In 2003, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Backside was launched and have become a touchstone for a technology of youngsters already obsessive about the cartoon. Whereas nostalgia performs a big issue, I, like many individuals round my age, maintain that recreation in excessive regard, even when the expertise would not fairly maintain up all these years later. Now, 20 years later, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake has been made as a non secular successor and, for higher and for worse, it performs the best way I bear in mind Battle for Bikini Backside.
In The Cosmic Shake, SpongeBob and Patrick come across a Mermaid named Kassandra, who sells vintage and mysterious gadgets. SpongeBob purchases bubble cleaning soap that supposedly grants needs, working round city and asking everybody he is aware of for his or her needs. Sadly, the entire needs kick in directly, tearing holes in actuality and sending the residents of Bikini Backside off into the multiverse, with SpongeBob and Patrick left to choose up the items.
This opening units up the seven ranges gamers will discover all through the sport, each with a special theme and atmosphere. The aesthetic design of those ranges is likely one of the locations The Cosmic Shake shines, pulling collectively references to iconic episodes of the present, whereas including new parts that match inside the recreation’s story. A movie-set-themed episode combines SpongBob’s obsession with karate with an motion film, and a pirate stage has an enemy ship continuously firing pie bombs at you.
As for the place The Cosmic Shake pulls most of its inspiration from, it stems nearly completely from the older seasons of SpongeBob. Whereas the present continues to be airing, lots of the references made by way of the sport are from the seasons I watched as a baby and simply may have appeared in Battle for Bikini Backside 20 years in the past. There are a couple of nods to the extra trendy seasons of the present, particularly Plankton’s pet Spot, who serves as a collectible in every stage, however the majority of its jokes and callbacks are old-school. Most of those references really feel well-placed and do not overstay their welcome, with one main exception.
That exception is the caveman stage, the place Spongebob and Patrick are despatched again to the prehistoric period to try to save Squidward. This pulls straight from the episode SB-129/Karate Choppers in Season 1, the place Squidward finally ends up time-traveling to each the previous and future. Up to now, language hasn’t been invented but, so everybody speaks in gibberish. What works as a small part of a half-hour cartoon overstays its welcome right here. In most ranges, SpongeBob and Patrick are incessantly commenting on the extent, spouting off jokes that principally land, however right here, it is an hour to 90 minutes of caveman converse, which actually kills the sport’s momentum.
As for the design of the degrees, The Cosmic Shake takes a much more linear strategy than Battle for Bikini Backside and this principally works in its favor. The degrees have a little bit of width to them, permitting you to discover off the overwhelmed path to seek out further Cosmic Jelly, which you might be tasked with gathering all through the sport. However past this small quantity of freedom, this deal with a extra linear setup permits for the platforming to shine, since there’s a single outlined path that may be purposefully designed across the motion expertise which have been unlocked thus far. SpongeBob comes outfitted with a double-jump out of the gate however is shortly given much more motion skills all through the sport, making for fluid platforming. These motion skills make SpongeBob really feel quick when they’re all working collectively and the sections that ask you to make use of all of them collectively really feel extremely satisfying.
You achieve skills like a glide, a karate kick, a floor pound, and even a grappling hook. Doling out a brand new potential in most ranges means there may be all the time a brand new mechanic to maintain the sport contemporary, and it supplies a strategy to disguise secrets and techniques in every stage so that you can come again to. Ranges require you to platform by way of them, finally needing to seek out quite a lot of objects to maneuver additional. These sections normally have an arena-like space, the place you may select which route to begin in on your gathering, however all the time find yourself on the similar vacation spot. It is a good break from the extra linear platforming sections and these sections by no means overstayed their welcome. The place the linear design falls flat is within the recreation’s secrets and techniques and elective goals.
As for fight, you utilize your new skills to battle off Cosmic Jelly monsters. There are a variety of several types of Jelly Monsters, and each has a particular strategy to beat it. Sadly, as time goes on, this turns into a tedious job, particularly with enemies the place it’s a must to watch for a gap. For instance, the big enemies carrying bathtubs require three hits to take down, however they solely take harm after lacking an assault on you. By the point you battle one in every of these for the tenth time, it turns into extra tedious to attend and hit it, which is true for different enemy varieties as effectively. There may be much more platforming than fight in The Cosmic Shake, however lengthy battles, particularly late within the recreation, really feel like a chore.
Every stage caps off with a boss battle of some sort, with the precise format of the battle altering from stage to stage. The opening western stage concludes with you chasing Mr. Krabs by way of a practice whereas battling enemies, and the film stage concludes with a showdown towards Sandy. None of those are significantly difficult, however they’re all completely different and brief sufficient to be satisfying.
With a linear design and unlockable motion skills, going off the primary path to discover a secret can have combined outcomes. Typically you discover a Gold Doubloon, which is required to unlock further costumes, and it feels rewarding. Many instances, although, you discover a aspect goal that’s locked behind a capability you do not have but, which may really feel irritating within the second. That is clearly meant to get you to return again by way of every stage after beating the sport, however replaying ranges is the place The Cosmic Shake actually begins to flounder.
Since every stage is linear, replaying them can really feel like a slog. There are checkpoints which you could select to begin from in every stage, however the recreation would not inform you the place the collectibles are, simply that you’re lacking them. This implies you realistically have to run by way of the extent from begin to end, except you bear in mind precisely the place all of the secrets and techniques had been if you could not attain them. And in the event you miss one on that second runthrough, your solely selection is to go for a 3rd. There are some new challenges and sections added after finishing the sport, however not sufficient to justify a full second run by way of any stage.
Whereas taking part in The Cosmic Shake is actually enjoyable, its collectibles and unlockables go away lots to be desired for one explicit purpose: There isn’t any level to gathering them. Whereas it’s a part of the sport and platforming is enjoyable sufficient to make the method satisfying, the rewards are sometimes lackluster. One of many fundamental mechanics is that with every new multiverse stage, SpongeBob is given a brand new costume to assist him match into the atmosphere. Along with these costumes, you may as well buy extra utilizing the Cosmic Jelly you accumulate after unlocking them by discovering sufficient Gold Doubloons. The issue right here is that the costumes do not affect gameplay in any method, so the novelty wears off shortly. It is cool to identify an outfit that SpongeBob wore in a particular episode, however with none affect on the sport itself, they only aren’t that attention-grabbing.
Along with these disappointing costumes, the opposite collectibles aren’t wanted for anything. The sport tells you to gather Cosmic Jelly, however you do not want it to advance from stage to stage. If an merchandise is not part of the primary goal in a stage, there may be zero want or incentive to gather it. As soon as I spotted this in the previous couple of ranges, I started ignoring elective platforming challenges that solely appeared to reward Cosmic Jelly, because it did not really feel value my time.
Regardless of a couple of hiccups and disappointing elements of The Cosmic Shake design, at its core it achieves its objectives. Enjoying it felt the best way I bear in mind Battle for Bikini Backside taking part in and the entire jokes and references felt aimed toward older SpongeBob followers, pulling straight from the traditional episodes. There are tons of small jokes and references within the ranges that may make you smile and SpongeBob and Patrick could have you at the very least chuckling most of the time. It isn’t a revolutionary platformer, however it’s adequate to maintain you engaged all through the complete recreation’s size. When you have no reverence or appreciation for SpongeBob, whether or not it’s the outdated video games or the cartoon, The Cosmic Shake doubtless will not attraction to you. However for these of us who love SpongeBob, the Cosmic Shake is a good time with some outdated buddies.