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SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake review: a platformer for all ages

Spongebob Squarepants in his karate outfit.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
MSRP $40.00
“Whether you're a SpongeBob fan or just looking to get a new game for your kid, The Cosmic Shake is a solid choice.”
  • Faithful visuals
  • Hilarious writing
  • To-notch voice acting
  • Approachable gameplay
  • Frame rate drips
  • Platforming lacks precision
  • Light on ambition

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake may not wildly innovate or push the bar forward for 3D platformers, but it confidently creates an approachable SpongeBob SquarePants platformer for players of all ages. THQ Nordic and Purple Lamp deliver precisely what you’d hope to see in a licensed 3D platformer, from its faithful presentation and voice acting to its approachable gameplay.

Cosmic Shake succeeds as a follow-up to SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, offering a hilarious experience that your kids wouldn’t be embarrassed to receive as a gift. Even with some frame rate issues and platforming that doesn’t flow as smoothly as the genre greats, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is one of the best licensed kids’ games you can pick up right now.

As seen on TV

Right from the start, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake plays out like a classic episode of the iconic cartoon. SpongeBob and Patrick visit Glove World and buy magical, wish-granting Mermaid’s Tears from a shady merchant named Kassandra. In typical SpongeBob fashion, it doesn’t take long for that to get out of hand. SpongeBob and Patrick make enough wishes with the Mermaid’s Tears to destabilize reality, turning Patrick into a balloon and trapping their friends across several different “Wishworlds” based on areas in Bikini Bottom.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake succeeds in being funny by just sounding like an episode of the show.

This plot feels like it could’ve been taken straight from an episode of the show, even though it is also well-suited to a world-based platformer. The writing and voice acting are both on the money, delivering exactly what a fan would expect from SpongeBob. As always, Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke are a delight as SpongeBob and Patrick, though every voice actor here is on point, bringing the same energy to this game as they have to the TV show for the past 23 years.

The writing is quite funny, with plenty of great jokes appropriate for all ages. Kids will get an innocent chuckle out of SpongeBob’s underwear health bar and other bits of cartoon gross-out imagery. Even if young players seem to be the central audience here, the game even got some laughs out of me with some hilarious Patrick quips and callbacks to TV gags like “one eternity later” transition cards. Comedy is hard to pull off in games and often quite divisive, but SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake succeeds in being funny by just sounding like an episode of the show.

SpongeBob jumps through Halloween Rock Bottom in The Cosmic Shake.

In a similar vein, its visuals succeed by taking a faithful approach to the source material. The show comes to life spectacularly in 3D and is even more colorful and vibrant than its predecessor, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom — Rehydrated. Level theming is also outstanding, as we see many locations from the show and Battle for Bikini Bottom reimagined with new themes, like Wild West Jellyfish Fields and Halloween Rock Bottom. It’s novel to see brand-new takes on these well-trodden areas, and all of the minute details, some excellent sound design, and a catchy soundtrack ensure that each world is memorable.

Unfortunately, the presentation isn’t flawless. I encountered quite a few frame rate dips even though I was playing the Xbox One version of the game on the Xbox Series X. Its visuals might be pretty, but these performance issues make some levels of the game less pleasant to play. Cutscene-to-gameplay transitions would occasionally jitter, and some death animations don’t play properly. Hopefully, these technical issues can be ironed out after release, just as they were with SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom — Rehydrated, but they sour an otherwise great-looking game upon launch.

How tough are ya?

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake isn’t designed to be difficult, and it’s all the more fun for that decision. Unlike Battle for Bikini Bottom, which lets people play as SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy, Cosmic Shake only features a playable SpongeBob (Balloon Patrick makes jokes and occasionally finds health for SpongeBob). That said, his movement has been vastly expanded to incorporate those other characters’ abilities, like Patrick’s powerful body slam or Sandy’s swinging powers. The most significant additions are a Karate dive kick that works on enemies and certain objects as well as a stamina-based glide using a Krusty Krab pizza box.

Although I find it hilarious that the look and feel of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s glider has entered the mainstream gaming zeitgeist enough to where it’s used in a SpongeBob game, the tool is my favorite addition to Cosmic Shake as it opens up movement options in many scenarios. Still, you won’t be gliding too far with this. Even with his double jump and glide, SpongeBob isn’t as nimble or quick to control as Mario, Kirby, or Sonic.

I do wish some of the abilities flowed together and had more impact.

Precise jumping on small platforms rarely comes up unless you’re tracking down hidden side-quest collectibles, and the game features quite a bit of combat. While mandatory combat sections are often death knells for 3D platformers, Cosmic Shake’s fights never become too frustrating thanks to a nifty new dodge roll and enemies’ well-telegraphed attacks. Outside of going back to look for optional collectibles, even the game’s more open-ended levels are relatively linear in mission design, so it’s rare you’ll ever be lost or not know what to do next.

Cosmic Shake isn’t challenging — there’s only one boss fight in the game that will probably give some kids trouble. Although those who like a bit more difficulty in their platformers might be disappointed, the game is intentionally designed to be approachable, making it a great first platformer for genre newcomers and kids. That also means it’s a nice, breezy palette cleanser for those who play lots of long, intense games like me. Still, Cosmic Shake’s controls aren’t as refined as the genre’s best.

I do wish some of the abilities flowed together and had more impact, though. In particular, I found it unsatisfying that I could never chain the dodge roll into a jump. I could have used more feedback when SpongeBob’s net hit enemies, and it feels a little limiting that you can only use abilities after you encounter their tutorial. Nintendo has nailed easy-to-learn but shockingly intricate character move sets in games like Super Mario Odyssey and Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is certainly not on that level.

That said, it’s not trying to be.

SpongeBob dive kicks in The Cosmic Shake.

Non-AAA licensed games are typically gambles in terms of quality because they’re trying to appeal to young kids, but SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake manages to do that while still being a solid platformer anyone can enjoy. I grew up with the TV show and Battle for Bikini Bottom game, and Cosmic Shake almost always kept a smile on my face as I explored beautiful new takes on Bikini Bottom areas I remembered and laughed to SpongeBob and Patrick’s jokes as I did in the early 2000s.

Especially on platforms like PS4 and Xbox One, where kid-friendly platformers like Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Super Mario Odyssey aren’t as common, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a fun platformer for your kids. Even if you’ll notice some of its presentation flaws and lack of gameplay ambition as an adult, it’ll still be delightful if you’ve ever had a bit of love for SpongeBob’s misadventures.

Digital Trends reviewed the Xbox One version of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake on an Xbox Series X.

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