Shake instead sends our two bumbling heroes on a trip to disparate and visually diverse worlds. These are called Wishworlds: parallel timelines unearthed after SpongeBob and Patrick inadvertently use Cosmic Jelly to propel their friends into these other worlds. From there, it's a straightforward and often predictable quest to venture into these dimensions with the help of the morally ambiguous Kassandra, rescuing their friends and erasing their haphazard temporal wormhole.

From a game clearly targeted at less experienced players, you'd be hard-pressed to expect much more from The Cosmic Shake's story. It plays out like a feature-length episode of the show: our heroes slip up and cause a problem, and resolve it in the silliest way possible. The game retains that tone and knows its audience well enough to not waste energy on extraneous plot, character work, or exposition. Save for introductory and conclusory cutscenes for each Wishworld, there isn't an awful lot of story here. Instead, it feels like a SpongeBob-ified version of Super Mario Odyssey, with our yellow hero's interdimensional fiasco resembling Mario's journey across worlds.

It's for this reason that The Cosmic Shake makes a far better game than it would a fourth SpongeBob film. The interactivity and platforming gameplay are the glue that holds this purposefully fractured narrative together, letting the distinct design of each realm tell its own story rather than shoving the narrative down your throat. It does attempt the odd twist and big swing, but it's all so safe and easily foreseeable that it's very easy to switch your brain off and explore away. Just don't listen too closely to the dialogue, because you'll become numb to the repetition of certain vocal lines as you embark on your journey. If I had a pound for every time I heard SpongeBob say "sticky, sweet," I'd be a rich man.

SpongeBob and Patrick alongside the Flying Dutchman in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.
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Drop on the deck and flop like a fish

Explore you will, because SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is an impressively enjoyable 3D platformer. As mentioned, it shares a surprising amount of DNA with Super Mario Odyssey, thanks to its expansive, varied worlds brimming with areas to explore, collectibles to hunt down, and obstacles to surpass. It never quite leans into that level of environmental puzzle-solving but instead works as a very competent platforming experience.

Most of your time in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is spent hopping around to collect key quest items, battling enemies, and using SpongeBob's various acrobatic abilities to your advantage. As a rubbery character by design, the our yellow hero can not only jump, but grapple, glide, kick, and hop on top of enemies to keep up mid-air momentum. These mechanics are gradually drip-fed to the player as you get through the ten-or-so-hour story, ensuring you're never left bored by SpongeBob's repertoire. His movement is very fluid thanks to the tight controls and forgiving camera, which makes breezing through these worlds a joy.

Within each of the Wishworlds, you'll tackle the main quest of rescuing your friends, alongside some busywork to entice you to replay. This comes in the form of collectibles, which range from hidden friends to lost notes, aren't the most endearing, with the levels feeling far too linear to sink much exploration time into. That said, the main quests are nicely themed around each world's design, often tying into the gameplay. Trapped in a world where SpongeBob is an accidental kung-fu movie star? Then brace yourself for missions focused on you pulling off intense parkour and bare-fist combos in front of a camera.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is unavoidably easy. Yes, of course, it's a game primarily geared at children, but a lack of difficulty settings makes it far too straightforward for even relative gaming novices. Checkpoints are practically everywhere, you respawn with full health, and enemies always go down in three hits or less. Boss battles are frequent and slightly ramp up the challenge, but it's never enough to feel intensely rewarding.

SpongeBob wearing a head protector and karate gloves with his tongue out in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.
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Switching it up

I played SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake on Switch for two reasons. First was the lack of a native PS5 port, which feels like a missed opportunity given the current hardware landscape, and even more so when last year's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, another Nickelodeon licence, had a dedicated next-gen version. The second reason was to see how Nintendo's ageing handheld hybrid stomachs a game with vast open areas.

This went pretty much as you would expect: generally choppy performance across the board, but more than capable of playing the game without too many problems. Slowdown and dropped frames are an issue when loading into new parts of a Wishworld, and when enemies start swarming the screen towards the end. On top of that, it has the general blurriness of most other third-party games ported to Nintendo's less powerful system, which was also to be expected. That said, these problems never seriously detracted from my experience, and I could still enjoy the kitsch 3D graphics and wacky animations without much hassle.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake doesn't break the mould of 3D platformers, or licensed games as a whole. It's far from revolutionary but certainly an above-average franchise game - but more than anything, it's an undeniably fun platformer.

It's a breezy, light-hearted ride, heavily inspired by Super Mario Odyssey, and leans into its inherent strengths rather than overcomplicating the formula. Even better, it plays the unofficial SpongeBob anthem, Sweet Victory, in its end credits. What's not to like?

Buy SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake now.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a competent 3D platformer that doesn't reinvent the wheel, but provided plenty of fun.
Nintendo Switch
7 out of 10

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. A code was provided by the publisher.

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