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When SpongeBob SquarePants debuted in 1999, I had simply mentioned goodbye to Nicktoons and Nickelodeon as an entire. Arguably, I ought to have parted with that a part of my childhood just a few years earlier, however I used to be a late bloomer. Nonetheless, the misadventures of the little yellow sponge that lived in a pineapple underneath the ocean would fly underneath my radar for a number of years. It wasn’t till my last yr of highschool that I, bored at residence one afternoon, determined to offer the present a go throughout one in every of its many marathons.
I keep in mind the primary episode I noticed. It was “Graveyard Shift,” the episode the place SpongeBob and Squidward need to work 24-hour shifts on the Krusty Krab. In the event you’ve seen it, you already know the episode goes for kid-friendly horror and ends with an out-of-left-field cameo from Rely Orlock. It was weird, it was stunning, and that was the day I noticed I wasn’t too previous for teenagers’ cartoons.
Greater than 20 years later, I’m nonetheless laughing. Whereas I don’t all the time have an opportunity to test it out when new episodes launch, I all the time know that sponge will be capable of put a smile on my face. And with SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, I used to be smiling practically each second I spent with it.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake (PC, PS4, Change [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Purple Lamp Studios
Writer: THQ Nordic
Launched: January 31, 2023
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake sees all people’s pineapple-dwelling sea sponge inflicting a ruckus for the individuals of Bikini Backside. This time, whereas making an attempt to get pleasure from an evening out at Glove World, SpongeBob comes throughout the mysterious mermaid Madame Kassandra who absentmindedly sells him a glowing bottle of bubble method that has the facility to grant needs. Reduce to a couple hours later, and SpongeBob has blown bubbles that’ll grant needs to everybody he is aware of. When these bubbles pop, the universe is torn asunder and his buddies are scattered round a number of completely different universes that take recognizable areas from the present and mash them with a brand new theme. With a magic bubble wand in hand, SpongeBob should journey to every of those worlds along with his balloon-ified finest buddy Patrick to get everybody again and restore Bikini Backside.
Mechanically and structurally, The Cosmic Shake performs equally to the licensed platformers of the GameCube/PS2/Xbox period. SpongeBob has a double leap, a spin assault, a jump-slam assault, a cartwheel dodge, a bubble projectile, and a weak pizza field glide capability. All through every world, there are particular areas the place you should utilize methods like hook swing and karate kick to entry new areas or make it over deep chasms. Ranges are linear, often consisting of some small open areas related by lengthy platforming or motion sequences. It’s considerably much like what we obtained just a few years in the past with the remaster of Battle for Bikini Backside, additionally from Purple Lamp Studios.
That sport, for no matter cause, didn’t actually work for me. The Cosmic Shake, nevertheless, does, and I’m dumbfounded by how a lot I loved going by way of it.
Arguably, the sport didn’t make an amazing first impression. The opening tutorially didn’t give me numerous hope for issues to come back, and the primary 20 to half-hour of the sport’s Wild West Jellyfish Fields threw me into some poorly managed seahorse motion sequences. As soon as it slowed down sufficient to let me get my footing, I began to comprehend the superb job the builders did placing this sport collectively and the way they have been capable of maintain issues recent and new all through.
Every world brings with it a singular really feel and presentation, from chasing down some cosmetics in Medieval Sulfer Fields to establishing a light-weight present in Halloween Rock Backside. It’s actually fantastic to see simply how a lot various gameplay Purple Lamp Studios are capable of get out of Cosmic Shake‘s easy method as a result of they actually do take it to enjoyable and thrilling locations. Exterior of the degrees, you may discover the Bikini Backside hub world that expands and populates as you’re employed your method by way of SpongeBob’s quest.
The platforming sections all through the sport are fairly top-tier for a licensed 3D platformer and the completely different jelly enemies you face present sufficient of a problem that I had to make use of each single instrument in SpongeBob’s arsenal to make it by way of a number of of its fights. That features the boss battles, which might be mighty powerful, however fortunately the sport is beneficiant with respawns, checkpoints, and auto-saves, so it was by no means actually a lot of a problem if I obtained knocked out.
The sport’s wonky nature, nevertheless, did show to be one thing of a problem, although the builders are conscious it wants some work. The framerate is continually in flux, a few of SpongBob’s actions weren’t completely dependable–there was a 1-in-50 probability his pizza field glider wouldn’t work and the karate kick assault isn’t all the time accessible when it needs to be — and it wasn’t uncommon for character fashions and objects to straight-up disappear throughout cutscenes. At one level when operating round Bikini Backside, every part on the display screen beside the UI went black and I needed to restart the sport. As talked about earlier than, the seahorse controls aren’t so nice and there are greater than a handful of jumps all through the sport that requires overly exact execution and timing of the double leap glide. Cutscenes can usually really feel like all of them finish with a smash lower, however I believe that’s intentional because it performs into the sport’s humor.
And what humor it has. The author’s behind Cosmic Shake have effortlessly tapped into the comedy of the present, bolstered by pitch-perfect performances from the SpongeBob SquarePants solid. I might argue the sport may use an choice to chop down on a few of the repetitive soundbites, however past being continuously reminded that Krusty Krab pizza is the pizza for you and me, that is one humorous sport from starting to finish. It’s additionally one with a soundtrack that is much better than I may have anticipated. I don’t usually take note of the music in video games, however I couldn’t ignore it right here.
If there’s one space of Cosmic Shake the place I used to be barely disenchanted–exterior of the Krabby Patty minigame that doesn’t appear to do something in any respect–it’s with the sport’s costume system. A part of the gimmick of SpongeBob touring to completely different worlds is he’ll be given new costumes that mix him into the surroundings. These costumes look nice, however that’s all they do. There’s no gameplay benefit to utilizing one costume over one other, and also you don’t even need to put on a fancy dress that matches the theme of the world should you don’t wish to. There are numerous costumes to unlock, and doing so is what I believe will make up the majority of the post-game expertise. It will be good if every costume had some distinctive capability tied to it, however it’s what it’s, and the simplicity of the characteristic didn’t detract one bit from my enjoyment of this journey.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is an astoundingly good sport. There’s a lot creativity packed into its seven completely different worlds that I couldn’t cease taking part in it over the previous weekend as a result of I used to be too excited to see what was subsequent. That is, definitely, the most effective SpongeBob sport I’ve ever performed, and I hope Purple Lamp Studios retains the keys to the license for years to come back.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]